Some aspects of change processes in complex organizations: A case study in the Reorganized National Health Service.

  • Christopher C. Potter

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisPhD


This thesis describes two pieces of fieldwork undertaken by the author as an internal organizational development consultant working for the Reorganized National Health Service. The first description is of work within a teaching hospital which attempted to come to a better understanding of the role of the lay administration. The effects of personality and technology are described, and a description of the author's methodology is included. The second description concerns an attempted reorganization of an Area Health Authority's senior administrative structure. Emphasis is given to the complexity of the organization, and the effects of change, particularly on a traumatized operational organization and on an inchoate central organization operational level working more or less effectively in spite of the widescale changes made to senior staff, and a central organization developing its control and monitoring systems where its members were strangers to each other and the local organization. In interpreting his observations and findings the author seeks to use concepts from systems theory, and links between neurophysiolcgy, child development and cybernetics are suggested with organizational theory, Enterprises are considered as self-organizing systems, and the ideas of 'network' and 'hierarchy' are explored. Mechanisms promoting or damping change are suggested. An 'ecological model' is presented which seeks to establish that change at individual, interdepartmental and organizational levels relates to niche negotiation. Work on interpersonal relations, managerial behaviour and inter-organization relationships is reinterpreted to demonstrate the common element of competitiveness to establish controllable life-spaces. The role of the internal consultant is considered, especially structural constraints which the author suggests renders the role untenable for anything but short periods. The appendices include a review of various explanations of human social behaviour which purport to rely on man's biological background. These are considered from the point of view of the student of organizational behaviour and are rejected as being either over speculative, or too restrictive in their applicability. The author's anthropological orientation is reflected in the participative observation methods used by him, the emphasis given to holistic interpretations and the interest in the biological roots of the behaviour of people and their organizations.
Date of Award1979
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bath

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