A New Framework for Managing Change Across Cultures

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A new framework for managing change across cultures

Received: 18th February, 2003 Fons Trompenaars

is founder of the Centre for International Business Studies, Amsterdam, the Netherlands, Director of THT Consulting and Van Russum Professor at the Solvay Business School, Brussels, Belgium.

Peter Woolliams

is Professor of International Business, Ashcroft International Business School, Anglia University, UK; Visiting Research Fellow at THT Consulting; and Faculty Member of Management Centre Europe, Brussels, Belgium.

KEYWORDS: dilemma theory, corporate culture, change transformation, cross-culture,

opposing values

ABSTRACT A new paradigm for the management of change is proposed. Most existing frameworks tend to want to discard the current situation in favour of a new corporate culture, thus discarding the best of what already exists. The authors argue that changing an organisation’s culture is a contradiction in terms. This is because cultures act to preserve themselves and to protect their own living existence. So rather than seeing change as a ‘thing’ opposing continuity, it is considered as a difference. The authors believe organisations seek change to preserve the company, profitability, market share and core competence. The reason for changing certain aspects is to avoid changing in other respects. In short, organisations must reconcile change with continuity in order to preserve an evolving identity. The new methodology is centred on diagnosing the tensions between the current and ideal corporate culture. These tensions manifest themselves as a series of dilemmas. The new approach for the management of change is to reconcile these dilemmas. Compromise alone is insufficient. The authors demonstrate with examples and offer a new conceptual framework on how seemingly opposing values deriving from the tensions arising from change imperatives can be integrated to achieve a ‘win-win’ outcome.

Fons Trompenaars Trompenaar Hampden-Turner, Culture for...