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Convergence and Upheaval:
Managing the unsteady pace of organizational evolution
Michael L. Tushman
William H. Newman Elaine Romanelli
OM 석사1학기 이수민
This article mainly explains two kinds of change that companies undergo under the
unstable business environment; convergence and upheaval. Based on case studies and
company histories, authors explicate incremental changes and discontinuous changes. These
two changes, convergence and upheaval, are crucial for company’s survival and growth in
turbulent environment.
In case of convergence, incremental adjustments to environmental shift occur. For the
better outcomes, incremental changes are being made with the existing structure of the
company over a period of years. Refining policies, developing personnel, and clarifying
established roles and allocations mechanism are the example of convergence. When the
convergence happens in the business organization, the executive leaders just reemphasize
core values and delegates decision making to middle level managers.
Upheaval or frame-braking change is abrupt and requires more changes than convergence.
This sudden change happens when there are industry discontinuities, shifts of product life
cycle and company’s internal dynamics. Also this system-wide change is implemented rapidly.
In other words, upheaval has revolutionary characteristics in that the change involves
transformation of the entire organization. Because of its rapid transformation, the
discontinuous organizational changes cause resistances to change from various people or
coalitions. During the frame-braking change, executive leadership plays an important role
with a direct involvement in all features of change. Leaders should maintain a fit between
process, people, strategy and structure under the environmental changes which surround
First, this article is meaningful in that it suggests the role of the top management during
the convergent and upheaval. In both cases, incremental change and reorientation,
maintaining a fit is an important task for the executives. This paper is helpful to the
executives in real business world to learn what they should do during organizational
transition. Also the author gives tips to those top managers when they initiate the radical
change. Organizational changes should be initiated and directed by the top managers and
even middle managers. Hence, this article is worth in that it encourages active role of
executives in organizational change under the unstable environment.
Second, this article gives new perspective to see the change of organization at the various
levels: department level, business-unit level and corporate level. Before reading this paper, I
thought organizational change means overall change in organization at the corporate level for
the alignment with new strategy. However, the incremental change and frame-braking change
also can occur at the department or business-unit level. There can be internal changes which
will affect the diverse departments or business units and they should response to those
changes for the performance growth. Examples in the article help me to understand clearly
the pattern organizational changes at diverse levels.
This article gives some implications to us, but, at the same time, it has some limitations.
First, considering the time that this paper was written, I believe that directive involvement
of executive leadership is also needed during the convergence. This article was written in
1986 that has relatively more stable business environment than now. Also, due to a minor
change, not a radical change, the author said convergent change can be delegated to middle
managers. However, I think, now, in the much more turbulent era, active leadership from the
top managements is required even if the organization undergoes only a few changes with the
existing structure.
Second, mentioning the role of the leadership, the authors argue that many of the
executives who couldn’t implement upheaval went on to be quite successful in other
organization. It could be true at some point in that new executives have a fresh perspective to
see new organization. However, the top managers who couldn’t control the transformation in
the previous organization would be lack of qualification of implementing change necessary
for the survival of company. Or probably, the new leader is not used to the new organization,
so he doesn’t know how to make a fit between company strategy, people, process and
structure. There will be a possibility that new top manager cannot lead successful
reorientations in new company. Therefore it is hard to generalize the authors’ opinion.
Third, this study mainly asserts that it brings better outcome if the leader senses the
outside change and then implement reorientation prior to the crisis. However, authors didn’t
explain how the top management anticipates the environmental change. Detecting the
environmental change before the direct crisis in the future is not easy especially in turbulent
era like now. This article can be improved if the authors add some information related to
leaders’ forecast that can be seen in real business world. Additionally, I am curious how we
can assess the executive leadership that implements a discontinuous change in organization
but later on it turns out to be failed.
Fourth, this study doesn’t have strong theoretical background. Depending on case studies
and the history of company, authors analyzed and generalized patterns of convergent change
and reorientation. If there are some theoretical backgrounds which can support the examples
and the authors’ opinion, it would elevate reader’s reliability more.