Managing Change Successfully -
The power of Guiding Coalitions in planned organizational change:
myth or reality?
Menno Schaap, 13483331
Amsterdam Business School, University of Amsterdam Executive Programme in Management Studies – L&M Track
Dr. A. (Armin) Pircher Verdorfer, supervisor Dr. Y. (Yan) Shao, second reader
June 30th, 2022 – Final
Statement of Originality
This document is written by Student Menno Schaap, who declares to take full responsibility for the contents of this document.
I declare that the text and the work presented in this document is original and that no sources other than those mentioned in the text and its references have been used in creating it.
The Faculty of Economics and Business is responsible solely for the supervision of the completion of the work, not for the contents
Table of Contents
1 Abstract ... 6
2 Introduction ... 7
2.1 Research approach ... 9
2.2 Dissertation structure ... 10
2.3 Dissertation format and style ... 10
3 Literature review ... 12
3.1 Practitioner literature ... 12
3.1.1 The origin of most change models and contemporary research ... 12
3.1.2 Selected practitioner change models ... 14
3.2 Academic literature ... 16
3.2.1 Change and success definitions ... 17
3.2.2 Research on GCs ... 17
3.2.3 Deliberate visioning ... 18
3.2.4 Underlying mechanisms from different fields ... 19
4 Method ... 20
4.1 Research philosophy ... 20
4.1.1 Sampling philosophy ... 21
4.2 Research question ... 21
4.3 Sampling ... 21
4.4 Qualitative data collection ... 22
4.5 Analytical approach ... 24
4.5.1 Data management... 26
4.5.2 Framework Analysis ... 26
4.6 Quality criteria... 29
4.6.1 Maxwell’s Quality criteria ... 29
5 Findings ... 33
5.1 Overview ... 33
5.2 Composition ... 35
5.2.1 Power distribution ... 35
5.2.2 Functional/regional distribution ... 39
5.2.3 Constant over time... 40
5.3 Roles ... 42
5.3.1 Analysis ... 42
5.3.2 Extra-role ... 43
5.3.3 Vision development and promulgation (Visioning) ... 46
5.3.4 Experimentation ... 47
5.3.5 Translate/explain/unroll ... 48
5.3.6 Signaling ... 50
5.4 Other ... 50
5.4.1 Application of GC... 51
5.4.2 Pattern A ... 55
5.4.3 Pattern B ... 56
5.4.4 Attribution to success ... 56
5.5 Theme overview per application ... 58
5.6 Additional findings ... 60
5.6.1 GC size ... 60
5.6.2 Position of change management ... 61
5.6.3 Role of TM(T) ... 63
6 Discussion ... 65
6.1 A summary of the themes ... 65
6.1.1 Application ... 65
6.1.2 Composition ... 66
6.1.3 Roles ... 66
6.1.4 Attribution to success ... 67
6.2 Explanation of the phenomenon ... 67
6.2.1 Explanatory theories ... 68
6.2.2 Research implications ... 70
6.3 Additional research implications ... 71
6.3.1 Top-down / bottom-up ... 71
6.3.2 A lack of vision? ... 72
6.3.3 Position of change management ... 73
6.4 Limitations ... 73
6.5 Directions for future research ... 74
6.6 Implications for practice ... 76
6.6.1 Different applications of GCs ... 77
7 Conclusion ... 78
8 References ... 79
Appendix A Informed Consent ... 85
Appendix B Code list ... 86
Appendix C Printed Framework ... 88
Appendix D Thematic Framework... 89
Appendix E Original (Dutch) quotes ... 91
Organizations are constantly adapting their structures and processes to accommodate environmental change by initiating organizational change programs. At the same time, organizations struggle with implementing these changes successfully. Practitioners advocate applying a so-called change coalition or guiding coalition (GC) consisting of volunteers from different functions and levels to manage organizational change successfully. The phenomenon received scant scholarly attention despite the power practitioners attribute to GCs. Given that prior research does not provide answers to applying GCs, qualitative research is conducted by interviewing professionals, from which theory is developed.
The developed theory explains the phenomenon from practice and unravels why GCs are so powerful in planned organizational change. In addition, a firm connection to explanatory theories is established, revealing the underlying mechanisms—an explanation not available in the academic literature to date. Besides the contribution to research, the practical implications inspire businesses to rethink some approaches to managing change, as respondents and literature align, where reality seems to lag.
Organizational change is a hot topic; organizational change is everywhere, be it discussions within companies, publications on networking platforms (e.g., LinkedIn), or articles in business magazines. A search on “organizational change” on Google, with quotes (!), results in over 20 million hits. That is not a qualitative analysis, but it highlights the prominence of organizational change.
Besides the prominence, executives, practitioners, and scholars agree on the difficulty of managing organizational change successfully. Attention-grabbing quotes from leading management consultants like McKinsey state that only 30% of change initiatives are successful (Bucy et al., 2021). Others express themselves reversely, stating that 70% of change initiatives fail (Beer & Nohria, 2000).
However, such statements lack consideration, neglect agent sensemaking, fail to consider context, and omit definitions of what is regarded as success or failure, among others (Hughes, 2011).
Regardless, these percentages exemplify the difficulty on which scholars and practitioners agree.
Management consultants and practitioners offer solutions for managing organizational change successfully by proposing change models. Even though most of these models strongly emphasize the importance of change coalitions, sponsorship coalitions, or guiding coalitions, hereafter called Guiding Coalitions (GCs), the composition and roles of a GC differ across these models. However, consistently these coalitions play a prominent role in managing organizational change. Kotter (1995, p. 61) explicitly mentions a step after GCs in his eight-step change model:
“Forming a Powerful Guiding Coalition.” In his later work, he mentions representatives from different levels as a requirement in these coalitions (Kotter, 2014). According to Kotter (2014), the core task of this coalition is to strengthen and align the sense of urgency (i.e., the need to change). Hiatt (2006), as part of his popular ADKAR model, argues for building “a coalition of sponsorship with peers and managers” at all hierarchical levels. The goal of this coalition is, among others, to generate a desire to change in managers and employees. Beer (1990) calls the GC “a 20-person task force”, starting at step one of his six-step change model, first to analyze the business problem, but actively continuing
in the following steps. Where practitioners agree on the need for a GC, the composition and roles differ across models.
While practitioners propose that GCs play an essential role in managing change successfully, systematic academic research is lacking. However, scholars do not argue against the implementation of GCs. Moreover, Stouten et al. (2018, p. 778) address the understanding of GCs' potential roles and composition as a topic for a future research agenda. The literature review confirms Stouten et al.'s claim: very little research is available on this topic. One additional contemporary study by Bradley et al. (2018) was found, which was not mentioned by Stouten et al. (2018). However, this study is conducted in a particular context (see Research on GCs, para. 3.2.2). In sum, a wealth of practitioner tools emphasize a GC, but there is no explanatory theory regarding this topic in academic research.
