Nonlinear Dynamics, Psychology, and Life Sciences, Vol. 17, Iss. 1, January, 2013, pp. 49-65
@2013 Society for Chaos Theory in Psychology & Life Sciences


The Complexity of Organizational Change: Describing Communication during Organizational Turbulence

Philip Salem, Texas State University, San Marcos, TX

Abstract: Organizational researchers and practitioners have been interested in organizational change for some time. Historically, they have directed most of their efforts at improving the efficiency of planned top-down change. These efforts were strategic attempts at altering parameters leading to transformational change. Most efforts failed to meet their intended purposes. Transformational organizational change has not been likely. The legitimate systems have been robust. There has been little systematic investigation of the communication occurring during these efforts. The purpose of this essay is to describe results of a mixed methods research project answering two research questions. (a) How do organizational members communicate during a time of turbulence? (b) What features of this communication suggest the potential for or resistance to transformative change? Comparing the results at the beginning of the period to other periods, gives insight into how social actors communicate and enact the organization during a threshold period where transformational change was possible. Results reveal identifiable patterns of communication as communication strategies, parameters, or basins of attraction. The overall pattern explains how micro communication patterns intersect and how the accumulation of these patterns may resist or accomplish change at a macro level.

Keywords: complexity theory, organizational communication, organizational change, mixed methods research, nonlinear models