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Sears Story to Analyze

The Setting

A household name in America, Sears was once the world’s largest retailer. In October 2018, the company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, and its remaining assets were sold to a hedge fund, ESL Investments, owned by Eddie Lampert. What happened? Sears Holdings Corporation was a specialty retailer, formed in 2005 by the merger of
Kmart and Sears Roebuck. The merger was the idea of Eddie Lampert, a billionaire hedge fund manager who owned 55 percent of the new company and who became chairman. Based in Illinois, the company operated in the United States and Canada, with 274,000 employees, 4,000 retail stores, and annual revenues (2013) of $40 billion. Sears and Kmart stores sold home merchandise, clothing, and automotive products and services. The merged company was successful at first, due to aggressive cost cutting.

The Problem

By 2007, two years after the merger, profits were down by 45 percent. The Chairman’s Solution Lampert decided to restructure the company. Sears was organized like a classic retailer. Department heads ran their own product lines, but they all worked for the same merchan-dising and marketing leaders, with the same financial goals. The new model ran Sears like a hedge fund portfolio with autonomous businesses competing for resources. This “internal market” would promote efficiency and improve corporate performance. At first, the new structure had around 30 business units, including product divisions, support functions, and brands, along with units focusing on e-commerce and real estate. By 2009, there were over 40 divisions. Each division had its own president, chief marketing officer, board of directors, profit and loss statement, and strategy that had to be agreed on by Lampert’s executive committee. With all those positions to fill at the head of each unit, executives competed for the roles, each eager to run his or her own multibillion-dollar business. The new model was called SOAR: Sears Holdings Organization, Actions, and Responsibilities.

When the reorganization was announced in January 2008, the company’s share price
rose 12 percent. Most retail companies prefer integrated structures, in which different divisions can be compelled to make sacrifices, such as discounting goods, to attract more shoppers. Lampert’s colleagues argued that his new approach would create rival factions. Lampert disagreed. He believed that decentralized structures, although they might appear “messy,” were more effective and they produced better information. This would give him access to better data, enabling him to assess more effectively the individual components of the company and its assets. Lampert also argued that SOAR made it easier to divest businesses and open new ones, such as the online “Shop Your Way” division. Sears was an early adopter of online shopping. Lampert (who allegedly did all his own
shopping online, but had no previous experience in retailing) wanted to grow this side of the business, and investment in the stores was cut back. He had innovative ideas: smart-phone apps, netbooks in stores, and a multiplayer game for employees. He set up a company social network called Pebble, which he joined under the pseudonym Eli Wexler, so that he could engage with employees. However, he criticized other people’s posts and argued with store associates. When staff worked out that Wexler was Lampert, unit man-agers began tracking how often their employees were “Pebbling.” One group organized Pebble conversations about random topics just so they would appear to be active users.
The Chairman At the time of the merger, investors were confident that Lampert could turn the two companies around. One analyst described him as “lightning fast, razor-sharp smart, very direct.” Many of those who worked for him described him as brilliant (although he could overestimate his abilities). The son of a lawyer, it was rumored that he read corporate reports and finance textbooks in high school, before going to Yale University. He hated focus groups and was sensitive to jargon such as “vendor.” His brands chief once used the word consumer in a presentation. Lampert interrupted, with a lecture on why he should have used the word customer instead. He often argued with experienced retailers, but he had good relationships with managers who had finance and technology backgrounds. From 2008, Sears’ business unit heads had an annual personal videoconference with
the chairman. They went to a conference room at the headquarters in Illinois, with some of Lampert’s senior aides, and waited while an assistant turned on the screen on the wall opposite the U-shaped table and Lampert appeared. Lampert ran these meetings from his homes in Greenwich, Connecticut; Aspen Colorado; and subsequently Florida, earning him the nickname, “The Wizard of Oz.” He only visited headquarters in person twice a year because he hated flying. While the unit head worked through the PowerPoint presentation, Lampert didn’t look up, but dealt with his emails or studied a spreadsheet until he heard something that he didn’t like—which would then lead to lengthy questioning. In 2012, he bought a family home in Miami Beach for $38 million and moved his
hedge fund to Florida. Some industry analysts felt that Sears’ problems were exacerbated by Lampert’s penny-pinching cost savings, which stifled investment in its stores. Instead of store improvements, Sears bought back stock and increased its online presence. In 2013, Lampert became chairman and chief executive, the company having gone through four other chief executives since the merger.

The Outcomes

Instead of improving performance, the new model encouraged the divisions to turn against each other. Lampert evaluated the divisions and calculated executives’ bonuses, using a measure called “business operating profit” (BOP). The result was that individual business units focused exclusively on their own profitability, rather than on the welfare of the company. For example, the clothing division cut labor to save money, knowing that floor salespeople in other units would have to pick up the slack. Nobody wanted to sacrifice business operating profits to increase shopping traffic. The business was ravaged by infighting as the divisions—behaving in the words of one executive like “warring tribes”—battled for resources. Executives brought laptops with screen protectors to meetings so that their colleagues couldn’t see what they were doing. There was no collaboration and no cooperation. The Sears and Kmart brands suffered. Employees gave the new organi-zational model a new name: SORE. The reorganization also meant that Sears had to hire and promote dozens of expensive
chief financial officers and chief marketing officers. Many unit heads underpaid middle man-agers to compensate. As each division had its own board of directors, some presidents sat on five or six boards, which each met monthly. Top executives were constantly in meetings. The company had not been profitable since 2010 and posted a net loss of $170 million
for the first quarter in 2011. In November that year, Sears discovered that rivals planned to open on Thanksgiving at midnight, and Sears’ executives knew that they should also open early. However, it wasn’t possible to get all the business unit heads to agree, and the stores opened as usual, the following morning. One vice president drove to the mall that evening and watched families flocking into rival stores. When Sears opened the next day, cars were already leaving the parking lot. That December, Sears announced the closure of over 100 stores. In February 2012, Sears announced the closure of its nine “The Great Indoors” stores. From 2005 to 2013, Sears’ sales fell from $49.1 billion to £39.9 billion, the stock value fell by 64 percent, and cash holdings hit a 10-year low. In May 2013, at the annual share-holders’ meeting, Lampert pointed to the growth in online sales and described a new app called “Member Assist” that customers could use to send messages to store associates. The aim was “to bring online capabilities into the stores.” Three weeks later, Sears reported a first-quarter loss of $279 million, and the share price fell sharply. The online business contributed 3 percent of total sales. Online sales were growing, however, through the “Shop Your Way” website. Lampert argued that this was the future of Sears, and he wanted to develop “Shop Your Way” into a hybrid of Amazon and Facebook. The company’s stock market valuation fell from $30 billion in 2007 to $69 million in October 2018, while car-rying $5 billion in debt. Revenues in 2018 were $16.7 billion, down from $50.7 billion in 2007. Sears had around 3,500 stores in America in 2007, and young shoppers rarely visited the 866 stores that remained in August 2018. Sears filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2018, and Lampert resigned as chief executive, but stayed on as chairman.

Case Sources
Kimes, M. 2013. At Sears, Eddie Lampert’s warring divisions model adds to the troubles. Bloomberg Businessweek, July 11. http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2013-07-11/ at-sears-eddie-lamperts-warring-divisions-model-adds-to-the-troubles.
Forbes (n.d.), #2057 Edward Lampert, http://www.forbes.com/profile/edward-lampert.

My Assessment Results

Dominant Image- Director

Weakest Image- Caretaker

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Reframing Leadership and Organizational Practice
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Research Article

Managing Positive Change: Emotions and Communication
Following Acquisitions
Riikka Harikkala-Laihinen 
Published online: 23 Jun 2022

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ABSTRACT
This article takes a positive organizational scholarship lens to change management and explores what is the

relationship between emotions and communication in managing positive change. Through an abductive study, it

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relationship between emotions and communication in managing positive change. Through an abductive study, it

suggests a framework of positive post-acquisition change, which centres on interaction in the generation of positive

emotions. The framework is built based on a Finnish – German merger completed in late 2013 and substantiated

through a German – Finnish acquisition completed in early 2017. Based on the �ndings, positive emotions can

enhance employee identi�cation with the post-acquisition organization as well as increase motivation and

engagement in change. Conversely, negative emotions are likely to cause protectionist, change-resistant behaviour.

Whereas top-down communication is essential in ensuring day-to-day functions, interaction enables the creation of

positive emotions and thereby engages employees in change-congruent behaviour.

MAD statement

Generating positive emotions rather than merely alleviating negative emotions can signi�cantly enhance change

outcomes. Practitioners have the ability to encourage the emergence of positive emotions through di�erent

communication means. Traditional communication, i.e. ‘information sharing’, ensures day-to-day functionality and

can help alleviate worries, but does not engage employees in change. Instead, participation and interaction create a

sense of ownership, generating positive emotions and motivating employees to work toward change.

 KEYWORDS: Change positive emotions communication interaction mergers and acquisitions

Introduction

Despite decades of research, change management literature to date lacks a detailed understanding of the

emergence and in�uence of emotions (Zietsma et al., 2019). In order to explore the link between change

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emergence and in�uence of emotions (Zietsma et al., 2019). In order to explore the link between change

management and emotions, this article asks; what is the relationship between emotions and communication in

managing positive change. In this article, positive change is de�ned as a�rmative as opposed to harmful in terms of

employee responses and organizational outcomes (Avey et al., 2008). With regard to emotions and communication,

particular attention is given to the emergence of positive emotions and the communication practices likely to trigger

them. This focus is driven by three interrelated shortcomings detected in previous literature.

First, this paper follows Diener et al. (2020) in de�ning emotions as componential experiences, which consist of a

triggering event, cognitive appraisal, action readiness, psychological signals, subjective sensations and behavioural

outcomes. Previous research clearly indicates that positive emotions surrounding change are bene�cial (e.g.

Canning & Found, 2015; Dixon et al., 2016). Still, particularly the facilitation of positive emotions at work necessitates

further research (Allen & McCarthy, 2016). This indicates the need to explore how positive emotions emerge at

work, particularly during change periods.

Second, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, communication refers to conveying or exchanging information.

Previous research reveals that communication enables creating the abovementioned positive climate around

change (Ashkanasy & Daus, 2002). Yet, the e�ciency of communication as a means to overcome potential con�ict

necessitates further research (Angwin et al., 2016; Weber & Drori, 2011). Moreover, managerial involvement in the

relationship between communication and emotion remains underexplored (Zagelmeyer et al., 2016). This highlights

the importance of identifying the communication means, which increase positivity and harmony during change

periods.

Third, this article adopts the notion that managing positive change occurs through managerial tactics for generating

positive subordinate reactions (cf. Ouakouak et al., 2020). Yet whereas the bene�ts of a positive change climate are
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positive subordinate reactions (cf. Ouakouak et al., 2020). Yet whereas the bene�ts of a positive change climate are

widely acknowledged, how to manage change in a positive way requires further exploration (Canning & Found,

2015; Dixon et al., 2016). Despite the knowledge that positive emotions and communication are linked to positive

change, managing collective emotions (Huy, 2012) continues to puzzle academics and practitioners alike. This

advocates exploring active emotion management during organizational change periods (Steigenberger, 2015).

To explore this phenomenon in practice, this article examines the post-acquisition change context, i.e. integration.

While previous acquisition research most often focuses on negative employee reactions (Graebner et al., 2017),

empirical evidence proves that change can also trigger positive experiences (e.g. Kusstatscher, 2006; Raitis et al.,

2017). Similarly, previous research con�rms communication as a key means for creating positive emotions (e.g.

Harikkala-Laihinen et al., 2018), yet a gap exists in determining how speci�c communication practices in�uence post-

acquisition change (Graebner et al., 2017). Thus, this context is �tting for the purpose of this article.

This article contributes to three aspects of change management: positive emotion elicitation, communication, and

emotion management. The �ndings reveal that both traditional, top-down communication (i.e. conveying

information) and engaging interaction (i.e. exchanging information) are necessary for optimal change results.

Traditional communication can alleviate worries, but interaction is the key to positive emotion elicitation.

Consequently, these two communication means also function as collective emotion management tools.

The Post-Acquisition Change Context and Key Concepts

Research Context

For approximately three decades now, the mergers and acquisitions literature has paid increasing attention to the

human side of acquisitions (e.g. Sarala et al., 2019). This has encouraged researchers and practitioners alike to

2
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human side of acquisitions (e.g. Sarala et al., 2019). This has encouraged researchers and practitioners alike to

consider acquisitions as softer, human processes (Cartwright & Cooper, 1995). A typology of post-acquisition

integration as the combination of task and human aspects (Birkinshaw et al., 2000) has become increasingly

in�uential, and acquisition scholars have identi�ed problems in sociocultural integration as a key cause for

acquisition failures (e.g. Datta, 1991; Marks & Mirvis, 2011; Raitis et al., 2018). Within this body of literature,

acquisition scholars have looked into how emotions play a role, for example, with regard to managers’ emotional

reactions, collective emotion regulation, employee behaviour, organizational culture and attitudes toward change

(Clarke & Salleh, 2011; Durand, 2016; Fink & Yolles, 2015; Gunkel et al., 2015; Reus, 2012).