The idea for the thesis research originates from practitioner tools and the lack of attention in academic research. Based on this idea, a vision has been developed that shapes the basis of this thesis (see Figure 1). As there is very little academic research to deduct theory from, an inductive, qualitative approach is chosen—an approach placing lived experiences of experts central, so-called phenomenologist research. Selected experts with a holistic overview of organizational change management are Change Managers (CMs). CMs’ experiences are used to unravel whether the power attributed to GCs is a myth or a reality; do CMs attribute a successful organizational change to applying a GC? If GCs are applied, what Roles did they fulfill, and how were they composed?
Following these preconditions, the thesis Research Question (RQ) is: “How are Guiding Coalitions (GCs) applied during planned organizational change according to professional Change Managers (CMs)?”
This thesis provides an answer to whether GCs are considered as powerful as practitioners claim, based on the experience of CMs. Moreover, this research explains why GCs are considered powerful in practice and what underlying theories support these experiences. Additionally, the unprejudiced stance of this research provides room to discuss how GCs are applied and how context influences their application. The rich disquisition provides room for contextual variables to account
for, and the Discussion section provides directions for practical improvement regarding GCs application and managing change successfully. In addition to practical implications, the thesis contributes to an under-researched area, providing direction for future research. It offers new insights to scholars on how GCs are applied and what context surrounds them. It also reflects upon the position of change management itself, as there might be a gap between practitioners and practice besides an academic gap.
2.1 Research approach
The basis of the thesis is phenomenologists' research by conducting interviews with CMs.
Interviews were undertaken as a dialogue to derive a rich meaning from these experts from an unprejudiced stance. These interviews were transcribed and analyzed by applying Framework Analysis (Ritchie & Spencer, 1994), a powerful, well-established, grounded method for structuring data for thematic analysis (Goldsmith, 2021). This method guides a uniform treatment across cases, contributing to research validity (Kiernan & Hill, 2018).
Ilustration of the idea underlying the thesis research
Note. From left to right: (1) from a changing environment, the intended organizational change is analyzed by the GC; (2) GC members (blue) are led by the CM (orange); the GC develops and
promulgates a vision and elaborates change initiatives; (3) GC members act as change agents in their organizational units (OU); executive management (at the top) sponsors the process; (4) each OU becomes engaged and energized (small arrows), the sum (large arrow) symbolizes overall engagement and success.
2.2 Dissertation structure
In chapter 3, a literature review will be presented, first by discussing practitioner literature, as their tools emphasize applying a GC. Following the practitioners, a reflection on academic
literature is provided. Chapter 4 outlines the research methods and the underlying philosophies. This chapter substantiates why these methods are appropriate to answer the RQ. Following the research method, chapter 5 presents the Findings from the research as an answer to the RQ. Chapter 6 (Discussion) reflects upon these, their implications, and limitations and provides suggestions for future research. Finally, chapter 7 provides a brief Conclusion.
2.3 Dissertation format and style
The dissertation follows the APA Publication Manual (Ayubi, 2020) unless overruled by the requirements of the University of Amsterdam. This includes the double line spacing and paragraph indentation, which most business readers notice. This dissertation deviates from APA regarding chapter and paragraph headings, as APA excludes numbering. In close alignment with the supervisor, it was decided to number headings as the dissertation structure benefits from having page and paragraph numbers. Additionally, each chapter is started on a new page.
Regarding capitalization, APA’s definition is unspecific. Nevertheless, it is followed as much as possible. Generally, APA is lowercase (Ayubi, 2020, p. 165) unless defined by specifics. Such specifics are mentioned in para. 6.17, for example, whether it is a title case or sentence case, or a named section or subsection (Ayubi, 2020), which is not always ambiguous. E.g., composition and
roles can be a sentence case, in particular in the introduction, or refer to Roles and Composition in Findings (paragraphs 5.2-5.3); it then, but only in these cases (when referring to these sections) becomes a named section.
For transparency, the ability to trace back quotations and to be able to link to untranslated (Dutch) quotations in the appendix, transcript paragraphs are referenced; APA does not require this (Ayubi, 2020, para. 8.36). The Findings section explains this system in more detail (Ch. 5). Similarly,
page or chapter numbers are provided for articles when paraphrasing, which is not required but optional according to APA (Ayubi, 2020, para. 8.23).
Anonymity was offered to respondents, meaning their names, companies, and project names were not displayed. Moreover, gender-neutral pronouns are applied instead of his or her (e.g., they, them, their). Accordingly, the entire interview transcripts are not published with the dissertation.
3 Literature review
Typically the literature review consists of a critical review of relevant academic literature. As introduced, this thesis builds upon practitioner tools that prescribe GCs. Therefore, the literature review starts with practitioners and ends with academic literature.
3.1 Practitioner literature
There is a wealth of practitioner change models available. This thesis does not provide a complete overview of all available change models or give a verdict on one model compared to another. Stouten et al. (2018) provide a comparison; they reviewed many practitioner models and linked or opposed them to scholarly evidence. In turn, Cameron and Green (2020), in their book
“making sense of change management,” provide a practical overview of different change models for managers and practitioners, which was used to select models for this thesis. The purpose of
practitioner tools for this research is to deduct practitioners’ recommendations regarding GCs as a starting point for qualitative research. This specific purpose renders some popular change models less suitable. For example, the McKinsey 7S framework (Waterman et al., 1980): Structure, Strategy, Systems, Skills, Style, Staff, and Shared values, positioned around super-ordinate goals (shared values). In this model, “staff” is particularly relevant for the potential role of GCs. The authors mention extrinsic motivators such as payment, appraisal, and training. Nevertheless, how planned change is to be rolled out, communicated, and how broad engagement of employees is achieved is not mentioned, which means that despite the model’s popularity, it is not suitable for research on GCs. This chapter will continue with an overview of selected models. However, first of all, the
academic foundation of most change models will be introduced as it is highly influential but also very holistic and prescriptive in turn.
3.1.1 The origin of most change models and contemporary research
Kurt Lewin, an influential psychologist in the early 20th century, is regarded as the founder of contemporary academic research and practitioner-oriented change models (Cummings et al., 2016).
Lewin (1947a; 1947b) proposes a three-phase change model (see Figure 2): (1) unfreeze, (2) moving
(transition/change), (3) refreeze. Unfreezing (1) is letting go of the status quo, defining goals and change plans; moving (2) is the change process, the implementation of the planned change;
refreezing (3) is about institutionalizing and consolidating the change, intending to embed it
thoroughly in the organization. The description of this process appeals to the imagination, which is a possible reason for its popularity. However, unlike most practitioner models, Lewin’s model is based on research. Lewin is very holistic in his early work; he addresses group dynamics, illustrates forces in the organization supporting and opposing the change (i.e., resistance), and explains the relation with leadership, e.g., democratic and autocratic leadership (1947a; 1947b). The work of Lewin is
considered highly relevant and inspirational. Even today, many management consultants explicitly build their commercial offerings on these three steps.
