Organizational Change: Definitions, Types and Why it’s important


The efficiency, performance and sustainability of the organization are not ensured by its capacity for “perfect closure” but on the contrary by its capacity to evolve and adapt.

However, organizational change can only be considered as a real response to the challenges of the external environment insofar as the organization has a real capacity for change.

In this article, we will discuss the definition, characteristics and types of change. Then, we will see where the change comes from.

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Definitions of Organizational Change

Several authors have defined organizational change differently. Indeed, we will retain only the definitions which better explain what we want to study within the framework of this work. Thus, it seems relevant to us to start from a few simple definitions of change and then arrive at a finer definition of organizational change.

BERIOT defines change as “a dynamic process that creates a difference in a system between an instant t and an instant t + 1”. Similarly, as for LE MOIGNE, he distinguishes 4 types of change or equilibration corresponding to 4 phases depending on the environment and the purposes: Regulation, Adaptation, Structural Adaptation, Structural Evolution.

Organizational change is a sequence of events resulting in a change in the form, quality or state of a component of the organization during a certain time interval. Change can be studied from its content.

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The change may, for example, concern the distribution and formalization of tasks, work processes and the various ways of accomplishing these tasks. The two other key dimensions of change are, on the one hand, the context in which it takes place and, on the other hand, the process, that is to say the way in which it unfolds over time and space. Content, context and process are linked: any organizational change action must take these three dimensions into account.

Types of Organizational Change

There are generally two types, namely:

Evolutionary organizational change:

Evolutionary change is characterized by a gradual transformation that occurs in the normal evolution of the activities of the organization. It occurs in a stable environment just as it can occur in a complex system whose fallout will be difficult to predict.

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Its impact is random, it can lead to major transformations in the long term, just as a large-scale reconfiguration program can lead to no real change in the organization. Soparnot, R (2005) shares the same point of view by saying that “the passage from one stage to another is carried out for some in a gradual way because nature does not make a leap”.

Radical organizational change:

Radical change is “a major, global and rapid change that occurs in a real or apprehended crisis situation” and can arise following long periods of stability whose organizational configuration remains unchanged.

It is a voluntary and deliberate response by leaders to a real or anticipated crisis. It is recommended for an unstable environment. It completely transforms the company, its values, its rules and aims to transform the behavior of employees.

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Radical change is also general, since it transforms the entire organization. For Giroux, N (1991) it is strategic. It essentially affects the strategy of the company and will have repercussions on the culture, the structure and the systems.

Why organizational change?

Change is nowadays the rule and stability the exception. Change is part of the life of organizations, either to maintain balance, to reproduce or to transform.

Faced with the natural nature of change, it becomes difficult to distinguish between prescribed change and constructed change or between voluntary change and imposed change or between the content of the change and its impact on the organization and on the processes appearing among other practices likely to develop skills.

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The company is not limited to a set of collaborators, shareholders, means of production, customers. It is part of a larger whole in which it finds its usefulness. It cannot be thought of separately from the cultural, economic, geographical and political environment in which it is immersed.

Among the factors that pushes the company to reorganize:

Technology: The evolution of technologies allowing improvements which make obsolete the products and the preceding methods these innovations, small or large, force the companies to change which implies an evolution of the methods and practices of employment, thus the objectives in terms productivity gains that accompany the introduction of new technology require reconfiguration of workstations, new rules and procedures adapted to new requirements.

the environment: for Burns and Stalker (1961), as well as Lawrence and Lorsch (1986, 1967), the company must adapt to changes in the environment. Burns and Stalker (1961), from a study carried out on about twenty companies, succeeded in identifying two types of structures: A “mechanical” structure and an “organic” structure.

According to these studies, the performance of a firm depends on the degree of adequacy between its structure and its environment.

A stable environment calls for a mechanistic-type management mode (bureaucracy, strong hierarchy, specialization. High tasks), while a dynamic and uncertain environment requires a more flexible organic-type management mode.

The size of the company: if we observe all forms of structures in organizations of various sizes and ages, a logical association size/structure is often observed (Kalika, 1995).

For example, the increase in the size of the company can lead to greater decentralization of decisions, the development of specialized departments, a significant division of labour, the creation of liaison positions, an increase in control or even a more complex.

National culture: Hofstede (1987) highlighted the traits that characterize the diverse cultures of our societies. He distinguishes four specific traits of national cultures: degree of individualism, hierarchical distance, control of uncertainty and finally masculinity/femininity.

The strategy: The strategy determines the activity of the company, its objectives and the means committed, it directs all the efforts and occupies a determining place in the relations which are established between what is outside the company and the company itself.

Strategy therefore plays an essential role in change since it is what will, in most cases, initiate and provoke it.

The reorganization of the company is essential when it is a question of adapting its structures to strategies fundamentally different from those followed in the past, of acquiring flexible structures with a view to approached strategy and if these funds suppose strong interaction with other structures (merger, acquisition).

These factors that create change, whether voluntary or imposed, hence the company must have organizational learning to institutionalize this change.


In a constantly changing world, an organization’s ability to adapt and evolve is a major competitive advantage. Organizations that embrace change as an opportunity rather than a threat are better prepared to thrive in an ever-changing environment. Organizational change, whether incremental or radical, is an inescapable reality to ensure long-term sustainability and success.

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