Despite the growing body of literature, acquisition results remain unsatisfactory, indicating the need to understand

post-acquisition integration dynamics (e.g. Graebner et al., 2017). In particular, the discussion on emotions remains

relatively inconsistent and undertheorized (Reus, 2012; Zagelmeyer et al., 2016). Unfortunately, previous acquisition

research largely considers emotions to be problematic, causing poor organizational outcomes. Accordingly, most

existing studies focus on negative emotions (Graebner et al., 2017). In contrast, a focus on positivity could greatly

enrich understanding (Stahl et al., 2013), because acquisition-related emotions can also be positive and can have

positive outcomes (e.g. Harikkala-Laihinen et al., 2018). For example, positivity can help strengthen employee

identi�cation with the post-acquisition organization (Raitis et al., 2017; Zagelmeyer et al., 2016).

The Power of Positivity

To highlight the importance of positive emotions in overcoming potential con�ict during post-acquisition

integration, this article adopts a positive organizational scholarship (POS) lens, emphasizing positive communication

as a driver for organizational success (Cameron, 2012). A key concern in POS literature is the generation of positive

emotions (Cameron et al., 2003), as they can lead to increased thought spectrums, enhanced creativity and

improved information-processing ability (Fredrickson, 2001; 2013). In addition, positivity can ease organizational
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improved information processing ability (Fredrickson, 2001; 2013). In addition, positivity can ease organizational

change by increasing employee engagement (Avey et al., 2008) and positive behaviour (Luthans & Youssef, 2007).

Change management is often geared towards �ghting expected negative reactions, i.e. change resistance

(Rosenbaum et al., 2018; cf. Piderit, 2000). Indeed, in order to learn from mistakes, change management literature

often examines change failure (Burnes & Jackson, 2011; Fuchs & Prouska, 2014; Rosenbaum et al., 2018). Thus, POS

is a fruitful addition to change management literature, as it enables identifying mechanisms that bring about

positive deviance, in order to enhance the quality of organizational life (Roberts, 2006). Indeed, POS can be

particularly bene�cial in committing employees to organizational change (Allen & McCarthy, 2016; Caza & Caza,

2008). While identifying and dissolving threats to the organization remains at the core of research, a POS lens can

push theory and practice beyond neutralizing threats to increased �ourishing (Roberts, 2006). Moreover, positive

change experiences are likely to increase change success (Fuchs & Prouska, 2014). Thus, this article adopts a POS

lens in highlighting the means for and bene�ts of positive change management above and beyond the neutralizing

stance.

Emotions

Emotions are distinctive a�ective phenomena, stemming from the higher level concept, a�ect (Guerrero et al., 1996).

Core a�ect refers to a dynamic, continuous, subjective experience of whether we feel pleasure or displeasure on the

one hand, and activation or deactivation on the other hand (Russell, 2003). Prolonged core a�ect can turn into

moods, which re�ect our attitude towards our surroundings. Moods do not have an identi�able root; we can

sometimes feel bad or good without knowing exactly why (Guerrero et al., 1996). What sets emotions apart is the

necessity of an object; emotion is always about something. This is why emotions are also interpretations, making

emotions highly personal and subjective: they only arise about topics or situations, which carry some personal value

for us (Nussbaum, 2004).
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for us (Nussbaum, 2004).

Due to their subjective nature, emotions are dynamic experiential processes, where a trigger, response, and

representation can be identi�ed (Scherer & Moors, 2019). The trigger is often an event or situation in our immediate

surroundings, the response refers to our evaluation of the bene�t or detriment of that event in terms of our own

wellbeing based on our past experience, and the representation re�ects a labelled outcome of the evaluation (e.g.

Fredrickson, 2013; Lazarus, 1991). In e�ect, emotions are most often considered through the category labels, which

re�ect a set of discrete states (Scherer & Moors, 2019). Therefore, in our everyday lives, labels such as love,

happiness, sadness or anger refer to emotions.

While much research has been directed at discovering and exploring labelled emotions, studies focusing on the

dynamics of emotion elicitation in organizations are scarce (Scherer & Moors, 2019). Although previous research

highlights the bene�t of positivity in terms of driving organizational change (e.g. Canning & Found, 2015; Dixon et al.,

2016), how to encourage the emergence of such positivity at work is yet unclear (Allen & McCarthy, 2016). Similarly,

while the importance of management actions in creating positivity is acknowledged, just how to manage collective

emotions (Huy, 2012) in order to create positive change (Canning & Found, 2015; Dixon et al., 2016) remains unclear.

Thus, this paper focuses on how positive emotions emerge and can be managed in organizations during post-

acquisition integration.

Communication

Communication is a key means through which organizations can in�uence employees (Roundy, 2010), including

their emotions (Harikkala-Laihinen et al., 2018). Communication is particularly important during change periods

(Barrett, 2002), as it can help employees cope with uncertainty, thereby increasing productivity. To this end,

communication should be clear, reliable and considerate, and delivered through a variety of channels (Angwin et al.,

2016; Appelbaum et al., 2000). E�ective communication is informative, educational and motivating (Barrett, 2002),
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2016; Appelbaum et al., 2000). E�ective communication is informative, educational and motivating (Barrett, 2002),

and helps manage employee reactions, guiding perceptions about change towards assurance instead of uncertainty

(Lotz & Donald, 2006). In contrast, ine�ective communication can lead to higher ambiguity and lower commitment

(Angwin et al., 2016).

While communication is a key tool during integration (Sarala et al., 2019), previous acquisition literature tends to

focus on the rationality of communication, generally disregarding the emotional element (Zagelmeyer et al., 2016).

Similarly, when communication-related emotions are considered, the focus tends to be on negative experiences

such as uncertainty, anxiety and anger (Graebner et al., 2017; Zagelmeyer et al., 2016). Despite some recent

developments, evidence regarding the relationship between communication and emotion during post-acquisition

integration is scarce, and the role of managerial involvement remains underexplored (Zagelmeyer et al., 2016). Yet,

previous research indicates that communication is essential in creating a positive change climate (Ashkanasy &

Daus, 2002; Harikkala-Laihinen, 2020). Thus, this article explores if and how communication could be a useful tool in

managing positive change.

Abductive Research Process

This study follows an abductive, moderate constructionist research process (Järvensivu & Törnroos, 2010; cf. Annosi

et al., 2016; Dubois & Gibbert, 2010). Abductive research is particularly suitable for exploring change management,

as it enables the examination of interrelatedness between di�erent factors, highlighting theory development rather

than generation (Dubois & Gadde, 2002). Abduction is thus particularly adept when the objective is to explain

practical occurrences (Folger & Stein, 2017). Moreover, reporting an abductive research process as it unfolds in

practice increases the openness and improves the trustworthiness of the study (Schwab & Starbuck, 2017).
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practice increases the openness and improves the trustworthiness of the study (Schwab & Starbuck, 2017).

Figure 1 outlines the research process for this study. In phase one, systematic combining is used as a means to

move between theory and empirical evidence (Dubois & Gadde, 2002) in order to �nd the best possible explanation

for surprising �ndings in the data (Folger & Stein, 2017). First, existing literature shaped a pre-understanding

re�ected in the above sections, which guided data collection. In the second stage, additional literature provided

explanatory theory for surprising �ndings in the data. In stage three, the found literature and explained

observations inspired a new framework. The section ‘Study one for phase one’ discusses stages two and three.

Figure 1. Abductive research process. Modi�ed from Järvensivu and Törnroos (2010, p. 103).

In phase two, deduction allows substantiation, acting in the context of justi�cation (Nenonen et al., 2017). In

abductive research, deduction enables testing emerging ideas (Åsvoll, 2014) and determining the explanatory power

of an emergent theory (Reichertz, 2004). Thus, the fourth stage of the research process con�rmed the explanatory

power of the new framework. The section ‘Study two for phase two’ discusses stage four.

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power of the new framework. The section Study two for phase two discusses stage four.

Both phases primarily follow a qualitative approach, which allows the emergence of interrelated patterns, enabling

the formation of suggestive theory (cf. Edmondson & McManus, 2007). However, this study utilizes both quantitative

and qualitative means of data collection and analysis, yet integrates them in the discussion in order to gain deeper

understanding from a limited number of cases (cf. Hurmerinta & Nummela, 2011). This mixing of methods brings

out the voices of the study subjects more comprehensively (cf. Creswell & Plano Clark, 2011; O’Cathain et al., 2007).

Recognizing that di�erent sets of data are essential for generating and testing an emerging theory (Hyde, 2000),

each phase uses a di�erent case, ensuring the richness of description (cf. Dyer & Wilkins, 1991) and extensive data

collection (cf. Yin, 2012), enabling interpretive sensemaking (cf. Welch et al., 2011). Each phase of the study discusses

case descriptions and detailed information on data collection and analysis separately.

Study One for Phase One

Method

Case Description

The case for phase one explores Finnish Alpha’s acquisition of German Beta, completed in late 2013. Prior to the

deal, Alpha was a family-owned, Nordic supplier of technologically advanced user-friendly products, employing

approximately 800 workers. Beta, employing 600 workers, was Alpha’s competitor, yet stronger in Central European

markets, providing an expansion opportunity for Alpha. Because both companies were similar in size and their

product lines were complementary, Alpha chose a best of both worlds approach to integration (cf. Cartwright &

Cooper, 1993; Haspeslagh & Jemison, 1991), resembling a merger of equals. Thus, Alpha Group was born. Although
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Cooper, 1993; Haspeslagh & Jemison, 1991), resembling a merger of equals. Thus, Alpha Group was born. Although

the deal closed already in late 2013, the most intensive integration e�orts began in late 2014, coinciding with the

research agreement for this study.

The greatest integration e�ort at Alpha Group centred on creating new organizational values, with speci�c value

workshops to introduce them to all employees in early 2015 overlapping with data collection. All major Alpha Group

locations organized the value workshops in-house. Each workshop hosted a maximum of 20 participants with a local

facilitator, who guided the participants to re�ect on the new Alpha Group values through a series of tasks designed

to breathe life into the values. The key purpose of the workshops was to allow employees to share their ideas of

how these values could become a part of everyday work at Alpha Group.

The Alpha Group case represents a single, signi�cant case (cf. Patton, 2015) that is particularly informative (cf.

Fletcher & Plakoyiannaki, 2011), making it suitable for abductive research. The merger approach makes this case

unique. As such, it is also uniquely suitable for POS, which allows an a�rmative bias. Nevertheless, POS does not

encourage ignoring negative emotions or challenging contexts, but rather acknowledges that it may be precisely at

such times that examples of vitality and organizational �ourishing are most vivid (Cameron & Caza, 2004). This is

also visible in the �ndings.

Data Collection and Analysis

In 2015, Alpha Group employees contemplated what emotions the value workshops, the deal itself, and the

subsequent integration evoked in them through an open-ended, qualitative questionnaire. The response rate was

approximately 50% (n = 681), with wide participation across Alpha Group’s largest locations in Finland, Germany,

Poland, and the Czech Republic. In 2016, the employees again re�ected on what emotions the deal evoked in them

through open-ended, qualitative questions. The response rate was approximately 80% (n = 1,082), again with wide

participation across Alpha Group’s largest locations. illustrates the key demographics of the respondents.Table 1
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participation across Alpha Group s largest locations. illustrates the key demographics of the respondents.

For both qualitative surveys, the responses were �rst coded quantitatively into neutral (0 – no emotional valence or

arousal), negative (1 – displeasing valence or arousal), mixed (2 – both pleasing and displeasing elements), and

positive (3 – pleasing valence or arousal) emotional content. The numeric data o�ered a quick overview of the

aggregate contents, mainly in the form of percentages.

QSR NVivo 11 software aided further analysis of the data containing emotional information (i.e. coded 1, 2, or 3),

focusing on speci�c emotions and their triggers. Lazarus’s (1993) categorization of emotions, which divides

emotions into four positive (happiness, pride, relief, love), nine negative (anger, anxiety, fright, guilt, shame, sadness,

envy, jealousy, disgust) and two mixed states (hope, compassion) guided categorization. For example, the employee

response ‘The takeover made it possible to combine our strengths, which strengthens the company for the future’

re�ected happiness, as it portrays ‘Making reasonable progress toward the realization of a goal’ (Lazarus, 1993, p.