Lewin does not mention GCs or provide other practical prescriptions to unroll the change;
therefore, this model is not selected for this thesis. Presumably, when using this model, consultants have their own tools and practices to plan and unroll change as part of their services. Nevertheless, introducing practitioner tools without “the fundamental approach to managing change” (Cummings et al., 2016, p.33), on which most contemporary work is built, would provide an incomplete picture.
However, Lewin's steps are implicitly still visible in many recent practitioner models, e.g., refreezing is then called institutionalization or consolidation.
Initiate motivation for change
Developing new ways, implementation of plans
Embedding the change in the organization
1. Unfreeze 2. Moving 3. Refreeze
Illustration of Lewin’s three-phase change model
Note. These three intuitive steps help to understand (more complex) contemporary change models.
3.1.2 Selected practitioner change models
John Kotter, a professor at Harvard Business School, provided an eight-step change model in an article in Harvard Business Review (1995). His later book “Leading Change” explains the steps in more detail, and the GC is called a “volunteer army” to emphasize its power (Kotter, 2012, p. 4). (1) Establishing a sense of urgency: a signaling function to employees to motivate that change is needed.
(2) Creating the guiding coalition: involves visioning, communication, planning, and implementation.
The formation of the GC results in (3): developing a vision and strategy, which involves detailing the planned change and writing a compelling vision, to a large extent a responsibility of the GC. (4) Communicating the change vision, where Kotter warns about managers' tendency to under-
communicate. (5) Empowering employees for broad-based action; to remove as many barriers to the implementation as possible. (6) Generating short-term wins, as this energizes and reinforces the further implementation. Building on the gains of short-term wins, (7) consolidating gains and producing more change, where “more change” refers to changes not yet implemented and refinement based on the previous step, where alignment with the change vision is vital. Finally, (8) anchoring new approaches in the culture; only by careful implementation of the change into the organizations' systems, but more importantly, its culture, the change will be sustainable.
Jeff Hiatt, management consultant and entrepreneur, developed the ADKAR model; the acronym stands for: (A) awareness of the need to change; (D) desire to support and participate in the change; (K) knowledge of how to change; (A) ability to implement required skills and behaviors; (R) reinforcement to sustain the change (2006). Awareness promotes employees' understanding of why change is needed (at all levels). Sponsorship coalitions (Hiatt's term for GCs) are already promoted at this stage. According to Hiatt, support for the change largely depends on the support of individuals and teams. The multilevel, multidisciplinary sponsorship coalition (GC) plays a central role in collecting the needs of teams and individuals while raising their support.
Michael Beer, emeritus at Harvard Business School, is a practitioner and scholar of strategic organizational change and development. Stouten et al. (2018, p. 753) credit Beer for building his model on research. In this respect, he distinguishes himself from many other practitioners. His six- step change model is built around the systems theory, an interdisciplinary study of systems that help explain interrelated and interdependent parts of a larger whole as it interacts with its environment (Beer, 1980). Beer describes the organization as a social systems model, with people, (organizational) structures, behavior and process, and human outputs within the organization (see Figure 3).
The relevance of Beer’s work for this thesis lies in the understanding that change affects the whole scope of the organization. Performance (outcomes) comes after alignment, which relates closely to contemporary research, e.g., Buller and McEvoy's line of sight model (2012). Both (organizational) culture and the dominant coalition (group of key decision-makers) are overarching the organization. Outside the organization is the environment, with constructs source of people and organizational outcomes. Beer particularly named culture relevant for organizational change (1980).
Despite Beer’s original works' age, it addresses many contemporary topics. For example, the Environment
People Structures Behavior &
Human Outputs Culture
Source of people Figure 3
Illustration of Beer’s social systems model of organization
Note. Based on Beer’s Figure 2-1 (Beer, 1980, p. 19).
importance of culture in organizational change and top-down and bottom-up approaches to
implementing change. The latter's importance is particularly addressed by Heyden et al. (2017), who highlight the power of change that is not initiated by Top Management (TM).
Based on the systems theory, Beer's six-step change model consists of the following steps (1990): (1) Mobilize commitment to change through joint diagnosis of business problems. Already at this stage, Beer advocates a GC: “a 20-person task force representing all the stakeholders in the organization—managers, engineers, production workers, and union officials” (1990, p. 11). This core group of people will lead to the next step: (2) Develop a shared vision of how to organize and manage for competitiveness. The GC remains critically important in the following steps: (3) Foster consensus for the new vision, competence to enact it, and cohesion to move it along, where the GC is highly responsible for building this consensus. (4) Spread revitalization to all departments without pushing it from the top, which addresses the importance of letting every department implement the change without forcing it in. (5) Institutionalize revitalization through formal policies, systems, and structures, a step which is nearly identical to Kotter, as discussed above. (6) Monitor and adjust strategies in response to problems in the revitalization process; Beer argues that the change process leads to a learning system, which leads to refinement of the planned change. The prominent role of the GCs throughout the change process and the underlying systems theory make Beer’s model highly relevant for this thesis.
The models of Kotter (1995; 2012; 2014), Hiatt (2006), and Beer (1980; 1990) are selected as a basis for this research and reflection, e.g., in the Discussion section. Besides, their prescription is used to shape the initial RQ and to structure the initial data analysis process.
3.2 Academic literature
Change in organizations is required to accommodate how organizations function in response to environmental changes (Chemers, 2001, p. 376). As proposed by practitioners, GCs are vital in managing organizational change successfully. GCs and their contribution are primarily the focus of this thesis research. However, before zooming in on GCs, it should be discussed what organizational
change means and when change is considered a success. Second, GC-specific academic literature is addressed. Finally, literature closely related to managing change is addressed.
3.2.1 Change and success definitions
Although many different definitions of organizational change exist, Van de Ven and Poole (2021; 1995) provide a broad and often cited definition, describing planned organizational change as an observable difference in form, quality, or state over time, in an organizational entity. They also explicitly define entity as multilevel: at the job (individual), team, organizational strategy, product, or overall organizational level. Similarly, Zorn et al. (1999) define organizational change as: “any alteration or modification of organizational structures or processes” (p.10). For this thesis, we focus on change at the organizational level, as most practitioner models aim at changes of significant size and impact (i.e., mainly at the organizational level).
