Nyhet | 2015-07-02 | 10:18

A managerial perspective on uncertainty and commitment in organizational change

Master's thesis by Behrang Abbassi and Johannes Hultling Jacobsen, Industrial Engineering and Management at The Royal Institute of Technology (KTH).

Supervisors at Vattenfall: Kajsa Södergran and Eva Roberti.


Organizational change has during the last decades become a common practice among corporations in every major market. Change has ironically become a constant, which has put an emphasis on organizations to master the practice of change management. In addition to becoming a more and more relevant practice, change initiatives are hard to carry through with little, or even any, financial success, according to prevalent research.

The purpose of this master’s thesis, conducted at The Royal Institute of Technology (KTH) and in collaboration with a large company going through a major organizational change, was investigating the notion of uncertainty and commitment, as well as the relationship between the two, amongst managers within the context of organizational change.

The thesis, which is a qualitative study, has been based on 14 interviews with mid-level managers at a company, referred to in the thesis as Case Company. Furthermore, the thesis has used prevalent research in order to segment, delimit and analyze the empirical data. The findings have shown that the drivers of commitment; namely understanding; belief and involvement, and the mitigating factors of uncertainty; information sharing and control, do in fact have interlinking causalities. In short, information sharing furthers understanding, which in turn affects the belief in the change initiatives. Moreover, involvement gives employees, managers included, a sense of control, which reduces feelings of uncertainty.

The findings have also shown that there exist factors, which are not underlined by prevalent research, that heavily affect the communicating and information sharing processes of change initiatives. These factors are primarily the involvement and power possessed by unions and worker’s councils. The research has also shown that both current theory and practice do not consider the long-term adverse effect of organizational change to the extent we argue that it mandates. These adverse effects are referred to in the thesis, as well as prevalent theory, as survivor’s syndrome, which can be summarized as the residual effects of a change on the members of the organization that remain.

The thesis has given fruit to possible areas of improvement for Case Company, which includes, among others, the information sharing process and long-term adverse effects of organizational change. Moreover, the thesis has also highlighted potential segmentations and focus areas of future research, which include observing how commitment to the proposed change compared to the commitment to the organization changes as organizational change makes its presence felt.