13). In turn, the response ‘Management must live up to these values as an example, otherwise they are senseless’

portrayed anger, as it entails ‘A demeaning o�ense against me and mine’ (Lazarus, 1993, p. 13) in that the

employees were asked to behave in one way, whereas management was not seen to follow the same rules.

In addition to the surveys, semi-structured interviews with Alpha Group management (11) and employee

representatives (2) between late 2015 and mid-2016, six in Finland in Finnish, and seven in Germany in English,

Table 1

Table 1. Respondents.

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representatives (2) between late 2015 and mid 2016, six in Finland in Finnish, and seven in Germany in English,

provided more personal, in-depth data regarding the context and emotional experiences. The interviews were

audio-recorded (altogether approximately 830 min) and transcribed to ease analysis. Organizing the data in QSR

NVivo 11 software re�ected both theoretical and inductive themes. The analysis focused on detailing the emotion

elicitation process during post-acquisition change. During the analysis process, it became clear that the emergent

emotions were not merely those of anxiety and stress expected in previous acquisition literature (e.g. Graebner et

al., 2017). Moreover, the stance towards change was not resistant, as predicted in much of the change management

literature (e.g. Rosenbaum et al., 2018). Instead, two questions, which existing literature could not explain, arose:

Why are they so happy? And What is special about interaction? These questions form the key point of problematization

in this article (Alvesson & Sandberg, 2011). Thus, pertaining to the abductive paradigm, the �ndings from study one

are explored through answering these surprising empirical questions (cf. Dubois & Gadde, 2002; Folger & Stein,

2017).

Why Are They So Happy?

Although previous acquisition literature expects the employees to be miserable, at Alpha Group positive emotions

were clearly dominant at the time of integration as revealed by the 2015 employee satisfaction survey (Figure 2).

Figure 2. Emotions at Alpha Group in 2015.

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This raised the question, why are they so happy? Exploring this question through systematic combining, two key

concepts seemed to o�er the best explanatory power: cognitive appraisal theory and a�ective events theory.

Cognitive Appraisal Theory

In human evolution, emotions were fundamental for survival by prompting humans to seek nurturance and avoid

harm (Izard, 1984). However, research settings often operationalize emotions as componential experiences, which

include a combination of appraisal, action readiness, physiological responses, behavioural outcomes, and subjective

feelings (Scherer & Moors, 2019). This is a cognitive approach to emotion. Cognitive appraisal theory stems from the

work of Magda Arnold (Cornelius, 2006), who claimed that emotion requires perception and appraisal (Arnold,

1960). Here, appraisal refers to a degree of personal relevance and is an evaluation of the importance of a certain

situation or event to the wellbeing of the self (Lazarus, 1991). Thus, emotions are judgments (Solomon, 2003) and

include a trigger, an evaluation, and a reaction (Fredrickson, 2001).

The emotion labels that arise from the cognitive process are varied, and because emotions are essentially subjective

experiences, categorizing them is di�cult (Mandler, 1999). Despite the di�culties, categorizations build on the

hedonic quality of the emotion, meaning whether it feels good or bad (Gordon, 1987). In addition to being positive

(pleasing, good, or goal-congruent) and negative (displeasing, bad, or goal-incongruent), di�erent emotions have

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(pleasing, good, or goal congruent) and negative (displeasing, bad, or goal incongruent), di�erent emotions have

di�erent appraisal patterns, distinguishing them from other emotional states. Lazarus (1991; 1993) has suggested

that what separates the emotions from each other are the speci�c relationships they describe between the

experiencing individual and the surrounding context. For example, happiness refers to making reasonable progress

toward an objective, whereas anger re�ects a demeaning o�ense against oneself or a group with which one

identi�es.

Affective Events Theory

A�ective events theory suggests that work-related events can act as triggers for emotions. It counterbalances

traditional judgment-based theories of work-related behaviour, drawing a line between the work context itself and

events in the environment that can cause emotional reactions. It proposes that work-related emotions have a direct

link to behaviours and attitudes (Weiss & Cropanzano, 1996). Here, the term event refers to a discrete episode at

work (Morgeson et al., 2015) that provokes an appraisal (Basch & Fisher, 1998) related to one’s job tasks or

relationships at work (Casper et al., 2019).

Change, such as post-acquisition integration, is a common emotion trigger at work (e.g. Dhingra & Punia, 2016;

Kiefer, 2002). When considering change acceptance, it is noteworthy that, apart from valence, emotions can have

activating power. For example, the two negative emotions of anger and fear have rather opposite activation

patterns. Whereas anger can aggravate and increase impulsiveness, fear often leads to withdrawal (Ashkanasy &

Dorris, 2017). To generate proactive attitudes towards change, activating positive states such as excitement seem

most bene�cial. Change acceptance signi�es positive states without activation, such as calmness. Conversely,

disengagement from change e�orts occurs when emotional experiences are negative and deactivating, such as with

helplessness or sadness. In turn, active negative emotions such as anger create change resistance (Oreg et al., 2018).
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helplessness or sadness. In turn, active negative emotions such as anger create change resistance (Oreg et al., 2018).

Revisiting the Emotions at Alpha Group

At Alpha Group, employees expressed myriad emotions identi�able in the categorization outlined by Lazarus (1993)

( ).

On the positive side, happiness emerged through the belief in continuity triggered by the extensive change e�orts,

most notably the value workshops. Similarly, relief signalled an increased sense of security. The employees felt pride

in the ability to carry out the acquisition and in working for a company that had expressed values to guide everyday

work. On the negative side, anxiety arose from the uncertainties of integration and the perceived lack of progress,

whereas anger emerged when employees saw actions as unjust. A sense of loss created sadness, and jealousy

emerged from di�culties in understanding the new decision-making structures. Nevertheless, hope arose from

employees’ seeing the synergy potential of uniting the two companies.

Notably, employees gave a wide range of labels to these experiences. Happiness, for example, is synonymous with

joy, enthusiasm, or optimism (cf. Laros & Steenkamp, 2005), whereas anxiety matches nervousness (cf. Watson &

Clark, 1999). In addition, employees experienced several emotions simultaneously, including contradictory

emotions, signalling that the emotions are not mutually exclusive (cf. Carrera & Oceja, 2009; Watson & Clark, 1999).

Furthermore, emotions are dynamic, as they are bound in time and space (cf. Lazarus, 1991; Scherer, 2009).

Table 2

Table 2. Emotions at Alpha Group (see also Harikkala-Lahinen, 2019 , pp. 228–232).

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Furthermore, emotions are dynamic, as they are bound in time and space (cf. Lazarus, 1991; Scherer, 2009).

Regardless, events at work undoubtedly triggered emotions (cf. Weiss & Cropanzano, 1996). Most positive were the

employee emotions regarding the interactive and engaging value workshops. This highlights an interesting point.

Whereas communication appeared lacking, the value workshops – arguably a communication e�ort – clearly

triggered mainly positive emotions. This led to the question, what is special about interaction.

What Is Special About Interaction?

A key positivity trigger at Alpha Group were the designated value workshops where every employee was able to

make sense of the new company values.

The observation that we all, sometimes even unwittingly, have similar principles and values, was very

constructive. In such a community, it is easier to head in one direction – toward our common goal.

(Survey respondent)

These workshops were a massive communication e�ort on the part of Alpha Group. In addition, the values were a

recurring topic in the in-house employee magazine, where they appeared in short comic strips showing how the

values translated to everyday work. The values also appeared in all company meetings and presentations, and even

became a part of the recruitment. Yet overall, employees continued to experience communication as somewhat

sub-optimal, claiming that cooperation between units was lacking. This encouraged looking deeper into the

concepts of communication and interaction.

Communication and Interaction

Organizational communication is a means for employees to interpret work-related events, which in turn enables

organizations to use communication in order to in�uence employee perceptions (Roundy, 2010). However, following
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organizations to use communication in order to in�uence employee perceptions (Roundy, 2010). However, following

acquisitions, the increased stress of the change period can make communication more di�cult (Lotz & Donald,

2006). Nevertheless, open (Angwin et al., 2016) and frequent (Weber et al., 2011) communication is vital during

integration (Schweiger & Denisi, 1991). Clear, consistent, considered information from several interconnected

channels helps employees handle uncertainty and thus increases productivity following acquisitions (Appelbaum et

al., 2000). In fact, e�ective communication is essential for any type of organizational change. Communication is

e�ective if it is simultaneously informative, educational, and motivational (Barrett, 2002).

Following an acquisition, most successful communication e�orts form a dynamic, ongoing process. A stream of well-

planned, coherent messages facilitate employee commitment to the acquisition and help avoid information

shortage or overload (Angwin et al., 2016). However, interaction – the ability to participate – seems most e�ective in

terms of achieving social cohesion (Cooper-Thomas & Anderson, 2006; Morrison, 2002). Involvement can greatly

increase employee willingness to commit to acquisition-related changes (Appelbaum et al., 2007). To achieve the

bene�t, employees must have the ability to get directly involved in the change e�ort (Simonsen Abildgaard et al.,

2020). Participation allows employees to form an understanding of the reasoning behind changes and creates a

sense of ownership and control, motivating employees to work toward the change. Participation also increases

awareness of the positive aspects of change, thus generating more positive emotions (Ra�erty & Jimmieson, 2018).

A key means of building unity through interactive communication is dialogue.

Dialogue

Dialogue means ‘a sustained collective inquiry into the processes, assumptions, and certainties that compose

everyday experience’ (Isaacs, 1993, p. 25). In essence, it signals a �ow of meaning (Bohm, 2003; Senge, 1990) that

embraces di�erent viewpoints (Oliver & Jacobs, 2007). The goal of dialogue is to achieve understanding rather than

agreement (Isaacs, 1999), enabling group members to move toward converging beliefs and values (Oliver & Jacobs,
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agreement (Isaacs, 1999), enabling group members to move toward converging beliefs and values (Oliver & Jacobs,

2007), ultimately building a joint culture (Bohm, 2003; Schein, 1993).

In dialogue, each participant has the chance to voice thoughts and emotions. At the same time, each participant

must actively listen and empathize with each speaker, respecting everyone’s entitlement to their own position and

suspending all judgment (Isaacs, 1999). Authentic dialogue occurs when three di�erent information-processing

motivations converge (Choi, 2014). Epistemic information processing refers to the desire to make an e�ort towards

achieving understanding (De Dreu et al., 2008). This is the sphere where group-based decision-making is rational

(Choi, 2014). Social information processing motivation centres on the contents of information (Steinel et al., 2010),

determining which group outcomes are most desirable (Choi, 2014). Pro-self motivation seeks to increase individual

bene�ts, whereas pro-social motivation encourages the pursuit of group goals (Steinel et al., 2010). Compassionate

information processing motivation depicts empathic responses (Choi, 2014) that re�ect compassion – being moved

by perceived su�ering (Lazarus, 1993).

Revisiting Communication at Alpha Group

The most important thing is to understand the people and speak with them, and to be open. It is

communication – I cannot think of anything that would be more important. (Integration manager)

Alpha Group made a great e�ort at communication, starting with in-person announcements of the deal by the key

people in the four largest locations all on the same day. Alpha Group attempted to maintain a positive image of the

acquisition (cf. Roundy, 2010) through explicitly portraying the values in the value workshops as well as through

other communication means. With these e�orts, Alpha Group successfully informed as well as motivated employees

(cf. Barrett, 2002).

Moreover, Alpha Group employees did respond particularly well to participative communication in the form of

interaction (cf. Clayton, 2010; Cooper-Thomas & Anderson, 2006; Morrison, 2002). The value workshops gave
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interaction (cf. Clayton, 2010; Cooper Thomas & Anderson, 2006; Morrison, 2002). The value workshops gave

employees the chance to explore each other’s viewpoints and come to a joint understanding – i.e. it gave them the

chance to engage in dialogue (Isaacs, 1999; cf. Oliver & Jacobs, 2007).

People appreciate that they are now much more involved than before. (Vice president, sales)

During the value workshops, employees were invited to breathe life into the new organizational values. They had

the chance to look for ways to use the values in everyday work throughout the company, re�ecting an epistemic

motivation (cf. De Dreu et al., 2008). They also had the chance to link the values in action to pro-social group goals,

re�ecting social information processing (cf. Steinel et al., 2010). Furthermore, the employees were encouraged to

consider their colleagues, suppliers, and customers, re�ecting a compassionate motivation (cf. Choi, 2014). Thus,

interaction – for example, dialogue – seems to be bene�cial in positive post-acquisition change.

