ERIC Identifier: ED358811
Publication Date: 1992-11-00
Author: Curry, Barbara K.
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on
Higher Education Washington DC.| George Washington Univ. Washington
DC. School of Education and Human Development.
Instituting Enduring Innovations: Achieving Continuity of
Change in Higher Education. ERIC Digest.
It is not unusual for members of an organization to find themselves puzzling
over the designs of their innovations and the best approach to gathering support
and commitment from among their colleagues for putting those innovations in
place. Knowing what it takes to put an innovation in place and what it takes to
garner the support that will ensure the innovation's permanence is, in most
instances, a benefit of hindsight. Hindsight is a broader view than the somewhat
narrow and immediate views of an organization's members in the midst of creation
or innovation. Each party comes to the process of creation or innovation with a
vision of his or her own and influences change accordingly. As a result, a
process that often sounds simple is much more complex and requires high levels
of skill and collaboration to be successful.
WHAT IS PERMANENCE IN ORGANIZATIONAL CHANGE?
change is a process that has been described extensively over the years, often as
a model outlining the stages of change. One less complex typology includes three
stages: (1) mobilization, whereby the system is prepared for change; (2)
implementation, whereby change is introduced into the system; and (3)
institutionalization, whereby the system is stabilized in its changed state
(Curry 1991). Studies of the way change occurs in organizations focus on each
stage and attempt to find causes for outcomes that are often much less than the
members of those communities had hoped for. In the studies, it is often
difficult to determine where one phase stops and another begins, because
mobilization, implementation, and institutionalization are interwoven throughout
the life of an innovation.
If an innovation is not institutionalized, it is likely to be terminated.
Those who attempt to distinguish one process from another should observe whether
the innovation is sustained over time (Miles and Louis 1986). Accordingly,
"models predict[ing] whether an innovation will be mastered and whether it will
change the organization are very similar to those predicting the likelihood that
it will be continued" (p. 36), which might occur because a basic, underlying set
of processes exists common to both the mastery and the continuation of an
innovation, or because good innovation is a necessary precursor to
Still another interpretation is possible: A successful innovation is one that
has achieved its goals--whatever those goals might be. As a project achieves
success, it can serve as a catalyst for subsequent innovations, and members of
an organization are able to create and put in place other kinds of innovations
that further change their community. Often those changes are dramatic as a
result of an accumulation of influences. Although the original project is no
longer distinguishable, it continues to influence innovation in particular and
life within the organization in general. That continued influence can be
construed as a measure of the extent to which change has been institutionalized.
Although organizational change is discussed as a terminal event or as having
a clearly distinguishable beginning and end, complex interrelated events
represent continuity in the process. The culmination of change, in addition to
characterization as institutionalization or termination, might also be
characterized as points of emergence or points where new or different states in
the life cycles of organizations emerge (Cameron and Whetten 1984). In most
instances, however, the focus of an organization's members is on the endurance
of the innovations they create rather than on the emergence of new or subsequent
WHAT FACTORS INFLUENCE THE DEVELOPMENT AND LONGEVITY OF INNOVATIONS?
A number of factors integral to the process of change
support institutionalization or the extent to which an innovation becomes
enduring. Innovations cannot become lasting without a rather significant role
from leaders. The direction and support of leaders are required for change to
take place. And the term "leader" is not limited to the chief executive officer.
The role and the function of leadership are different. The role is a formal
designation vested in contractual arrangements; the function is an informal
designation in which responsibilities or activities associated with leadership
are shared among members of the organization. Consequently, "leader" might refer
to a number of individuals participating in the change process.
Other factors influence change, including communication and decision making.
These factors are interrelated, dynamic, and central to the prosocial nature of
organizations in general and to the construction of change that finds support
among the majority of the members of organizational communities in particular.
Decision making and communication can facilitate discovery of an innovation's
essential features. Change is a negotiated process, requiring that standards of
reasonableness be met. To help meet those standards, the dissident voice must be
heard; that is to say, it must be part of communication networks and
decision-making processes associated with the development and implementation of
innovation. The dissident voice offers a test of the premises upon which
innovations are based, challenging standards implicit in beliefs about the kind
of change necessary to improve an organization.
The dissident voice, also the target of political activity during change,
helps to create a balance between vision and the realities inside and outside
the organization. The dissident voice is paradoxically the jewel of change, an
important factor in the iterative and transactional processes that are the
distinguishing features of the innovative organization. In an innovative
organization, this voice is not stilled; rather, it is heard, serving to improve
the innovative design. And this treatment of the dissident voice is
characteristic of learning organizations.
HOW CAN LEARNING ORGANIZATIONS BECOME INNOVATIVE COMMUNITIES?
Much of the current thinking about organizational change and
innovative organizations includes the concept of innovative organizations as
learning organizations (Argyris 1982; Beckhard and Pritchard 1992; Senge 1990).
Accordingly, learning that takes place in organizations, if it is to be the kind
that results in productive behavior, is based on providing members of the
organization with valid information they can base their actions on and control
what happens to them as members of the community. It allows members of the
organization to govern their actions through "free and informed choice," and to
support "internal commitment to choice" and "bilateral protection of others"
(Argyris 1982, p. 103). As a result, members of the organization experience each
other as "minimally defensive" in interpersonal relationships and group
dynamics, "learning-oriented norms" emerge, and "high freedom of choice,
internal commitment, and risk taking" are evident (p. 102). As a result, to the
extent that its leaders and members can commit themselves to its evolution, an
organization is in a position to become flexible in developing innovations and
setting levels at which it will achieve institutionalization. In a learning
organization, discovery and construction or creativity take place
Argyris, C. 1982. Reasoning, Learning, and
Action: Individual and Organizational. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Beckhard, W., and W. Pritchard. 1992. Changing the Essence: The Art of
Creating and Leading Fundamental Change in Organizations. San Francisco:
Cameron, K.S., and D.A. Whetten. 1984. "Models of the Organizational Life
Cycle: Applications to Higher Education." In College and University
Organization: Insights from the Behavioral Sciences, edited by James L. Bess.
New York: New York Univ. Press.
Curry, B.K. 1991. Institutionalization: The Final Phase of the Organizational
Change Process. Administrator's Notebook 35(1). Chicago: Univ. of Chicago,
Midwest Administration Center.
Miles, M.B., and K.S. Louis. 1986. "Research on Institutionalization: A
Reflective Review." In Lasting School Improvement: Exploring the Process of
Institutionalization, edited by M.B. Miles, M. Ekholm, and R. Vandenberghe.
Luzerne: International School Improvement Project.
Senge, P.M. 1990. The Fifth Discipline: The Art and Practice of the Learning
Organization. New York: Doubleday Currency.
This ERIC digest is based on a new full-length report in the ASHE-ERIC Higher
Education Report series, prepared by the ERIC Clearinghouse on Higher Education
in cooperation with the Association for the Study of Higher Education, and
published by the School of Education at the George Washington University.