Scholars frequently debate in the literature about successful organizational change and the perception of success or failure. Judgment depends on sensemaking, context, time of measurement, and measurability (Hughes, 2011). Stouten et al. (2018) add the term “sustainable” to a successful implementation of a change, which is in line with practitioner models; a change is only successful after it has been adopted by the organization, meaning integrated into its culture, organizational structure, governance, and management systems (p.777).
3.2.2 Research on GCs
As introduced, there is little to no systematic academic research conducted on GCs. Stouten et al. (2018) summarize practitioner models alongside academic research and highlight the central role practitioners assign to GCs. They conclude that there is scant scholarly attention regarding GCs but add: “we cannot rule out the value of broader participation among employees and managers”
(Stouten et al., 2018, p. 768). Stouten et al. call for future research on GCs and their underlying constructs: size, selection criteria, power involvement, and training needs. Stouten et al. (2018) integrated practitioner models in tabular form by comparing and supplementing them. This
integrated practitioner model (table) is compared and contrasted with existing academic literature,
resulting in a new, research-supported, step-wise change model. However, a model inspired and built upon a sequence proposed by practitioner models.
Bradley et al. (2018) explicitly attribute success in positive culture change to working with GCs, while referring to the application of Kotter’s model (1995). Their study seems robust, as it is longitudinal (2 years) and includes 223 samples (individuals) from ten hospitals, of which six worked with GCs, and four did not. Their combined quantitative and qualitative research provides
generalizability (within context) and deeper insight into the underlying reasons. Their outcome measured culture shift and reducing 30-day Risk-Standardized Mortality Rate (RSMR) after Acute Myocardial Infarction (AMI). The researchers found statistically significant differences between the six hospitals that worked with GCs against those that did not. They highlight positive aspects of teamwork, strong connections with leadership by senior management in successful GCs, and strong learning effects from each other (i.e., employees from different disciplines and levels). Although their contribution is relevant, it is very specific to hospital AMI treatment. It cannot be generalized to managing change at the organizational level in business settings per se. Though, the aspects mentioned could be reflected upon after conducting research in a business setting.
3.2.3 Deliberate visioning
According to practitioners, as highlighted by the Literature review, visioning is essential to change management. Several steps in the models discussed above directly mention visioning, e.g., steps three and four of Kotter’s eight-step change model. Scholars could not agree more on the importance of deliberate visioning in managing organizational change. It goes beyond this thesis on GCs to provide an overview of academic literature on visioning, as there is much literature on this subject. However, a contemporary and inspirational article from Venus et al. (2019) will be discussed, in particular GC relevant aspects, as there appears to be an overlap with the roles assigned to GCs by practitioners. Venus et al. (2019) start their article by confirming the importance of visioning as a basis for employees’ support of the change: “Despite wide consensus that leader vision is a key vehicle for leaders to motivate followers to support organizational change, …” (p. 667), and continue
by stating their contribution how to craft an effective vision. Venus et al. (2019) argue that a primary reason why followers resist change is that change may threaten their social identity (Social Identity Theory). Their main contribution is that visions of change should contain a vision of continuity in a way that: the way we work may change (a compelling vision of the future), but our unique company culture or organizational identity remains intact. Where senior management likely focuses more on the future, a group composed as a reflection of the organization (the GC) might support this social perspective. The vision of continuity reduces employees' uncertainty resulting from the change, resulting in higher support from followers. In changes with a high level of uncertainty, their data significantly supports the uncertainty reduction resulting from expressing preservation of the unique organizational identity encompassed by the vision (Venus et al., 2019).
3.2.4 Underlying mechanisms from different fields
Research in different fields might connect to or explain the mechanisms underlying the success attributed to GCs. For example, HRM scholars like Boswell, Buller, and McEvoy (2006; 2012) argue that aligning the company’s strategy throughout all layers of the organization leads to
performance (line of sight model). This includes creating a sense of identification with the goals by the employees rather than understanding the goals themselves per se (Buller & McEvoy, 2012, p.
44). This implies an explanatory, translative, multilevel role, a task often addressed to GCs by practitioners. Heyden et al. (2017) provide empirical support regarding employees responding more favorably to change initiated by direct managers than by distant management. The GC in practitioner models might close the distance between the employees and top management. Nevertheless, evidence or research supporting linkages between these theories and GCs is lacking.
This chapter explains the underlying thesis research philosophy and the resulting sampling philosophy. The philosophy underlies the research approach and precedes the complete RQ, including sub-questions. After outlining the complete RQ, the research execution is described, and a reflection on research quality is provided.
4.1 Research philosophy
This thesis follows a qualitative research approach by inductively developing explanatory theory from practice on whether and how GCs account for successful organizational change. A subjectivist ontological assumption lies at the heart of generating a rich understanding of the
phenomenon from practice, from an unprejudiced point of view (Saunders et al., 2019). This research approach provides room for differences between respondents and their companies.
A subjectivist assumption provides meaning to the effects attributed to GCs, extracted from deeply rooted mechanisms in a socially complex environment. The research is conducted according to an interpretivist epistemological assumption, as interpretivism is ideally suited for studying the meanings of social interactions and exploring a phenomenon to build theory as a conceptual framework (Saunders et al., 2019). Within the different strands of interpretivism, the
phenomenologists' approach focuses on participants' lived experiences (Saunders et al., 2019). This approach aligns with this research's aim to collect underlying interpretations of experienced CMs and to deeply fathom whether the power of GCs is a myth or reality.
To gather phenomenologist data on GCs from practice, purposive samples (respondents) are selected (Trochim et al., 2016, p. 87). Namely, respondents experienced with leading organizational change, but not from a distance (e.g., TM), nor those with a potentially limited view (e.g., employees being affected by the change). The respondents are to oversee the change process and, if applied:
the application of a GC. This type of purposive sampling is called expert sampling (Patton, 2022). In this case, expert samples (respondents) who are knowledgeable in leading or supporting
4.1.1 Sampling philosophy
Although respondents' job titles vary, experts on change management are mostly called change managers (CMs). The research focuses on CMs who have led or actively supported multiple organizational changes, working in organizations (in-house) or as consultants. A further motivation for selecting CMs as respondents is their strong social network (Battilana & Casciaro, 2012), which provides them with an overview of the complete change process throughout the organization. These professionals understand the typical pitfalls in organizational change and, therefore, can explain if a GC is applied (or why not) and what GCs' distinct roles, compositions, and attributions to success are.
Their view on GCs is proposed to give the best possible holistic overview. In line with the
phenomenologists' approach, these experts can provide valuable and rich insights about GCs and can explain what underlying aspects have led to success.
4.2 Research question
After outlining the underlying ontological and epistemological assumptions and motivating the choice for expert sampling, the revised and complete RQ, including sub-questions, is presented. A revised RQ is common in qualitative research, as data connection and analysis sharpens the lens (Korstjens & Moser, 2017). For this thesis, besides sharpening, more emphasis is given to differences in outcomes based on how GCs are applied (see Application of GC, para. 5.4.1). These pronounced differences were not expected beforehand and will be discussed in more detail.