A Framework for Positive Post-Acquisition Change

Positive organizational change refers to a�rmative rather than harmful change experiences (Avey et al., 2008). A key

way to encourage positive change is by o�ering employees positive emotion triggers (Cameron, 2008), which

increase positive emotional experiences and lead to positive, change-congruent behaviour (Fredrickson, 2013).

Positive triggers can include managers’ positive emotion displays (Newcombe & Ashkanasy, 2002) or engaging,

interactive change initiatives (Cameron & Green, 2012). Here, the emphasis is on the interconnections between

communication – particularly interaction – and emotions.

Based on the Alpha Group case, emotions following acquisitions occur on many organizational levels (cf. Ashkanasy,

2003), are dynamic during the integration process, and cause behavioural outcomes. Positive change does not

mean the exclusion and ignorance of negative emotions, but an emphasis on overcoming challenges (cf. Avey et al.,

2008; Bar-tal et al., 2007). Thus, also negative emotions need space at all levels to maintain the positive balance of
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2008; Bar tal et al., 2007). Thus, also negative emotions need space at all levels to maintain the positive balance of

the changing environment. At the same time, it is important to stay on top of possible negative emotions in order to

discourage their spread.

To increase overall positivity, interactive communication that enables the generation of positive emotions seems to

be a key concern. Nevertheless, traditional top-down communication, i.e. information sharing, is important for

creating a level playing �eld where interaction can occur ( ). Company presentations, bulletin boards, email

newsletters etc. have a critical role in keeping employees informed. This information can decrease rumouring and

ensure employees can carry on their daily work during hectic change periods. Absorbing such information requires

limited individual involvement from employees, even though employees may �nd the messages unpleasant at

times.

Conversely, interaction allows employees to take a more active role and become engaged in the process. Interaction

can occur in team meetings, social gatherings, or speci�cally designed workshops. It is often initiated top-down, but

to become truly interactive, openness and participation are crucial. The purpose of such interaction is to engage

employees, create a sense of ownership of the change process, and thus motivate them to carry out the change. As

these communication means are very di�erent, they also triggered di�erent emotions at Alpha Group. Whereas

information sharing was often connected to negative emotions (i.e. uncertainty and anxiety due to perceived lack of

information) or to neutralizing negative emotions (i.e. overcoming information shortages), interaction was able to

Table 3

Table 3. Information sharing and interaction.

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information) or to neutralizing negative emotions (i.e. overcoming information shortages), interaction was able to

create positive emotions and employee engagement. Thus, both seem equally necessary, but have di�erent roles

during post-acquisition integration.

Based on Alpha Group, positive post-acquisition integration necessitates an understanding of communication

practices as well as employee emotions (Figure 3). The framework, based on existing literature (e.g. Angwin et al.,

2016; Balle, 2008; Roundy, 2010) as well as the Alpha Group case, suggests reliable, repeated, rich communication is

necessary for successful integration, evidenced in triggering positive emotions. The framework emphasizes the

bene�ts of interaction in increasing employee engagement and motivation, thus encouraging positive emotions and

behaviour (cf. Appelbaum et al., 2007; Clayton, 2010; Cornett-DeVito & Friedman, 1995).

Figure 3. A framework for positive post-acquisition integration.

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Following an acquisition, positive organizational change requires positivity towards the post-acquisition

organization. If employees’ positive emotions re�ect the pre-acquisition organization, they are likely to cause

protectionist behaviours, as any change poses a threat to the social group (cf. Menges & Kildu�, 2015). This is often

problematic, as acquisitions tend to bring forth employees’ old, pre-acquisitions identi�cation. Thus, a sense of

continuity is essential in redirecting identi�cation towards the new, post-acquisition organization (Van Vuuren et al.,

2010). For example, positive attitudes toward the new values encouraged employees to change their behaviour.

Conversely, negative emotions related to the values, such as seeing someone violate them, caused employees to

disregard them. Thus, positive emotions, which re�ect the change process or goals, are likely to boost change

e�orts, whereas negative emotions regarding the change or positive emotions regarding the pre-change

organization can hinder them. To explore the explanatory power of the suggested framework in a di�erent context,

study two focuses on a more traditional acquisition setting.

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study two focuses on a more traditional acquisition setting.

Study Two for Phase Two

Method

Case Description

German Gamma bought Finnish Delta in January 2017. Prior to the deal, Delta was a small manufacturing company

employing 77 workers, and had struggled with pro�tability for years. However, Delta’s product range was

competitive and of high quality, making it an interesting target for Gamma, a large group in the same business area

that had formerly been a customer of Delta. Whereas Delta had sales across Europe, the Middle East, and India,

Gamma’s brand was global. Thus, the deal o�ered Gamma a wider product range and Delta broader networks and

longevity. Gamma chose a rather slow and detached integration approach (cf. Cartwright & Cooper, 1993;

Haspeslagh & Jemison, 1991), deciding to maintain the separate company and brand names. Nevertheless,

uni�cation occurred in, for example, company structures and reporting processes.

Data Collection and Analysis

Phase two takes the acquired company’s point of view. This re�ects the majority of acquisition literature, which

assumes emotions – particularly negative emotions – occur mostly in the acquired organization (cf. Graebner et al.,

2017). Thus, a slightly di�erent setting, where negative emotions may be expected, best challenges the emerging

framework.
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framework.

At Delta, data collection began with 17 semi-structured interviews with representatives of all organizational levels

and functions in the spring and summer of 2017, with nine separate follow-up interviews in the spring of 2018. The

interview questions re�ected the key themes found in phase one: (1) background of the deal, (2) completion of the

acquisition, (3) emotions and the working atmosphere, and (4) communication. Under these main sections, the

focus was on how the informants experienced integration. Most interviews took place face-to-face in the Finnish

language, but due to overseas locations, two were conducted via Skype, and due to di�erences in mother tongues,

two were conducted in English. The interviews were audio-recorded (altogether approximately 1,360 min) and

transcribed for analysis, which occurred through themed categorization in QSR NVivo 11 software.

In 2017, the interviewees were encouraged to write a memo-like diary detailing their everyday experiences

regarding the integration. Ten respondents made 44 entries. In 2018, the diary was open for all employees, and 6

respondents made 21 entries. The diary frame consisted of one A4 sheet asking the employees to (1) rate their day

on a scale from 1 to 10, (2) share any emotions they felt or detected, and (3) consider how the emotional climate at

work could be improved. The main body of the diary was open-ended, engaging the informants in producing

qualitative, textual data, whereas question one produced quantitative data. All diaries were written in Finnish, and

the analysis occurred through categorization based on issues that employees experienced as creating positivity or

negativity within Delta, giving more heft to the interview �ndings through illustrative quotes. As the diarists were too

few to represent the entire organization, quantitative analysis on the daily ratings was not feasible. Instead, the

ratings informed the analysis of the qualitative sections. Diarists that rated their days consistently low experienced

mainly negative emotions, whereas diarists whose daily ratings varied also reported varied experiences.

All Delta employees had the chance to contemplate their opinions about the deal, communication during the deal,

the working atmosphere, and management during the acquisition through four open-ended, qualitative questions
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the working atmosphere, and management during the acquisition through four open ended, qualitative questions

in an employee satisfaction survey in the fall of 2018. These topics re�ect the key issues from phase one and from

the interviews conducted at Delta. The response rate was approximately 59% (n = 56). Most responses were in

Finnish, with some written in English. The survey data categorization used the themes of the questions as well as

the themes from the interviews to inform the emerging �ndings. In e�ect, the survey data illustrated and

strengthened the points already identi�ed as signi�cant in the interviews. Finally, all of the data collected from Delta

informed the illustrative quotes representing the experienced emotions, as categorized by Lazarus (1993).

Employee Emotions

At Delta, many emotions also emerged ( ).

The core of these emotions largely resembled the experiences at Alpha Group. Increased faith in the future

triggered happiness and relief, whereas the accustomed best practices at Delta generated pride. This, however,

turned to anger when it appeared that Gamma was o�ending the best practices. Employees experienced Delta’s

future within Gamma as insecure and keenly felt a sense of loss over the old company. Overall, at Delta, negative

emotions seemed more dominant.

People are tired and frustrated. I hear deep sighs and frustrated comments. (Diarist)

Table 4

Table 4. Emotions at delta (see also Harikkala-Lahinen, 2019 , pp. 236–237).

Download CSV Display Table

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At Delta, individuals were concerned about their own jobs, groups were concerned over their immediate colleagues,

and the pre-acquisition organization members over continuity. A strong us versus them attitude was visible,

indicating that the post-acquisition we had not emerged.

Communication and Interaction

Delta employees appreciated company meetings that invited all the employees together once each quarter to hear

the latest news. However, at Delta, employees did not experience that they had the ability to participate in the

change, indicating that information sharing rather than interaction was the used communication strategy. The

messages centred on day-to-day functional matters, and employees had a relatively passive role as recipients.

Although the aim was keeping everyone informed, many employees experienced communication as sub-optimal. At

the same time, employees were not purposefully engaged in acquisition-related interaction.

We can express our opinion, but so far it has had no in�uence. It is their [Gamma’s] rules, and we have

to … [follow]. (Managing director)

Delta employees also experienced the company strategy as foggy, discouraging them from extra e�ort toward

change. The �ndings likely re�ect the expected negativity in the acquired company facing change (e.g. Graebner et

al., 2017). This may be a key reason why the integration at Delta triggered signi�cantly fewer positive emotion

experiences than was found at Alpha Group. Nevertheless, the suggested framework functions as an analytical tool

also at Delta (Figure 4).

Figure 4. Integration at Delta.

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Although at Delta information sharing was the main communication means, the organization was able to tune the

message to employee needs, increasing communication when employees reported feelings of uncertainty.

Perceived longevity thanks to the acquisition did trigger positive emotions, but negative emotions were – at least in

the short term – more powerful due to a perceived loss of control and increased stress.

People are rather irritable and tired, and you can see that the positivity I always thought was our strength

has decreased considerably. (Country manager)

This occurred even though management made great e�ort to improve the acquisition partners’ perceptions of each

other and to hear employees’ worries. Nevertheless, the perceived distance of Gamma management downplayed

the post-acquisition organization, maintaining Delta as the core of employees’ identi�cation.

If they always say ‘them’, then it’s more challenging to grow together. I always pay very much attention to

that. (Integration manager)

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that. (Integration manager)

Thus, although Delta was able to achieve consistent, frequent communication (e.g. Angwin et al., 2016), the bene�ts

of interaction were not reaped (cf. Clayton, 2010).

Discussion

Looking at the integration processes discussed above from a POS viewpoint, to create positive post-acquisition

change, the management task centres on promoting change receptiveness and building commitment to the post-

acquisition organization (cf. Caldwell, 2003). Portraying what is exciting and bene�cial about the change for the

employees (cf. Karp, 2004) and emphasizing these positive emotion triggers (cf. Cameron, 2008) enables managers

to build positivity. This paves the way towards a�rmative, positive change (cf. Avey et al., 2008; Whetten & Cameron,

2011).

Employees are likely to experience myriad integration-related emotions, which can at times be contradictory.

Positive emotions such as happiness, relief and pride, as well as negative emotions such as anxiety, anger, sadness

and jealousy are likely to emerge. At the same time, employees are likely to experience hope. Overall, based on the

cognitive appraisal theory (e.g. Fredrickson, 2013; Lazarus, 1991), it seems that negative experiences following

acquisitions re�ect the uncertainty of the period, perceptions of o�ense against the employees or the pre-

acquisition organization, or experiences of resentment due to perceived favouritism or inequality. Positivity, in turn,

re�ects perceptions of continuity and opportunity, a relieving of stress, or perceived credit in advancement. These

�ndings increase understanding of emotions during acquisitions through o�ering a more balanced viewpoint,

considering both positive and negative experiences (cf. Graebner et al., 2017).

The relationship between communication and emotion seems somewhat complex. As predicted (e.g. Sinkovics et al.,

2011), communication arose as a central trigger for emotions both at Alpha Group and Delta. Open (cf. Angwin et
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2011), communication arose as a central trigger for emotions both at Alpha Group and Delta. Open (cf. Angwin et

al., 2016), frequent (cf. Weber et al., 2011) communication was valued and helped employees cope with uncertainty

(cf. Appelbaum et al., 2000). Conversely, a lack of communication can also act as an emotion trigger, particularly

increasing uncertainty and anxiety, possibly giving rise to rumour mongering. Thus, organizations can use

communication strategically to in�uence emotions, for example through addressing issues, which are causing

rumours.

