The article “Explaining Development and Change in Organizations,” written by Ven and Poole (1995), explains changes within organizations through introducing four basic organization development theories. The authors use those theories to explain why changes in organizations occur, and they identify the circumstances in which those theories are applicable to describe an organization’s change and development. All theories are different and focus on observing different determinants of business development and change. For example, the life-cycle theory focuses on logical and sequenced factors, such as institutional rules or programs, to explain business development while the teleological theory suggests that the business develops naturally in compliance with its purpose or aim. Ven and Poole (1995) examine how each theory explains motors and units of change in business settings, and they expand their observations to develop a framework composed of 16 logical explanations for changes and development within organizations. The assumption is that a complex framework is required to explain all possible change and development trajectories an organization can experience.
The article begins by setting the main definitions used throughout the text and introducing the main concepts of organizational development and changes. Each theory has a section dedicated to explaining its background, assumptions, and perspectives. The authors continue to explain for simple motors of change and assign it to each theory as an explanation of causes behind organizational changes. The graph indicates the significant differences among the theories, and the authors provide detailed descriptions by explaining each motor and contrasting their positions. However, because of the complex nature of organizations, the authors argue that credible change or development analysis is obtained only when two or more motors are taken in account. That is a valid argument because mostly all academic fields today consider that multiple perspectives are required for a complete understanding of one object or situation.
It is possible to conclude that Ven and Poole (1995) had two possible aims in writing the article. One potential aim was to clarify the mechanism behind organizational development and change. The other potential aim was to propose a framework for organizational research. During the article, the authors claim their framework is complex, but they support its complexity by stating that only complex models are suitable to explain all possible variations of organizational development and changes. The authors insist that their framework is a suitable foundation for empirical research, but actual applications of that framework in practice have not been clarified in detail. Despite the amount of material presented in the article, the authors mainly focus on theoretical and research applications while neglecting practical applications.
The article mostly provides accurate arguments and interesting perspectives on organizational development. The terminology used throughout the article is distinct, and it is easy to follow the authors’ concepts in defining the research framework for explaining changes and development in organizations. However, the article displays several negative aspects. Although the article is focused on details, it is possible to argue that more material is required to cover the four theories on organizational changes adequately. Furthermore, the article does not provide a detailed insight on all levels of an organization. When analyzing organization development, it is not possible to exclude factors on individual levels, inter-personal relationships, and other socio-psychological factors. Finally, the article lacks self-criticism because it mainly supports the authors’ framework. The only objection, according to the authors, is the credibility of research data when using only four simple motors of change, and they do not dwell on refuting that objection in more than one sentence.
Ven, A. H., & Poole, M. S. (1995). Explaining development and change in organizations. The Academy of Management Review, 20(3), 510-540.