The revised Research Question (RQ) for this thesis is: “How are Guiding Coalitions (GCs) applied during planned organizational change according to professional Change Managers (CMs)?”
The following sub-questions will be addressed to answer this question: (1) What roles are fulfilled by GCs? (2) How are GCs composed regarding their participants? (3) Are successes attributed to the application of a GC?
Expert samples (CMs) are recruited as respondents. The criteria for the respondents are the following: they have experience with leading or actively supporting organizational change at the
organization level more than once; are working in a change management role, either in-house or as a consultant; have knowledge in the field of change management; are voluntarily willing to share their knowledge; have agreed with the informed consent (privacy and ethics) statement of this thesis;
have no business or personal relationship with the researcher; are working as much as possible in different sectors. However, their experience with GCs was not part of the criteria, as it is just as interesting to learn about additional insights, which can be contrasted.
The respondents were approached via fellow students of the EPMS program (relations in their direct network) or LinkedIn InMail (https://www.linkedin.com) based on their professional profile. Following the steps of Webster et al. (2014) regarding ethics: with the initial contact, the respondent was informed about the purpose of the research, its aims, the ability to withdraw their voluntary participation at any time, confidentiality, and the overall process. Part of this contact was to evaluate the match between the expert and the research by the listed criteria. In a subsequent step, the Respondent was informed via E-mail with an information letter and more details about ethics and privacy, which led to a signed informed consent form (see Appendix A). At this point, some practical information to prepare for the interview (no research data) was gathered via Qualtrics (www.qualtrics.com). An overview of Respondents is provided in Table 1. Following the General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR), only research relevant information is listed. Language is mentioned as it influences the transcription process (native language), while the research is conducted in English. As a result, a translation was made (see Framework Analysis, para. 4.5.1, step 4).
4.4 Qualitative data collection
To gather Respondents' underlying interpretations and meanings in as much detail as possible, the interviews were held as a dialogue rather than structured with a questionnaire,
fostering a good interpersonal relationship (Cassell, 2015). An interview script was made with themes deducted from practitioner tools but mainly as a reference for the interviewer. The script contains little to no questions nor a fixed sequence apart from the opening. Instead, the Respondent took the lead in the dialogue, resulting in Respondent narratives. The interview style is best described as an
unstructured interview, in line with the interpretivist stance (Cassell, 2015, p. 23). Questions were adapted according to Respondents' narratives in line with a phenomenological interview style (Cope, 2005, p. 168). Questions were often follow-ups or probes to the information shared by Respondents (Qu & Dumay, 2011).
Overview of Respondents, their primary language, and experience Resp. Lan.a Experience
1 NL Working as in-house CM at the HQ of a multinational in the tech industry; priorly working as a consultant for an international management consultancy firm (CM role); master's degree in management consulting / change management.
2 EN Working as in-house CM (/strategist, global director position) at the HQ of a multinational in the chemical industryb; prior experience in different sectors with leading change globally; master's degree in Human Resource Development.
3 NL Working as in-house CM at the HQ of a large international bank from an HR position, directly involved with leading change; master's degree in management / organizational culture.
4 NL Working as in-house CM at the HQ of a leading company in the technology industry; priorly working as a strategy consultant; certified with Prosci CM- practitioner tools; master's degree in Marketing.
5 NL Working as a consultant (CM role) for a management consultancy firm; prior experience as an independent consultant and in-house HR specialist with organizational development role; master's degree in organizational psychology;
master's classes in change management.
6 NL Working as in-house CM (global lead position) at the HQ of a multinational in the chemical industryb; prior experience as CM in different sectors and management consultancy firms; master's degree in organizational psychology and business administration (HRM track).
7 NL Working as a consultant (CM role) for a leading international IT and strategy consultancy firm; prior experience in HR and recruitment; master's degree in business administration and change management.
Note. HQ = headquarters.
a Language; NL = Dutch; EN = English.
b Respondents 2 and 6 work for the same company; prior evaluation learned that their profile and experiences differ significantly.
Interviews were held in the tail of the Covid-19 pandemic, where physical meetings were not always possible, and some Respondents were abroad or not in the vicinity. However, despite the
online setting of some interviews, building trust and humor during the interviews succeeded well.
The Respondents' primary language (see Table 1) was spoken to create the best possible environment of trust and more profound understanding during the interviews. Language is
particularly influential when fathoming underlying interpretations as language constructs rather than mirrors phenomena (Alvesson, 2003, p. 13). Consequently, when Dutch was the Respondents' mother language (like the interviewers’), Dutch was spoken during the interviews. As part of the consent process (Webster et al., 2014, p. 88), the Respondent was again informed when starting the recording during the interview.
Shortly after conducting the interviews, with the dialogue fresh in mind, interviews were transcribed using AI software from Amberscript (www.amberscript.com). Transcripts were manually verified and corrected using the software's interface. The final transcripts are close to verbatim, meaning, among others, that they contain interruptions and stutters (Kvale, 2007). However, verbatim transcripts were not a goal, as the research does not include linguistic analysis, hence the notion of “close to verbatim.” The result of each interview are field notes, a transcribed video
recording for the interviews held online, or a transcribed audio recording for interviews held on-site.
4.5 Analytical approach
With unstructured interview data (field notes, transcripts, and recordings), an analysis method was selected to provide structure and overview to discover patterns within and between cases while remaining close with and grounded in the original data. There are several tools or techniques available for analyzing qualitative data. However, given the motivation, framework analysis is chosen. Framework analysis (FA), or “Framework” (capitalization in original), was
developed in the 1980s at the NatCen Social Research (Ritchie & Spencer, 1994). FA is widely used in substantive qualitative research fields (Spencer, Ritchie, Ormston et al., 2014). FA's structure and guidance do not go against phenomenological rich research. On the contrary, FA offers a thorough design for research grounded in the data (King & Brooks, 2018; Ritchie & Spencer, 1994; Spencer et
al., 2014). A summary of the design and background of FA from literature motivates its selection (Goldsmith, 2021; Ritchie & Spencer, 1994; Spencer et al., 2014):
FA remains grounded in the data and allows emergent ideas, concepts, and patterns, besides (a start with) a priori concepts and themes. FA allows systematic and comprehensive
coverage of the dataset, meaning that each Respondent is given the same analytic treatment.
FA permits within- and between case (Respondent) searches. It allows sorting of the data into themes and Respondents, facilitating linkage between themes within a case (one Respondent) and within themes over cases (multiple Respondents). Finally, its structure provides transparency to others.