Previous literature (e.g. Balle, 2008; Barrett, 2002; Lee, 1994; Lotz & Donald, 2006; Schweiger & Denisi, 1991) seems

to best predict the e�ects and highlight the importance of traditional, top-down communication. This is essential for

change e�orts, because information can e�ectively decrease anxiety and enable smooth day-to-day functioning

during stressful change periods. However, in terms of increasing positivity, it seems that interaction is more

e�ective and important. Notably, the example of dialogue (cf. Bohm, 2003; Isaacs, 1999; Senge, 1990) found at Alpha

Group highlights the motivating e�ect of engagement. Establishing dialogue in the interactive sense, for example

through workshops like at Alpha Group, is a great e�ort. Thus, it is noteworthy that likely any other interaction

mode would have similar results in triggering positivity.

Interaction is a means towards building unity: creating a sense of closeness and collaboration, which can help

overcome the us versus them setting common following acquisitions. The key in using interaction to ease change is

in utilizing humans’ innate preference for positive triggers (Cameron, 2008) and responsiveness to social contexts

(Fiske & Taylor, 2013). This enables organizations to manipulate the change context to seem more positive (cf.

Andersen & Guerrero, 1996), allowing the appearance of positive emotions (cf. Bar-tal et al., 2007; Hat�eld et al.,

1994).

Moreover, interaction increases employee engagement with the change process, thus triggering a sense of shared

ownership of the process and its success. This further increases the motivating e�ect of interaction, as any
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ownership of the process and its success. This further increases the motivating e�ect of interaction, as any

subsequent success in the change process then becomes a source of pride, and a boost for one’s ego-identity.

Nevertheless, interaction is likely to o�er a fruitful arena for emotion contagion (cf. Barsade, 2002; Hat�eld et al.,

1994). Therefore, although organization-led change initiatives may well trigger positivity, informal co�ee table

discussions may equally well spread negative emotions. This again highlights the necessity of both information

sharing and interaction following acquisitions.

Conclusion

Theoretical Contribution

This article has increased understanding of the emergence and in�uence of emotions in the change management

literature (cf. Zietsma et al., 2019) through highlighting the link between di�erent communication practices and

resultant employee reactions. Moreover, this article builds understanding on how communication can be used to

create a positive change climate (cf. Ashkanasy & Daus, 2002) and to overcome potential con�ict (cf. Angwin et al.,

2016; Weber & Drori, 2011). This article suggests that in order to create change-congruent behaviour, organizations

can simultaneously decrease worries through traditional, top-down communication and increase positivity through

interaction. Both are necessary for optimal change results. Information sharing can help organizations overcome

potential con�ict, but interaction will likely further the change agenda beyond the neutralizing e�ect. This shows the

value of positivity over and above the negative.

More particularly, this study has shed light on collective emotion management during change periods (cf. Huy, 2012;

Steigenberger, 2015) through di�erent communication e�orts. Although interaction is the key to positive emotion
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Steigenberger, 2015) through di�erent communication e�orts. Although interaction is the key to positive emotion

elicitation, information sharing is essential in alleviating worries, cutting down rumours and ensuring day-to-day

functions. Thus, interaction will likely not be successful in creating positivity if information sharing is not in place.

Through uncovering this novel insight into the dynamics of emotion elicitation in organizations (cf. Scherer & Moors,

2019), this article revealed that managing change in a positive way (cf. Canning & Found, 2015; Dixon et al., 2016)

can occur through engaging both in information-sharing and interactive change communication. Consequently, this

article reveals that facilitating positive emotions at work (cf. Allen & McCarthy, 2016) can occur, for example, through

engaging employees in interactive, motivating communication endeavours.

Based on these insights, the relationship between emotions and communication in managing positive change is

threefold. First, communication can alleviate negative emotions (information-sharing) and generate positive

emotions (interaction). Second, emotions can guide communication e�orts. For example, anxiety can be tackled

through increased information-sharing. Third, management can use di�erent communication tools purposefully to

generate certain emotions. For example, interaction can be used to motivate and engage employees.

This article contributes to three aspects of change management: positive emotion elicitation, communication, and

emotion management. First, this article lays the theoretical and practical groundwork for signalling the importance

of interactive communication in generating positive change-related emotions. The sense of ownership and

engagement created through interaction increases employee involvement, thus making every success more

personal, encouraging change-congruent behaviour and the emergence of positive emotions. Second, this article

introduces the di�erent purposes of a more traditional, top-down communication style and a more interactive,

engaging style. Whereas the �rst is necessary to maintain day-to-day functionality and cut down rumour mongering,

the latter is a key means towards increasing employee motivation and commitment. Finally, this article shows how

communication practices enable collective emotion management during change. Traditional communication can

alleviate concerns and cut down rumours, thus decreasing negative emotions. To generate positive emotions,
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alleviate concerns and cut down rumours, thus decreasing negative emotions. To generate positive emotions,

interaction can o�er employees experiences of motivation, engagement and ownership.

Managerial Implications

Increased knowledge of how employees react to organizational changes allows practitioners to prepare for

emotional experiences. The suggested framework can help practitioners plan and analyse their change e�orts

better, and to pay closer attention to the creation of a positive atmosphere likely to ease change processes. An

increased understanding of emotions and their triggers allows practitioners to have an increased depth of

perspective into their own change processes, encouraging them to help employees deal with change-related

anxiety. This is important because employees are likely to have emotional reactions even to relatively minor

changes. If practitioners can build a positive view of the future of the joint company, they can greatly enhance

employee commitment and motivation for making the change a success. In doing so, understanding the necessity of

di�erent communication styles, including interaction, can be a great help.

Limitations and Suggestions for Future Research

The key limitation of this article stems from the chosen methodology. Although every e�ort to establish rigour

advocated by other scholars (e.g. Dubois & Gadde, 2002; Järvensivu & Törnroos, 2010) has been made and detailed

accordingly (e.g. Lincoln & Guba, 1985; Shenton, 2004), the abductive structure is somewhat unique and the weight

of the arguments is based on only two cases. The article is potentially similarly limited by the a�rmative bias

inherent in POS as well as the friendly nature of the acquisitions studied. Thus, future research with more data from

varied change contexts can help corroborate the �ndings. For example, it would be particularly interesting to

explore positivity in hostile acquisitions or otherwise highly negative change experiences, such as following major

layo�s.
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layo�s.

In addition, deeper insight into the di�erent communication means, both information sharing and interaction, may

reveal important insights for change management in terms of boosting positivity. Similarly, di�erences in core a�ect

(e.g. Russell, 2003) may in�uence the e�ectiveness of interventions, providing another avenue for future research.

Finally, other scholars are encouraged to adopt a POS lens to exploring change management, as refocusing e�orts

from looking at potential problems to looking at success and vitality may reveal why current literature is

inconclusive.

Acknowledgements

The author wishes to thank Professor Niina Nummela and Postdoctoral Researcher Johanna Raitis from Turku

School of Economics at the University of Turku and Lecturer Melanie Hassett from University of She�eld School of

Management for their invaluable support.

Disclosure Statement

No potential con�ict of interest was reported by the author(s).

Data Availability Statement
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Due to the nature of this research, participants of this study did not agree for their data to be shared publicly, so

supporting data is not available.

Additional information

Funding

This work was supported by TEKES – the Finnish Funding Agency for Technology and Innovation [grant number 4220/31/2014]

and Marcus Wallenberg Foundation.

Notes on contributors

Riikka Harikkala-Laihinen

Dr Riikka Harikkala-Laihinen is a Postdoctoral Researcher in International Business at the TurkuIn this article

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School of Economics at the University of Turku, Finland. She defended her doctoral thesis ‘The

power of positivity: How employee emotions and interaction can bene�t cross-border acquisitions’

in September 2019. In her thesis, she explored how cognitive appraisal theory could be used to

explain employee reactions during post-acquisition integration. It received the 2020 AIB-UKI Adam

Smith Best Doctoral Dissertation Award. Her areas of expertise include emotions in organizations,

cross-border acquisitions and cross-cultural management. Her current work centres on exploring

the in�uence of employee emotions at work. She has published in Cross Cultural and Strategic

Management and the Research on Emotions in Organizations book series. She has also coedited a

volume on socio-cultural integration in the Nordic countries for Palgrave-Macmillan and published a

Palgrave Pivot book on Managing Emotions in Organizations.

Notes

1 By positive, this study refers to an experienced quality: pleasure (e.g. positive emotions) as opposed to displeasure

(e.g. negative emotions) (cf. Lazarus, 1991).

2 Despite their di�erence, the words ‘merger’ and ‘acquisition’ are often used interchangeably. However, as

acquisitions are more common in practice (e.g. Raitis et al., 2017), this article mainly refers to ‘acquisitions’.

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Journal of Change Management
Reframing Leadership and Organizational Practice

ISSN: (Print) (Online) Journal homepage: https://www.tandfonline.com/loi/rjcm20

Changing the Conversation to Create
Organizational Change

Deborah Ann Blackman, Fiona Buick, Michael Edward O’Donnell & Nabil
Ilahee

To cite this article: Deborah Ann Blackman, Fiona Buick, Michael Edward O’Donnell & Nabil
Ilahee (2022) Changing the Conversation to Create Organizational Change, Journal of Change
Management, 22:3, 252-272, DOI: 10.1080/14697017.2022.2040570

To link to this article: https://doi.org/10.1080/14697017.2022.2040570

© 2022 The Author(s). Published by Informa
UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis
Group

Published online: 17 Feb 2022.

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RESEARCH ARTICLE

Changing the Conversation to Create Organizational Change
Deborah Ann Blackman , Fiona Buick , Michael Edward O’Donnell and
Nabil Ilahee

School of Business, University of New South Wales, Canberra, Australia

ABSTRACT
Public sector effectiveness necessitates planned change; however,
many initiatives fail. For planned change to be successful,
employees’ mental models need to be amended to support new
behaviours. One mechanism to achieve this is employee
performance conversations, which can elicit behavioural change
through introducing new ideas to an individual’s reality. However,
many conversations fail to create shared understandings of the
need for change. Ford and Ford’s [The role of conversations in
producing intentional change in organizations. Academy of
Management Review, 20(3), 541–570] typology identifies different
conversational forms to create the shared understandings required
to enact change. This paper reflects on the learnings from a
management development intervention based upon Ford and
Ford’s typology where managers applied the conversational forms
to initiate mental model amendment, thereby enabling planned
change. Analysis of qualitative data collected during the
intervention suggests that using different types of conversations
in a structured manner enabled shared understandings regarding
why change was required and what success looked like. Managers
recognized that slowing down the conversational process led to
more effective mental model amendment, facilitating behavioural
change. The paper demonstrates how different conversational
forms enable leaders to discuss a planned change from an
individual and organizational perspective and elicit mental model
amendment to realize change.

MAD statement
This paper explores a new approach to undertaking employee
performance management to enable organizational change. The
paper applies Ford and Ford’s (1995) conversational typology as a
practice model for developing the conversational competencies of
managers and leaders. The paper highlights the importance of
taking account of employees’ and managers’ different mental
models in order to enable planned change. It argues that it is not
more conversations that is needed, but instead the capacity to
recognize and utilize different conversational forms to realize
mental model amendment to elicit behavioural change and thus
achieve change. The paper outlines an intervention that applies
this new approach to employee performance management training.

KEYWORDS
Conversations; change
management; mental
models; performance
management; public sector

© 2022 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group
This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives License
(http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/), which permits non-commercial re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any
medium, provided the original work is properly cited, and is not altered, transformed, or built upon in any way.

CONTACT Deborah Ann Blackman [email protected]

JOURNAL OF CHANGE MANAGEMENT:
REFRAMING LEADERSHIP AND ORGANIZATIONAL PRACTICE
2022, VOL. 22, NO. 3, 252–272
https://doi.org/10.1080/14697017.2022.2040570

Introduction

Public sector organizations are continually changing in response to both external and
internal pressures. External pressures include changes of government, shifting policy
agendas, governmental austerity measures or politically driven reforms, while internal
pressures include the adoption of new practices in order to improve output and
outcome effectiveness (Buick et al., 2016; Kiefer et al., 2014; MacCarthaigh & Roness,
2012; Noblet et al., 2006; Shannon, 2017; Smollan, 2015; Wynen et al., 2017). However,
it is widely known that many organizational changes are unsuccessful, with failure rates
as high as 65-70% (Burnes & Jackson, 2011; Cândido & Santos, 2015; Higgs & Rowland,
2005; Kunert & von der Weth, 2018). Such change failures are often attributed to
employee resistance (Coram & Burnes, 2001; Ford et al., 2008; Piderit, 2000) or employee
cynicism (Buick et al., 2016; Thundiyil et al., 2015). Such resistance and cynicism can stem
from a lack of communication about the rationale for the change (its legitimization) or its
potential benefits, and/or a lack of employee and middle management participation in
decision-making (Ford et al., 2008; Gill, 2002; Shannon, 2017; Smollan, 2015). As such,
some have framed change as essentially a communication challenge, with effective mes-
saging essential for reducing change resistance and enabling employee readiness for
change (Karp & Helg, 2008; McClellan, 2014).

