Attention to Change: A Multilevel Theory on the Process of Emergent Continuous Organizational Change

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Abstract

Increasingly, continuous organizational change is viewed as the new reality for organizations and their members. However, this model of organizational change, which is usually characterized by ongoing, cumulative, and substantive change from the bottom up, remains underexplored in the literature. Taking a multilevel approach, the authors develop a theoretical model to explain the mechanisms behind the amplification and accumulation of valuable, ongoing work-unit level changes over time, which then become substantial changes at the organizational level. Drawing on the concept of emergence, they first focus on the cognitive search mechanisms of work-unit members and managers to illustrate how work-unit level routine changes may be amplified to the organization through 2 unique processes: composition and compilation emergence. The authors then discuss the managers’ role in creating a sense of coherence and meaning for the accumulation of these emergent changes over time. They conclude this research by discussing the theoretical implications of their model for the existing literature of organizational change.

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