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Complexity and change management: Analyzing church leaders' narratives

Simpson, Peter



Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to introduce a novel approach to the analysis of individual and co-constructed change management narratives, utilizing a framework derived from the theory of complex responsive processes. Design/methodology/approach: The research project explored change management through the analysis of narratives arising from participation in group conversation. This comprised a six-month intervention with a group of six leaders from the Church of England. An action research method was employed that required the leaders to bring a case study from their work that required a change management intervention. The focus of the research study was not to "solve the problem" but to practice a particular method of conversation. Transcripts of the conversations were analyzed for change or continuity in the organizing narratives. The analytical framework employed comprises three paired categories of organizing narrative themes, namely Legitimate/Shadow; Formal/Informal; and Conscious/Unconscious. Findings: The analysis focuses on both the interactions between these organizing themes and upon the iterations, over time, in the narratives. Following the theory of complex responsive processes, the practice of change management and its consequences are understood not as cause-effect but rather as participation in emergent narratives. It is suggested that such narratives do not merely contribute to change management within an organization but that from the perspective of complex responsive processes theory such conversational life is change management. Originality/value: The action inquiry method employed and the approach to data analysis from the perspective of complex responsive processes theory, together constitute a novel approach to researching and understanding change management. © Emerald Group Publishing Limited.


Simpson, P. (2012). Complexity and change management: Analyzing church leaders' narratives. Journal of Organizational Change Management, 25(2), 283-296.

Journal Article Type Article
Publication Date Mar 1, 2012
Journal Journal of Organizational Change Management
Print ISSN 0953-4814
Publisher Emerald
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 25
Issue 2
Pages 283-296
Keywords action research, change management, complex responsive processes, narrative, conversation
Public URL
Publisher URL


111007 JOCM RNMR Special Issue 2011 Peter Simpson FINAL.docx (70 Kb)

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