Middle managers can play a key role in overcoming employee resistance or cynicism
(Balogun, 2003; Currie & Proctor, 2005; Huy, 2002), consequently playing a pivotal role
in change implementation (van der Voet, 2016). Predominantly, the literature suggests
that middle managers can make a difference through acting as a conduit for change-
related communication; for example, undertaking an intermediary role (Balogun, 2003;
Buick et al., 2016) and mediating communication between senior managers and employ-
ees (Cao et al., 2016). A key mechanism for communicating change-related information
can be conversations that focus on improving employee performance and, as a result,
the organization as a whole. In this paper, we define employee performance management
broadly as any ongoing informal conversations between managers and employees that
involve clarifying expectations and the provision of feedback (Blackman et al., 2017;
O’Donnell, 2021), rather than narrowly as formal appraisal or review processes. These con-
versations enable increased understanding of desired outcomes by discussing change-
related information with employees, thus minimizing uncertainty and anxiety through
reduction of changed-related stressors (Isett et al., 2013; Pick & Teo, 2017; Schmidt
et al., 2017). These new understandings can shift employees’ mental models (Blackman
& Henderson, 2004; Moon et al., 2019) such that they will interpret stimuli in different
ways leading to new behaviours that support organizational change (e.g. Buick et al.,
2016; Liedtka & Rosenblum, 1996). Such new stimuli could lead to the development
and application of new skills, undertaking new tasks or performing current ones more
effectively, or creating motivation to undertake new tasks in the future. We suggest, there-
fore, that if employee performance conversations are to support organizational change,
then they need to shape employees’ mental models (Blackman & Henderson, 2004;
Moon et al., 2019), particularly in a way that supports the planned change. However,
we posit that the ability to shape mental models in this way will require managers to
recognize and accept the potential impact of their ongoing conversations and to use
that knowledge to purposefully plan for, and engage in, different forms of conversation,

JOURNAL OF CHANGE MANAGEMENT: REFRAMING LEADERSHIP AND ORGANIZATIONAL PRACTICE 253

rather than simply holding more of the same type of conversation (Buckingham &
Goddall, 2015; Cappeli & Tavis, 2016).

In this article, we propose that managing different forms of conversations can help
enact successful organizational change through actively shaping the amendment of
new mental models. We explore the literature on change management to make the
case for why conversations are important for supporting change efforts. We then
present Ford and Ford’s (1995) model for conversational change as a framework for
holding effective conversations that will support changes in employee performance.
We then draw on experiences adopting this model to design and implement an interven-
tion for planned conversations to support change in a policy agency within the Australian
Public Service. This paper makes a contribution in two ways: it provides a research-
informed practice model linking performance conversations with intentional change,
and it offers a new focus on conversational forms as an important, yet under-focused,
area of management development.

How Conversations Construct Change

The omnipresence of change and challenges with its implementation, highlight the
importance of change management (By, 2005), defined by Moran and Brightman
(2001) as ‘the process of continually renewing an organization’s direction, structure,
and capabilities to serve the ever-changing needs of external and internal customers’
(p.111). Much research into change management focuses on designing the perfect
change implementation template or process (e.g. By, 2005; Kotter, 1996) or improving
the implementation of an extant change process (e.g. Dent & Goldberg, 1999; Fernandez
& Rainey, 2006). Such literature often adopts a linear, structural-functionalist view (Graetz
& Smith, 2010; Higgs & Rowland, 2005) where ‘the job of change agents is to align, fit or
adapt organizations, through interventions, to an objective reality that exists “out there”’
(Ford, 1999, p. 480). The objective is to find a ‘best way’ to manage change that will lead to
individuals adopting required behaviours to enact the desired organizational state.
However, research suggests that this model of change is limited because ‘it treats
change as a single, momentary disturbance that must be stabilized and controlled’
(Graetz & Smith, 2010, p. 136) that is, at its core, top-down in nature and about
leaders maintaining control (Graetz & Smith, 2010). Ultimately, this limited model of
change leads to unsuccessful change implementation (Graetz & Smith, 2010; Higgs &
Rowland, 2005).

Limited change success rates have triggered proposals for constructed, contingent and
emergent approaches to change management, which recognize situational adaptation
(Buick et al., 2016; Burnes & Jackson, 2011; Graetz & Smith, 2010; Higgs & Rowland,
2005; Lawrence, 2015). A constructivist approach recognizes that knowledge derives
from the interaction between information and the context in which it is presented, par-
ticularly with individuals’ pre-existing knowledge (Ortony, 1993). Proponents reject the
notion of an objective reality (Kenny, 1989; Maturana, 1988, 1999), arguing that observers
bring forth their own reality through identifying what they perceive as distinctive and
assigning meaning to it (Barrett et al., 1995). Thus, individuals’ interpretations of
change-related information and how they make sense of it is an important factor in
change success. This is particularly the case for middle managers who need to interpret

254 D. A. BLACKMAN ET AL.

and make sense of the espoused change intent, translating what this means for both
themselves and their employees (Balogun, 2003; Baraldi et al., 2010). This highlights the
importance of middle managers’ mental models in two ways. First, is how they perceive
change itself which will determine how they approach it. Second, how they interpret the
change being undertaken (Santos & Garcia, 2006). The combination of these will impact
how they perceive and undertake the possibility of shaping employees’ mental models.

Mental models emerge ‘based on a person’s knowledge, experience, values, beliefs,
and aspirations’ (Moon et al., 2019, p. 2). They represent how individuals structure and
organize concepts cognitively, providing explanations as to how an individual selectively
filters and interprets information, makes sense of this information, makes decisions and,
ultimately, behaves. The mental model becomes the frame of reference through which an
individual views the world (Barrett et al., 1995; Blackman & Henderson, 2004; Hemmel-
garn, 2018; Martignoni et al., 2016), providing guidance for action and determining
how to react and behave (Easterby-Smith, 1980; Moon et al., 2019; Retna, 2016).

Bounded rationality theory argues that an individual’s ability to act is constrained by
the information they have, the cognitive limitations of their minds, and the finite
amount of time and resources they have to make a decision (Simon, 1991). Thus, it can
be argued that mental models become the bounded rationality of an individual
shaping how they acquire and process incoming information. Therefore, as indicated in
Figure 1, it becomes apparent that for a person to change their behaviour, their mental
model has to be perturbed in a way that offers new possibilities.

For any amendment in a mental model there must be some form of new information,
or other stimuli (Blackman & Henderson, 2004), that leads us to ‘experience uncertainty,
discrepancies, or inconsistencies that trigger conscious examination of our implicit beliefs
and the mental models we hold’ (Hemmelgarn, 2018, p. 102). As seen in Figure 1, there
also needs to be a perception of difference that the individual chooses to at least consider;
this is why the issue of how managers provide information and filter the messaging
becomes essential. The second part to a potential change is that the individual reflects
on the perturbation, actively deliberating on the difference based upon what they
already know, creating what Archer (2010, p. 2) describes as an ‘internal conversation’.
If an individual makes no connection within their mental model to the new ideas, they

Figure 1. Mental model Adjustment (Blackman et al., 2013b, n.p).

JOURNAL OF CHANGE MANAGEMENT: REFRAMING LEADERSHIP AND ORGANIZATIONAL PRACTICE 255

are unlikely to be adopted in any form. Assuming that new ideas can be connected to
ideas already within the mental model in some way, an internalization of new information
will occur, and an adjustment made. This new model becomes the accepted worldview
and the frame for all future decisions and behaviours. The question then becomes how
can amendments to mental models be triggered; our argument is that planned conversa-
tions could provide managers with opportunities to encourage the incorporation of new
ideas into an individual’s reality and, therefore, form the basis of future decisions, actions
and change.

Conversations take place against a backdrop of previous experiences and knowledge
which create the sum of an individual’s bounded reality (Simon, 1991). As such, they can
help an individual make sense of a proposed change, establish shared understandings of
what is required and elicit desired behaviour change (Collm & Schedler, 2014; Higgs &
Rowland, 2005). They do this in two possible ways. First, they can provide individuals
with new contextual information and learning, which provides the stimulus to open up
the potential for the amendment of extant mental models (Ford, 2008; Jones et al.,
2014). Secondly, the conversations can help an individual connect the new information
or stimulus with the ideas already within their current mental model, thereby enabling
the adjustments needed to make sense of the desired future (Ford et al., 2002, 2008).
Thus, this conceptualization of managing change requires managers to understand the
importance of undertaking themed conversations that support the development of
new mental models that facilitate the changes in employee behaviours required to
deliver desired outcomes.

Dialogue is a reflective conversational mode that is particularly effective for aiding
mental model amendment (Jacobs & Heracleous, 2005). Dialogue ‘is aimed at the under-
standing of consciousness per se, as well as exploring the problematic nature of day-to-day
relationship and communication’ (Nichols, 2003, xi). It can occur within one person (inner
dialogue) or between two or more people that involves a ‘stream of meaning flowing
among and through us and between us’, which may lead to a new understanding
(Bohm, 2003, p. 6). It does this through enabling individuals to bring forth their current
worldviews, discussing and restructuring what they know to construct new meanings
and realities (Camargo-Borges & Rasera, 2013; Higgs & Rowland, 2005; McClellan, 2014;
Oswick et al., 2000). It enables inquiry and critical reflection into one’s deeply held assump-
tions, thus facilitating the surfacing of mental models (Jacobs & Heracleous, 2005; Schein,
1993). In doing so, it helps employees make sense of the change (Lawrence, 2015) and
learn what a change intervention means for them (Endrejat et al., 2020). If undertaken
effectively and openly, such dialogue involves mutual sense-making and allows conflicts
in the meaning-making process to be surfaced (McClellan, 2011). This can enable co-cre-
ation of change, eliciting a shared understanding of the desired outcomes and behaviours
required (Collm & Schedler, 2014) and the development of shared mental models (Schein,
1993). It can also enable an understanding of the value and salience of the change for them
personally (Caldwell, 2013), which is particularly important where an effective change
requires a common reality, or ‘buy-in’ be established.

If it is accepted that multiple realities can be held by individuals or organizations, and
that a series of conversations around themes can create mental model perturbations
which can potentially shift such realities (Ford, 1999), then the question emerges as to
how to use organizational conversations to effect change.

256 D. A. BLACKMAN ET AL.

Conversational Types and Forms

There are many types of conversations that take place in organizations, though those
between employees and their managers are critical for change success. Such conversa-
tions occur continuously and informally, ideally clarifying expectations regarding results
(what an employee achieves), as well as desired behaviours (what an employee does)
in line with the strategic goals of an organization (Aguinis, 2013; Blackman et al., 2017).
These continuous conversations create the potential for improvement and change,
with the communication between managers and employees being critical for change
success (Wissema, 2000). However, research suggests that these conversations are
often poorly undertaken and do not clarify expected behaviours or performance in line
with change intent (Buick et al., 2016).

We propose that adopting Ford and Ford’s (1995) conversational typology could be a
useful tool for managers to enable change through a series of conversations that provides
an opportunity for shared understandings of organizational needs and expectations. Ford
and Ford (1995) presented a typology which they argued helped to overcome many of
the common reasons why change breaks down, in particular a lack of a shared under-
standing of both the need for, and the form of, the desired change. Recognizing the
different conversational types is important because it acknowledges the role that each
might play in enabling employee change readiness (Endrejat et al., 2020) and, ultimately,
change success. Assuming managed conversations have the capacity to support inten-
tional change, we suggest that adopting this typology as a way to frame performance
conversations could provide a way to actively link performance management processes
and organizational change (see Figure 2).

In this typology each conversational type plays a pivotal, yet different role in the change
process, and change will be dependent upon all the conversational types being used effec-
tively. Although Figure 2 implies a linear sequence, in reality each conversational formmay

Figure 2. Different forms of conversations and their role in organizational change during performance
management.

JOURNAL OF CHANGE MANAGEMENT: REFRAMING LEADERSHIP AND ORGANIZATIONAL PRACTICE 257

need to be undertaken onmultiple occasions to create any shared understanding (see Ford
& Ford, 1995). This repetition may create a less linear flow, but we do suggest that this
overall pattern will need to occur to support intentional change. Because the outcome of
any conversation will inevitably shape the context of the next, to be effective each
ongoing conversation will need to be planned contingent upon the change in question,
the new constructions needing development and the emerging context. When planning
conversations for change, a common mistake is to treat all conversations the same,
usually moving straight to conversations focused on setting or evaluating goals. Instead,
we propose using Ford and Ford’s (1995) typology to design a series of conversations
that will act as perturbations to the mental model, thereby eliciting behavioural change.
Table 1 includes examples of different possible conversations for each type.

