For really managing change  Prospect Gestion 

Change and contingency

The contingency's factors

In management, the study of the contingency supports that only one series of rules cannot be appropriate indifferently for all the situations. It rejects the concept according to which every leader, in any situation, can apply universal principles to regulate its behaviour. Its principle is that the key of success, for a manager, resides in the aptitude to appreciate the information from a situation correctly before acting.. The same applies in change's management. One could go and say that the success of the change lies in an adequate reading of the external environment as much as internal, and the decoding of the stakes in which the aforementioned change is found.

In this respect, significant differences appear between the two universes in which the public organisations and the private companies are implied, beyond the already known factor of profitability.These differences are in what is the signal to engage the organizational change, what are the reasons for that change and what is looked for.

In the private sector, the enterprise is found primarily in an economic universe whose characteristics are to be a universe with the relatively precise contour, whose rules of the game have the merit to be known and especially where the objectives can be common and be sanctioned by profitability. Competition represents all the other companies, which share this same universe. The political aspect, as for it, can sometimes makes figure of a regulator and constraining agent, or sometimes, of a partner and facilitating agent.

On its side, the public organisation is "swimming" in a primarily political universe. This universe has the characteristic of being not very foreseeable, to change occasionally the rules of the game and especially not to present common objectives but to try to make share objectives. Under these conditions, the signal of the need for changing cannot come from the leaders but from the political universe itself insofar as last is evaluated not to have the choice. Otherwise, it is risky for the managers to engage a true change (of type 2, which implies a change of culture) and traditionally the latter will make carry the change on the structure (type 1).

In term of change, in period of uncertainty, one will notice that the survival of the private companies will pass by the risk taking to position advantageously in the economic universe. The situation is quite different for the public companies. In period of strong turbulence, these last will bet more on "wait and see", which could be a good short-term calculation but a very bad calculation on medium term.

Reading's suggestion

Hafsi, Taieb et B. Fabi. Les fondements du changement stratégique Editions Transcontinentales. Montréal, 1997. 372p.


For information or comments, or if you are interested by a lecture or a workshop on this topic:


Because what we call the universalization of the markets is the insidious passage of the political universe to a primarily economic universe and where the politic, failing of action in time, will be found in a short allowance, insulated from the daily concerns of the citizens. We will be then ready for a revolution…

The private sector

From the private sector's point of view, the change will be of real interest insofar as it makes it possible for the enterprise to position advantageously in this economic universe compared to the usual place it occupies in regards of competition. The determining factors of its implication in the change, and of the implication of its managers, will come from the analysis which will be made from the relevance, for the financial profitability of the enterprise, of engaging the change. This relevance could be the result of the reflection of the leaders, their prospective vision of the future, of the observation of the concurrent companies' actions and, if needed, of the political programs (e.g. imports assistance program, computerisation assistance program, etc…). A thing is certain: if the change is not engaged whereas the economy is moving, the enterprise has a risk of taking a delay that could cause dramatics' results.

The public sector

In the public sector, the other organisations are rather perceived as competitors with whom it should be learned how to compose with partnership and with strategic alliances even if, six months later, in period of strong turbulence, it will be necessary to fight against them for its own survival! Alliances and the dialogue will not be necessarily very strong! Moreover, the economy becomes impossible to circumvent only insofar as the political universe seems to be affected; but it would be imprudent, for a public organisation, to undertake a change only on the basis of search for a balanced budget.

As much the private company must measure the impact of its change by the criterion of economic profitability, as much the public organisation owes the impact measurement of its change by the criterion of political profitability. Thus, it is false to say, for example, that the public sector would have a more respectful approach of its human resources than the private sector. This last can show much opening if he has the impression which its personnel becomes a competing advantage. In addition the one and the other can adopt a similar attitude with regard to their employees if it is shown, economically in a case, politically in the other, that it is necessary for them "to cut off" their unwanted staff !

If you want to know the author's thinkings on the impact of globalization for organizational change as writed in a webpaper published in Métafuturs (1998). (But don't forget to come again !)