Five steps are involved in FA, which will be discussed in more detail. Nevertheless, we leap forward to the resulting framework chart to grasp the idea and understand these steps better, see Table 2. With this picture in mind, the FA process might appeal more to the imagination.
Illustrative overview of the resulting framework, created with FA
Respondentb Main Theme 1a Main Theme 2 Main Theme n
1.1 1.n 2.1 2.n n.1 n.n
1 p 24c;
grounded data here 2
n p 96;
grounded data here Note.
a Themes are listed horizontally, with sub-themes below the main themes (1.1, …, n.n).
b Cases (Respondents 1 to n) are listed vertically.
c “p xx” references the original transcripts, where xx is the paragraph number (e.g., 24 and 96).
4.5.1 Data management
Before starting the FA process, the available data and processing required to think about data management, either by hand or automated. Computer-assisted qualitative data analysis
software (CAQDAS) is applied for this task. The leading CAQDAS packages are discussed by Spencer et al. alongside FA (2014, p. 287). Of the three suggested packages, Nvivo
(https://www.qsrinternational.com/) directly supports FA, but the other packages appeal more to the researcher: MAXQDA https://www.maxqda.com/ and ATLAS.ti https://atlasti.com/. Besides, there was a preference for manually constructing a framework in Microsoft Excel, printed on (A0) paper, after sorting and filtering in CAQDAS. In this regard, the advantage of Nvivo supporting FA diminished. ATLAS.ti (Atlas) was selected from the two remaining packages. Atlas was applied for efficiency and thoroughness; changes in codes, themes, etc., can easily be applied to earlier sorted cases (Friese, 2014).
4.5.2 Framework Analysis
The five steps of FA are represented in Figure 4. These are sequentially described alongside their application for this thesis research.
Illustration of the five steps involved in FA
Note. From “Identifying mechanisms of change in a conversation therapy for aphasia using behaviour change theory and qualitative methods,” by F.M. Johnson, W. Best, F.C. Beckley, J. Maxim, S. Beeke, (2017), International Journal of Language & Communication Disorders, 52(3), 374–387, p. 380 (https://doi.org/10.1111/1460-6984.12279). Copyright CC BY 4.0
Terminology slightly differs from Ritchie and Spencer (1994)
Step 1: Familiarization. During this first step, recordings were listened to while reading the transcripts, which can be done side-by-side in Atlas. Notes were loosely made in a scrapbook; new potential themes were noted, and some interesting fragments were quoted in Atlas. A quotation is a function in Atlas to mark a data fragment that can later be coded or reviewed. A fragment that seems interesting, but without directly knowing why or how to apply it at that time, is quoted. The familiarization step is best summarized as “immersion in the data,” listening and reading repeatedly.
Step 2: Developing a thematic framework. As discussed in the first step, interesting themes from the data were quoted as a process of abstraction and conceptualization. Emerging themes and a priori themes were merged and modified, resulting in a list of codes sorted as themes. This code list was applied in Atlas to the first three interviews using the coding function, and additional codes were added along the way. After the first three interviews were coded, the preliminary codes were
evaluated and modified. At this stage, a first official code list was available for consequent coding of all interviews in step 3, see Appendix B. Given the high-quality data, more codes were applied than required for answering the RQ. These codes are (partly) used for the Discussion section.
Step 3: Coding (indexing) and sorting. This step is called indexing and sorting by the authors (Ritchie & Spencer, 1994), as it does more right to labeling in a way that it fits the data, according to Spencer et al. (2014, p. 300). The term coding is used for this research as it is a more common name in qualitative research and the function name in Atlas. Nevertheless, the process aligns with FA literature, namely applying codes in Atlas to descriptive pieces of text dealing with the theme. The coding of the first three interviews, as mentioned in Step 2, was updated accordingly, and succeeding interviews were coded with the new version. Codes were applied as “meaning coding” (Kvale, 2007, ch. 9), whereas a deeper “meaning interpretation” was done with the next step. Sorting is done quickly in Atlas. For instance, all transcript texts containing a code are displayed by selecting that code. This can also be done for more than one code to discover linkages between codes within one selected case or multiple cases. For example, filtering codes with roles assigned to GCs alongside codes on how GCs were applied in change projects revealed patterns (see Findings, Chapter 5). Some
further refinement was done by sorting and filtering, resulting in an iteration of the steps above. FA does not use named indexing (coding) steps like open coding, axial coding, and selective coding as Grounded Theory does. Although not mentioned by the FA method: quotation in step 1, code list development in step 2, and final coding in step 3 clearly indicate a similar constructive coding sequence.
Step 4: Charting (and translating). At this point, further analysis was mainly conducted using Excel rather than Atlas. Text quoted and coded in Atlas is exported to Excel. This results in a table with rows per case, containing columns with the interview ID, the paragraph(s) the text was quoted from, the text content (literal cited fragments of transcripts), and the codes applied. A framework illustrated in Table 2 was constructed with standard Excel filtering functions. Each cell was filled manually as FA requires a data summary (Spencer et al., 2014). However, this step is not unique to FA; it is common in many thematic approaches. Summarizing does not only serve to reduce the amount of text to create an overview, but it also allows for distilling the essence (meaning interpretation) for later representation. Summarizing is even more crucial in this thesis, as the transcripts are often in Dutch, where the research requires English. In this step, translations are done. Translated English summaries are made for Dutch interviews instead of summarizing texts in the original language and translating these. In this manner, there is only one possibility for
translation errors. Since distilling the essence (interpretation of what is meant) is required by FA, translating it in the same turn is relatively easy and natural. Finally, as discussed and illustrated in Table 2, distilled summaries remain grounded regarding the original transcript's case number and transcript paragraph(s).
Charting was done with filtering and sorting in Excel, with Atlas side-by-side, as distilling was more accurate and grounded with the whole transcript on the screen and recordings directly available. Often the recording was replayed to distillate meaning accurately. However, during Charting, it was sometimes found that a code was not applied perfectly, or a new search in the data was conducted due to emerging patterns, requiring an iteration back to step 2. Iteration was not a
problem despite using two separate programs, as exporting and importing between Atlas and Excel works smoothly. The FA method also allows for making tables for each theme separately before drawing up the overall framework. This is omitted as the data for this thesis research is limited compared to (large) research projects led by multiple researchers.
Step 5: Mapping and Interpretation. At this stage, the suggestion of Spencer et al. (2014) was followed literally: “it is a good idea to pause and take stock of what has been achieved, rather than rushing ahead without a clear plan” (p. 310). The conceptual framework was plotted on A0 paper size and put on the wall (see Appendix C). By taking a break, distance, and incidentally running into the conceptual framework, ideas, linkages, and patterns emerged from the chart on the wall.
This step is not a mechanical exercise; to some extent, it is similar to step 1: immersing in the data.