Reconceptualizing conversations undertaken with both managers and employees in
this way strengthens the claims by Blackman et al. (2016) that employee performance
management could enable change by creating shared purpose, but challenges the
ongoing mantra that what is needed is more conversations. Instead, we suggest the
need is for different types of conversations that are linked to intentional change. Research
undertaken by Blackman et al. (2013a) demonstrated that a lack of clarity and shared
understanding of high performance is common, suggesting that conversational break-
downs are occurring (Ford & Ford, 1995), and that there is an opportunity for performance
management to become an enabler of change. This led to the development of an inter-
vention based upon Ford and Ford’s conversational typology which we now present. We
reflect on learnings gained during its implementation to determine the potential appli-
cation of the conversational typology to support effective intentional change through
managed performance conservations.

Table 1. Examples of different forms of manager/employee conversations.
Type of Conversation Organizational (Macro) Employee (Micro)

Initiative: start changes, act as a
new input triggering ideas and
suggesting the need for
alternatives

Senior management team consider
what changes they desire at the
organizational level this year and,
consequently, how employee
performance management
conversations can support these
changes

The desired changes are overtly
discussed at the outset and then
integrated into the more specific
employee conversations

Understanding: these develop
awareness and shared mental
models of concepts and ideas

The senior management team
discusses potential relationships
between the organizational change
and employee performance and what
is required until it is clear to them.
They then discuss this with all those
who will undertake conversations
with employees to ensure a shared
view of the espoused outcomes

The conversation between the
manager and the employee explicitly
discusses changes and what these
will look like in the long term

Performance: clarify what will be
different and generate action by
the senior management teams

Define what high performance will look
like in terms of employee behaviours
and outputs aligned to desired
change

Expected performance is agreed and a
plan of action developed

Closure: provide completion,
sustaining the changes made

The agreed outcomes and processes
are articulated and written and then
shared with all parties to provide
clarity

The employee’s action plan is
reviewed and recognized during the
year. The plan is updated leading to
new initiative conversations

Developed from: Ford and Ford (1995).

258 D. A. BLACKMAN ET AL.

Methodology

Intervention Development and Design

The objective of this research was to explore the usefulness of an intervention designed to
enable intentional change through planned conversations. The intervention was
designed over five phases (see Table 2) and was unique in combining Ford and Ford’s
(1995) typology with theories of managing expectations and high performance; these
interacting concepts provided an alternative strategy to develop managerial competence
in planning and undertaking conversations for intentional change.

The final intervention incorporated three sessions, run in small interactive groups
limited to 12 people with no reporting relationships to each other (see Figure 3).

Session 1 was predominantly theoretical, introducing: constructivism as a form of
organizational change, the concepts of bounded rationality and mental models, and
the conversational types. The conversational tool designed to support preparation
using the frameworks was also presented (see Table 3) and participants were asked to
identify a situation where there needed to be some form of change in the behaviours

Table 2. Phases of the intervention development.
Stage Objective Method

Phase 1 Finding the starting point and clarifying the
problem to be addressed:

When undertaking the Strengthening the Performance
Management Framework research project (Blackman et al.,
2013), three issues emerged:

1. Ongoing problems with employee performance
management (EPM) – especially a lack of strategic use
and poor conversational management.

2. A shift to positioning conversations as needing to be
managed and purposeful if there is to be behaviour
change.

3. A lack of recognition regarding the relationship between
EPM and intentional change management.

Reflection on these themes led to two propositions: (1) that
managers need to reconceptualize EPM conversations as a
trigger for change; and (2) their ability to do so requires new
interventions to support managers’ EPM conversation
development.

Phase 2 Designing a research informed intervention
to create a new Executive Education
Program

Integrating three theoretical ideas to create the intervention
within a high performance context:

. Ford and Ford’s Conversation Framework (Ford & Ford,
1995) because of its focus on intentional change through
different types of conversations.

. Amending Mental Models (Blackman & Henderson, 2004)
because for any change to occur there has to be a shift in
mental models.

. Managing Expectations (Blackman, Buick, O’Flynn,
O’Donnell, & West, 2019) because this had been shown to
have an impact on how managers could understand why
their employees reacted to performance stimuli in
different ways.

Phase 3 Trialing the intervention as an Executive
Education Initiative

The first time this was run was an open Executive Education
Program.

Phase 4 Running the intervention with the host
organization for the first time

Based on the success of the trial we were invited to run an
updated version of the programme in the host organization
which was considered to be a success and ready for the
research team to study.

Phase 5 Running the intervention for the second time Running the intervention and collecting data on the process
and outcomes.

JOURNAL OF CHANGE MANAGEMENT: REFRAMING LEADERSHIP AND ORGANIZATIONAL PRACTICE 259

of their team. In preparation for Session 2 participants were asked to map possible con-
versations and, where possible, undertake a trial of the typology in their workplace.
Session 2 involved discussing conversations undertaken since Session 1 and then plan-
ning further conversations in-depth with the aid of the researchers and participants.
The focus of this session was encouraging reflexivity, where managers: (a) became
more aware of their assumptions and beliefs regarding how to manage change and
influence others (in other words their managerial mental model); (b) started questioning
the impact of these assumptions and beliefs, as well as their actions and interactions, on
others (see Cunliffe, 2016b, 2020; Ripamonti et al., 2016); and (c) started to realize the
agency they had with creating new possibilities (Ripamonti et al., 2016). By the end of
Session 2, participants had refined their thinking and felt more confident in their ability
to use the conversational tool in their workplace to support intentional change.

Session 3 involved participants building on the reflexive deliberations they made since
Session 2, reflecting upon their conversational interventions andwhat they had (or had not)
been able to do. Participants who rarely have reflection time in the workplace found this
beneficial and it allowed researchers to identify what was working and why. During this
session participants were asked what their key learning and/or surprise was and why.

Studying the Intervention

To study the usefulness of the intervention we adopted an action research approach to
embed learning processes that could trigger change (Burns, 2007; Somekh, 1995). Action
research starts with a practical problem to be addressed (Reason, 2006), and bridges
research practice with the dual goals of improving the host organization and generating
new knowledge (Burns, 2007; Somekh, 1995). In this case the host organization’s employee
performance management processes had been changed to prioritize conversations (rather
than filling out forms) to support change. The new focus had led to a review of the way

Figure 3. Crafting conversations intervention design.

260 D. A. BLACKMAN ET AL.

managers were developed to undertake conversations designed to improve performance,
with a realization that the focus was exclusively on having difficult conversations, rather
than focusing on howconversations could enable intentional change. This shift in approach
required new development opportunities such that managers and employees felt
confident holding conversations with the purpose of generating change. In this case
researchers reviewed the intervention they designed and delivered, assessing its potential
to: achieve changes desired by the host organization; achieve change through conversa-
tions more broadly; be integrated into change management theory.

Sample
Recognizing the pivotal role that supervisors and middle managers play in change
implementation success (see Bryant & Stensaker, 2011; Buick et al., 2016; Gibson &
Groom, 2020; Hope, 2010; Teulier & Rouleau, 2013; Wissema, 2000), the intervention com-
prised two cohorts: (a) those experienced in managing teams; and (b) those starting or
about to start supervising others. The intervention was capped to 16 experienced and
16 novice managers, given its resource intensive nature.

Data Collection and Analysis
Action research encompasses a range of different methodologies and methods (Burns,
2007). However, qualitative approaches are typically used to provide detailed

Table 3. Crafting a conversation planning table.
Type of Conversation Purpose

This is the purpose of the
specific conversation being
undertaken – i.e. to create

awareness, check
understanding etc.

Outcome
This is the longer-term

outcome you are planning
to achieve through the
conversations. Planned

goals? New skills desired?
Career plans? New ways of

working?

Expectations to be
considered

These include what you
think the other party is
likely to be expecting,
what you are expecting

and the potential impact of
context, previous history

etc.
Initiative: What needs to be
discussed and why?
Planned goals? New skills
desired? Career plans?

Understanding: What has
previously been discussed
and now needs to be
clarified, described and
confirmed

Performance: Based on
previous conversations and
agreed targets, outputs
and/or outcomes what are
the actual tasks for the
short, medium and long
term? How will these be
measured, and progress
understood?

Closure: Ongoing review
based on the performance
conversation. If new things
emerge the cycle needs to
recommence

Notes

JOURNAL OF CHANGE MANAGEMENT: REFRAMING LEADERSHIP AND ORGANIZATIONAL PRACTICE 261

understandings of actions taken by recording attitudes, feelings and behaviours (Meyer,
2000). Moreover, because they require interactions between the researchers and partici-
pants, qualitative techniques can create a greater sense of openness with greater oppor-
tunities to surface topics not initially considered and develop more nuanced
interpretations (Hart & Bond, 1995). This case used three sources of qualitative data:
host organization and participant feedback, and researcher reflections.

Host Organization Feedback. After the pilot, organization representatives provided
feedback from the pilot participants to the researchers, leading to intervention amend-
ments (see Table 2). Importantly, the intervention was well received with the actual
concept and overall content considered valuable and practical, thus remaining
unchanged. Participants praised the applied nature of the intervention and commented
on its ease of application across a range of conversational needs.

Participant Feedback. Participant feedback was obtained in two ways. First, participants
provided qualitative feedback on feedback sheets at the end of the intervention. Partici-
pants identified what they had found useful, what needed development and potential
uses of the intervention tools, with comments collated and analyzed for common
themes. Second, researcher reflections post-intervention captured participants’ key take-
aways during the third session.

Researcher Reflections. There were two forms of researcher reflections. First, researchers’
notes and reflections taken during sessions. Second, post each intervention researchers
shared their own experiences, observations and learning, and made sense of what had
occurred. In each case the research team reflected on participants’ feedback in terms of
what mattered and what was different as they planned the conversations; written
notes were taken and discussed with all three researchers present.

The research team identified the three recurring themes that were key learnings for
participants and led to them being ‘struck’ through having aha! moments (see Cunliffe,
2016a). These were: the criticality of creating shared understandings to develop mutuality;
the criticality of defining what success looks like; and the importance of slowing down and
planning the conversation process. The managers explained how these revelations would
guide their approach to future change management as they now recognized the impor-
tance of their role in creating the perturbations that could trigger employee mental
model amendment.

Findings

Creating Shared Understandings

Participants identified that their key learning from the intervention was the need to plan
for and establish shared understandings of what success would look like with their team
before planned change was undertaken. Through discussion regarding mental models,
participants realized that establishing shared understandings, where the manager and
the employee understood each other, and an employee’s mental model could start to
shift, was central to enabling intentional change. For all participants this was an

262 D. A. BLACKMAN ET AL.

important, yet unexpected, element of planned change; they realized that often others
did not perceive something in the same way and were not necessarily ready for a conver-
sation. This led to the realization that multiple subjective realities exist (a central part of
reflexivity; see Cunliffe, 2016a, 2016b). For some participants, this was a revelation, as they
had assumed others saw things the same way they did. Stepping through the conversa-
tional process enabled participants to appreciate and respect differences, which Cunliffe
(2016b) argues is a requirement of reflexivity. This led them to questioning their assump-
tions and actions, and they started seeing the benefits of adopting a more collaborative
approach, including the importance of engaging in two-way dialogue and creating space
to take on board multiple perspectives (recognizing the uniqueness of others; see
Cunliffe, 2016a, 2016b). This new perspective triggered an appreciation that this was
the reason for the initiative and understanding conversation types and why these
needed to be successful prior to determining actions to be undertaken. Moreover, partici-
pants recognized that seeking change too soon was ineffective and likely to lead to
conflict. This became the driver for all examples developed in Session 2.

Several examples focused on establishing a clear purpose for change that mattered for
both parties. Other examples included assumptions surfacing during the process that
created unexpected barriers such as: incorrectly assuming knowledge about plans; realizing
someone had not been listening effectively; and the need for someone to unlearn before
they could relearn. Participants also revealed their realization that new knowledge
emerged from the conversations and that they could apply the typology to manage up,
as well as down. One example was where a participant realized they were covering too
many issues in one conversation with their manager to save time and that this led the
manager to lose concentration with no resulting change. The participant trialled a new
approach prioritizing what they wanted to achieve. They reframed leadership interactions
as iterative, not summative, meaning they needed to create space for more, shorter conver-
sations to ensure an ongoing shared understanding. This highlights how participants
placed value on the ability to apply the ‘four conversations and…model to many, many
conversations…wider than the employee performance (agreement) conversation’ (P6).

Defining Success

Many participants had previously not considered the need to explain and model success
to individuals and teams. When using the conversational planning tool and considering
the purpose of the conversation, they would usually identify what they wanted to be
different in general terms and then concentrate on what they did not want. However,
when asked by the researchers to explain what they did want, and how to explain that
instead, they realized they were unprepared for that particular conversation. Recognition
emerged as to why the same conversation occurred with a direct report on several
occasions without change. Examples were given where employees were repeatedly
requested to stop doing something, but it was revealed that nothing was done to
equip them with the skill or vision to change. Consequently, despite employees’ willing-
ness to change, no alteration of behaviour was forthcoming.

Participants agreed that by developing a clear articulation of the change required,
other aspects of the conversational planning were easier to complete. They realized
they needed to focus on the desired future state, rather than the current state.

JOURNAL OF CHANGE MANAGEMENT: REFRAMING LEADERSHIP AND ORGANIZATIONAL PRACTICE 263

Encouraging participants to reframe their focus enabled them to ‘consider how to
promote high performance’ (Middle manager, P8) and the action they could take to
enable this as part of ongoing change. Participants accepted the need for defining a
purpose, which enabled them to succeed, but how to do this was less understood. This
became clearer during the pre-planning stage of the conversation when participants
placed themselves in the shoes of the other individual. They considered the other
party’s expectations and realized how rarely they were ready to discuss the planned
change immediately. Moreover, participants realized how rarely they asked the other
person for their thoughts on what was needed or granted them time to prepare for meet-
ings about change in a useful way. In one example, a participant started an initiative con-
versation with her team to establish whether they saw a problem the way she did and, if
not, why not; it transpired some did, and some did not. In developing a shared under-
standing of the different perceptions, the team dynamics, work practices and change
readiness developed far faster than they had over many previous interactions.

Slowing Down the Conversation Process

The previous findings indicated a need to slow down and plan conversations. Prior to the
intervention, participants tended to go straight to a performance conversation (as defined
in the typology). This was culturally encouraged through a focus on time management,
getting tasks done and efficiency. In initial discussions regarding the need for different
formsof conversations spacedout over time, participantswere concerned that this approach
would slowdownachievementofwork andchange. However, they admitted tooftenhaving
to repeat conversations with individual employees, with no emergent change.

The researchers and participants then discussed how behavioural change can be
achieved, with the suggestion that change was not occurring because there was no
mental model adjustment. Participants found ‘unpicking the ‘why’ for a behavior’ (MM,
P11), where the reasons for a change were the focus of the understanding conversations,
was valuable for eliciting behavioral change. It was proposed that changing the conversa-
tional process would achieve better outcomes, as it enabled an ‘approach to breaking
down problems’ (Middle manager, P3) and stepping employees through the process of
addressing them. Participants subsequently appreciated value in the approach and rea-
lized that what appeared to be slow might enable greater traction and speed. If each con-
versation is effective, then the next one has a greater chance of leading to change.

In Sessions 2 and 3, after participants attempted to use the conversational forms, it was
clear that the process of slowing down, planning different conversational types and often
undertakingmultiple understanding conversations, enabled behavioural change. Examples
were given of how, by using the initiative conversation to convey purpose and enabling
readiness to undertake the conversation, the utility and success of the second conversation
improved. Participants recognized they typically required multiple understanding conver-
sations before a clear, shared interpretation of the way forward was established. Conse-
quently, participants realized the value of multiple conversations as there had been no
real mutuality in previous conversations; while two people were in the room, only one
was really ready to talk. One middle manager emphasized the value in adopting an
approach ‘focused on building relationships (and consensus) rather than only ‘punishment
and reward’’ (P1) as this made real change more likely. Where there appeared to be an

264 D. A. BLACKMAN ET AL.

ongoing loop in conversations, the structured approach to conversations helped act as a
circuit breaker and provided a new way of approaching an issue.

Discussion and Conclusion

Despite the nomenclature of organizational change, most changes emerge through indi-
viduals enacting new ways of working. We have presented an intervention designed to
increase the efficacy of change through developing managers’ competencies to under-
take planned conversations to achieve intentional change. In this paper we demonstrate
how working through the different types of conversations supported the establishment of
a shared understanding regarding the required change, facilitated the articulation of the
desired change and what success looks like, and enabled managers to slow down the con-
versational process to encourage mental model perturbation, amendment and resultant
behavioural change.

Prior to undertaking the intervention, it was apparent that participants had primarily
focused on conversations as a means to enact a task or amend behaviour, assuming
that the other party would automatically understand their requirements and be able to
enact the associated changes. They had not considered that different perceptions
existed and that this was the key reason change was not being realized. Participants
had not considered the underpinning construct shaping these factors: the existence of
different mental models. Undertaking the intervention led to participants’ realization
that different mental models do exist, and that through undertaking different types of
conversations, they could create perturbations that would influence and/or shape
mental models. The novelty participants stressed was the realization that, for there to
be change, an individual must acquire and internalize new knowledge and ideas if they
are to amend their mental model. Therefore, it became apparent to the researchers
that the strength of the programme was that the managers were now aware that they
could influence the amendment of mental models and that doing so created new ways
of seeing the world.

Different Conversational Forms and Mental Model Amendment

As indicated earlier, a widely recognized barrier to change is where there is a need for
mental model adjustment if desired outcomes are to be achieved. How mental models
can be actively managed and developed to support desired change is less well documen-
ted. Figure 4 shows how the intervention applies the different conversational forms to
encourage mental model amendment.

The key is to see conversations as needing to provide a perceived difference. If there is
no perception of difference, then there can be no expectation of mental model adjust-
ment. We suggest that when using the conversational tool, managers introduce new
information necessary to initiate mental model adjustment. By using this new information
to move through the different conversational forms, an understanding is revealed of an
individual’s constructed reality and different perceptions. Developing this understanding
helps managers understand what is needed to enable change for the individual. Follow-
ing this, employees and managers can discuss the planned differences in behaviour and
create shared ideas of what the desired state looks like, in terms of attitudes, performance

JOURNAL OF CHANGE MANAGEMENT: REFRAMING LEADERSHIP AND ORGANIZATIONAL PRACTICE 265

and behaviours. We suggest that applying the conversational forms to possible mental
model change in this way offers two potential advantages. First, it enables those
leading change to discuss the change itself from the perspective of the individual as
well as the organization. Second, it helps change leaders consider how they can work
with managers undertaking conversations to make sure there is: (1) a perception of
difference; (2) a shared understanding of success; (3) ongoing checking mutuality in
terms of capacity to be a part of the conversations; and (4) that there is clarity of
purpose at all levels. Importantly, the intervention provides a practical model for develop-
ing the conversational competencies of managers and leaders. This creates a contribution
in two areas. First, it provides a research-informed development process for linking
performance conversations with intentional change, supporting earlier work by Blackman
et al. (2016). Second, the intervention offers a new focus on communication skills
training as an important, yet under-focused, area of management development (Endrejat
et al., 2020).

We have presented an intervention where change is considered to emerge through the
development of new realities and mental models as a function of a web of conversations.
We have suggested that different types of conversations can be actively used to influence
and manage change through amending mental models. This article makes a qualitative
link between employee performance conversations and organizational change which
contributes to the literature on change management. However, we report one small
action research intervention in a specific context, which is a clear limitation. Conse-
quently, we call for future research to be undertaken into the role of performance conver-
sations as a tool for strategic change, with specific emphasis on how different forms of
conversations can be combined to support new mental model development, thereby
enabling change success. Any new research would benefit from clearer indicators of
mental model changes through the process. This research could include similar qualitat-
ive studies in different contexts, as well as quantitative research that tests the relation-
ships we have proposed.

Figure 4. Mental model adjustment through conversations.

266 D. A. BLACKMAN ET AL.

Disclosure Statement

No potential conflict of interest was reported by the author(s).

Notes on contributors

Deborah Blackman is a Professor of Public Sector Management Strategy at the University of New
South Wales, Canberra. Her research interests include Public Sector Policy Implementation,
Employee Performance Management, Organisational Learning, Organisational Effectiveness and
Governance. Current research projects include: understanding the impact of system complexity
on effective long-term crisis recovery, mapping wellbeing and mobility systems, and investigating
the impact of middle manager capability on the Australian public service.

Professor Blackman has published extensively in a range of international journals, has recently
co-edited a book on ‘Handbook on Performance Management in the Public Sector’ (see https://
www.e-elgar.com/shop/gbp/handbook-on-performance-management-in-the-public-sector-
9781789901191.html) and is a member of the Editorial board for Management Learning.

Fiona Buick is a Senior Lecturer at the University of New South Wales, Canberra (Australia). Fiona’s
research focus is on the role of organizational culture, strategic human resource management and
human resource management in enabling group and organizational effectiveness within the public
sector. Previous projects have explored structural change in the Australian Public Sector, middle
management capability in the Australian public sector, the role of performance management in
enabling high performance in the Australian Public Service (APS), and the role of organizational
culture on joined-up working in the APS.

Dr Buick has published in a range of international journals and has recently co-edited a book on
‘Handbook on Performance Management in the Public Sector’ (see https://www.e-elgar.com/shop/
gbp/handbook-on-performance-management-in-the-public-sector-9781789901191.html).

Michael O’Donnell is a Professor of Human Resource Management in the School of Business at
UNSW Canberra. Michael’s research interests include performance management practices and
employment relations in the Australian public sector. Michael has co-authored several monographs
including Unions and Globalisation: Governments, Management, and the State at Work (2012) and
The Chaebol and Labour in Korea: The Development of Management Strategy in Hyundai (2001). He
has published articles in journals that include the Journal of Management Studies, Human Resource
Management Journal, Public Administration Review and the Journal of Industrial Relations.

Nabil Ilahee is an adjunct lecturer at the University of New South Wales, Canberra (Australia). He has
several years of experience as a seniormanagerwithin IP Australia, the federal agency that administers
intellectual property rights and legislation. During this time, Nabil has been involved in Competency
Based Training of Patent Examiners from intellectual property offices around the world, in addition to
strategic project experience in the areas of organizational culture and frameworks, performance, auto-
mation of business processes, quality practices, and leadership capability development.

ORCID

Deborah Ann Blackman http://orcid.org/0000-0001-9057-5526
Fiona Buick http://orcid.org/0000-0001-9559-9500
Michael Edward O’Donnell http://orcid.org/0000-0002-8928-8068

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Appendix A

Semi-structured individual and group interview questions
1. What is your role within your agency and what experience do you have with performance management, both within
your current agency and the APS generally?

2. What does high performance mean to you?
3. Where have you seen high performance in your organization?
4. How does performance management operate in your agency?
5. What is, and is not, working well with respect to high performance management in your agency?
6. Outline which factors have enabled or detracted from the successful implementation of performance management?
7. What changes would you make if you could in order to better support the attainment of high performance in your
agency?

272 D. A. BLACKMAN ET AL.

CHANGE MANAGEMENT IMAGE SELF-REFLECTION ASSIGNMENT INSTRUCTIONS
OVERVIEW
The self-reflection paper must be a minimum of 500 words, double-spaced, and in current APA
format. Please note that the stated word count is a ‘minimum’. Therefore, students are
encouraged to ensure they have thoroughly researched and responded to each question/prompt
provided below. Each assignment must include properly formatted references. Use at least 2
scholarly sources (published within the last 5 years), the course textbook, and biblical
integration.
INSTRUCTIONS
Based on the Six-Images Framework, this paper will focus on demonstrating an understanding
of the six images, how those images approach change management, assessing your personal
image(s), and then discussing how you, using the image or images, would have addressed the
transition at Sears (Chapter 1). Begin this assignment by reviewing the text regarding the
framework and then take the self-assessment to determine your dominant image(s). As you
reflect on the framework, your personal image(s), and how change was approached by Eddie
Lampert at Sears, respond to the following prompts:
What are the six change management images and how would you define them?
How would you describe their corresponding approaches to change management?
Detail the results of your assessment, including your top image or images, if those images
require actions that would make you uncomfortable, and whether you feel you could
navigate between strong and weak images based on the situational context.
What is your assessment of the image(s) of Eddie Lampert in this scenario?
Using your dominant image or images, how would you have approached the change
management efforts by Eddie Lampert at Sears?
Prepare your paper in accordance with the instructions – also review the Change Management
Image Self-Reflection Assignment Grading Rubric prior to submitting your paper.
Note: Your assignment will be checked for originality via the Turnitin plagiarism tool.

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