However, at this stage, field notes and recordings were used to enhance the paper on the wall with sticky notes, markings, etc., which resulted in associations. Respondents' experiences began to make sense during this process, and patterns were discovered within and across cases. At first, patterns were not always pronounced, but after spending more time with the framework, new patterns became visible, resulting in pronounced themes and patterns. Identified themes were then refined, as some themes appeared to overlap. As Ritchie and Spencer explain, a salient experience in
searching for structure rather than a multiplicity of evidence (1994, p. 186). The Findings section (Ch.
5) will discuss the emerged themes, their strength, and patterns between themes.
4.6 Quality criteria
A review of research quality is valuable to measure its academic value, overall quality, and validity. However, quality considerations are already an integrated aspect of the research design.
While the validity of the research execution is primarily reflected upon, particular strengths and weaknesses inherit from the research design.
4.6.1 Maxwell’s Quality criteria
Several validity assessment methods exist in qualitative research (Lewis, 2009). Examples are those by Lincoln and Guba (1985): credibility, transferability, dependability, and confirmability, as
well as those by Maxwell (1992): descriptive validity, interpretive validity, theoretical validity, generalizability, and evaluative validity. However, there seems to be no consensus by scholars to prefer one method over the other (Lewis, 2009). Besides broadly used, Maxwell's method (1992) is recently applied to FA by Kiernan and Hill(2018), reviewing the quality from the FA methodology perspective. For this reason, Maxwell's quality criteria are selected for assessing this thesis research.
Descriptive validity. The first criterium deals with the factual accuracy of the research (Maxwell, 1992, p. 285); did Respondents say what the thesis is reporting (what was said) rather than what the researcher observed. Kiernan and Hill (2018) propose that FA may lead to robust
descriptive validity as observations are lifted from the transcripts during the familiarization phase.
These observations are supported with a priori themes and ideas used to construct a framework and code list. All interviews are given the same treatment with the developed code list, leading to a high consistency. The uniform treatment was applied strictly and carefully, supporting robust descriptive validity. Furthermore, the generated overview of FA, combined with easy filtering options, avoids ungrounded assumptions by the researcher. Due to FA's strict application, including the grounded summarizing (distillation) process, the descriptive validity of this thesis is considered solid.
Interpretive validity. To descriptive validity (what was said), interpretive validity adds what was meant by the Respondent rather than the researcher's interpretation. Qualitative research and phenomenologist research particularly deal with what Respondents mean. Not just on the surface but the underlying intentions of what Respondents mean with their narrative (Maxwell, 1992).
Kiernan and Hill (2018, p. 258) claim that integrity and validity are within the inherent transparency of the FA approach. Although this claim is recognized, realizing interpretive validity was a careful and conscious process. Charting (step 4) was one of the most intensive steps of the process, carefully inferencing Respondents' meanings from the data. Charting in FA provides a transparent insight into subjective induction and supports this criterion (Kiernan & Hill, 2018). Interpretive validity is
considered solid by systematically and rigorously summarizing (meaning distillation).
Theoretical validity. Theoretical validity is about connecting the discovered patterns and relationships to the correct theories rather than forcing the data to support researchers’ pre- assumed theories. As one person conducts this thesis research, this quality criterion is slightly more problematic. It is relatively easy not to consider alternative explanations due to not paying attention to discrepant data or a lack of knowledge. Although the thesis researcher is not an academic expert in this field, the topic connects well with the EPMS course. Besides, literature reviews were
conducted with great care. Additionally, the supervisor is not only experienced in his role but exceptionally knowledgeable in this field. The supervisor could potentially compensate for any theoretical shortcomings during the research process. Nevertheless, theoretical validity is considered adequate.
Generalizability. Generalizability is about the assumption that the Findings also apply to other situations. Maxwell (1992) argues that qualitative studies are usually not designed to allow generalizations to a broader population (p. 293). Contemporary scholars are more nuanced in this respect; for example, Carminati (2018) argues that it is a controversial topic of interpretivist scholars versus positivist traditions (aiming at universal laws). Carminati (2018) argues that generalizability is possible, providing that it is the study's main objective and considered during the research design.
Kiernan and Hill (2018) add that FA as a method is well-suitable for such research, as the structure of FA allows the management of large amounts of data based on multiple observations. However, generalizability was not a design criterion for this thesis. The thesis aim is to provide a rich
explanation of power attributed to GCs by taking a phenomenologist approach. The results of this thesis concern the meaning of its Respondents from their context, providing an explanation for the GC phenomenon and paving the way for future research. As argued, the best answer to this quality criterion is thereby understood as not applicable.
Evaluative validity. Rather than assessing the research, evaluative validity deals with
assessing the application of an evaluative framework the researcher applies. Whether the research is thorough and grounded, this criterion determines whether the correct evaluation is applied to the
data (e.g., whether an event was right or wrong). As Maxwell (1992) states, evaluative validity is not as central to qualitative research as the other criteria (p. 295). Kiernan and Hill (2018) neither assess nor mention evaluative validity, aligning with Maxwell's statement. A small crosscheck in the library learned that many papers citing Maxwell's quality criteria are not applying this criterion. This thesis research (qualitative and explanatory) does not include a framework used to make judgments. As the practice of Kiernan and Hill (2018) suggests, it is probably OK to ignore this criterion, but applying a method and not mentioning one of its criteria seems odd.
Before discussing underlying meaning and interpretations, an overview of discovered themes and patterns is presented in Figure 5. This figure is derived from a more complex table, a framework summary, available in the appendix (see Table D1). Although not required, readers looking for a deeper understanding of the establishment of themes and patterns may hold Table D1 alongside this chapter.
Figure 5 shows two main themes: (1) Composition and (2) Roles; two separate themes are (3) Application of GC and (4) Attribution to success, which are listed on the left and right. The themes, followed by the discovered patterns, form the body of this section. Each main and underlying theme is discussed in both its definition and findings. Throughout the discussion of the themes, the patterns are discussed. Additionally, these patterns (A and B) are summarized at the end of this section.
Pattern A is the discovered influence of the Application of a GC on its Composition and fulfilled Roles.
Pattern B is a confirmation of applying a GC as Testers and super-users by Respondents 4 and 6 for an application used by Respondent 1.
In Figure 5 and subsequent tables, themes’ strength is used, a rating from – to +++. This rating is subjective but carefully based on how descriptive and pronounced the responses are. The motivation for the applied rating is explained in the in-depth discussion. The rating legend is available for reference in Table 3.
While this report is in English, some interviews were conducted in Dutch. When using quotes from Dutch Respondents, the quote (its meaning) is translated into English. Quotes are referenced to the Respondent from 1 to 7 (see Table 1) and their respective transcript paragraph (see Table 3).
When translated, the original untranslated quotes are available in Appendix E.
Themes overview: Application (of the GC), Composition, Roles and Attribution to success with sub-themes
Note. Originating from Table D1; Theme strength rating from – to +++;
The GCs Composition and Roles result in a successful change (Attribution to success)
a Pattern “A”: different Applications of the GC account for differences in Composition and Roles
Legend of ratings, quotation references, and quotation interpunction
- Weak support for the theme + Moderate support for the theme ++ Strong support for the theme +++ Very strong support for the theme
p. xxa The quote is taken from the indicated Respondent, paragraph “xx” of the transcript t.p. xxa The translated quote is taken from the indicated Respondent, paragraph “xx” of the
transcript; The original untranslated quote is available in Appendix Eb .. Double periods in a quote mean a pause in Respondents’ narrative
… Triple periods in a quote mean a shortening of material (Ayubi, 2020, Ch. 8.31) Note. The motivation for the applied rating is provided per theme.
a The paragraph for Respondents’ block quotes is placed before the quote to avoid mixing them with added content.
b The untranslated quote is only available when a quote is provided, not when paraphrasing.
This theme contains specifics on how GCs are composed based on the collected data
(emerged themes). These are Power distribution, Functional/regional distribution, and Constant over time; see Table 4. In the Additional findings section, insights from the data are discussed regarding GCs size, a theme that was part of the a priori coding scheme.
5.2.1 Power distribution
The Power distribution theme strength is rated weak, as it is less pronounced and very context-specific. Nevertheless, all Respondents gave meaningful feedback. However, due to the context-dependency and weaker pronunciation, the suitability of this theme to discover patterns, conclude, and develop theory is limited. Besides context specificity, the Respondents' perspective is very influential on the feedback for this theme. For example, among Respondents with a global vs.
local scope, the perspective of TM's involvement and TM's role is very different than from nationally
operating firms. Respondent 7 calls the direct, operational supervisors MM, a group of thousands of people from their perspective at a far distance (p. 116). This view differs significantly from
Respondents from smaller companies, where this group is relatively small and within reach.
Respondent 7's perspective originates from giant global multinationals (named but hidden for privacy reasons). For the following discussion of the Power distribution, this perspective matters for the given feedback and the possibility of including certain levels in GCs.
Besides across cases, within a case, Respondents also express a lot of “it depends.” However, despite more general applicability, these conditions are very descriptive and valuable for composing GCs. As a result, this theme is covered extensively to share these insights. Respondent 2 stresses the importance of considering power distribution alongside the company culture when composing GCs (p. 26):
If you've got a very hierarchical, top down, traditional, traditionally structured organization.
And then you're working with a coalition that is, you know, people at sort of all different levels from all different backgrounds and experiences, you know, getting a, I don't know, a 25 year old sales professional to knock on the door of, you know, one of the one of the
Overview of compositions’ sub-themes, their strength, and definition
Sub-theme Strength Description Power
- Hierarchical composition of GCs; which levels are represented in the GC, which are not, and why? Is it essential to have all levels involved, or should some levels not be involved for the best effectiveness?
Levels are TM/MM/LM: top management (TM), middle management (MM), and lower management (LM).
Functional / Regional Distribution
+++ Composition of GCs regarding functions or regions involved. Which organizational functions are involved? When international, how are different regions involved in the GC?
Constant over time
+++ Is the composition of GCs kept constant over the project term, or is it changed, and why?
Note. For an overview of the themes, see Figure 5.
managing directors or whatever else, then you have a problem because you're not even allowed on that floor potentially. So being able to work with that and and work around that is, is really important. So it's something that I think we should recognize. I mean, you could be very radical in how you create that coalition, but if you've not got people in that coalition that can open the doors initially, then it's very, very tough. So I think the the coalition to a certain extent needs to consider the culture within the organisation for it to get traction.
Let's say, because if it doesn't and it's not recognized, you know, it can be very, it can be very lonely and not very rewarding having doors slammed in your face, you know, metaphorically on the day to day basis. So I think having some some reflection, you know, of the
organization structure of the culture within the organization is a is a consideration.
Further, in the interview, Respondent 2 mentioned that a hierarchical organization and a junior coalition could work if the CM provided enough support and guidance (p. 26). These examples highlight the within-case context-dependency of this theme again, of which culture is just one example.
Another context-dependent example is the project's nature. Together with size (see GC Size, para. 5.6.1), Respondent 1 mentions that projects with a significant impact throughout the
organization (at all levels) require a GC with low power distribution, mainly those involved with the work, not TM (p. 94; 98-102). On the contrary, highly confident projects (e.g., reorganizations) contain mostly TM in GCs, as the project cannot be shared openly (p. 94). Respondent 1 also mentions GC members withholding from speaking up due to power imbalances, particularly in cultures with a considerable power distance, again a cultural example (p. 120-122). Respondent 7 provided similar feedback and mentioned that separate sessions were held in an international case with China, as members did not feel safe speaking up in the complete (global) setting (p. 128). These examples point to the importance of psychological safety in GCs, which was found across.
Respondent 3 indicates that involved levels are “mainly MM” (p. 83-85) and that GC members must
have the mandate to make decisions (p. 89). The latter might relate to the GC application as Facilitators (see Pattern A, para. 5.4.2).
In summary, this theme is not very pronounced and particularly context-dependent.
Nevertheless, the feedback provided by Respondents is valuable when composing a GC. The contextual examples are very illustrative, inspirational, and meaningful. Nevertheless, despite the different perspectives, middle management (MM) was expressed prominently, and these specific findings will be discussed.
An essential role for Middle Management. With a few examples addressed above, most Respondents call MMs' role highly important, in line with Heyden et al. (2017), see Academic
literature (para. 3.2.4). Despite the different perspectives across cases and “it depends” within cases, it becomes clear that a larger group is meant with MM, namely those managers operating closely with the employees. The critical role of MM is highlighted with a quote from Respondent 2 (p.20):
So yeah, middle managers are critical because of course, you know, they're the conduit that everything goes through when we look at that, that middle management. They're the ones that are catching everything that sort of comes down. So they are really important, you know, to be: one (1) part of that coalition because we have that level of experience. But two (2): to work with that coalition because, you know, they're the ones that are really going to make it happen at the end of the day so yeah they're an important group in as I would say in in an organization and without and you know, you work with them, you get them on board, you get them comfortable, and then the magic happens. If if you're always navigating around them and then it's energy sapping.
For Respondent 7, the MM group is generally at a distance and not directly represented in the GC.
Still, the crucial role MM performs is for them nearly the same as for those Respondents working within (or for) smaller organizations. Respondent 7 explains: “Ultimately, one listens best to their direct lead. Yes, that is just how it works” (t.p. 122). Respondent 7 states the role of MM explicitly as being critical to sustainable implementation (t.p. 116):