POLICING IN CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE: Comparing Firsthand Knowledge with Experience from the West,
© 1996 College of Police and Security Studies, Slovenia


James M. Hart

The processes and dynamics of change in the functioning and structure of police organisations, and the effects of change on people working within them, are the broad topics of this paper. The author's direct involvement in, and observations of, wide-ranging changes to police organisations form the basis of the original research, from which this paper has been developed.

It is suggested that theories of change management are far from complete and the phenomenon of change management is generally poorly explained - this being especially apparent in respect of police organisations.

A macro model of organisational change is advanced which provides a structure for the analysis. The model is based on the significance of the 'stimulus' for organisational change, the 'target' for such changes and the 'types and stages' of change implementation.

A managers process model of change is suggested and the concept of a 'change counter resistance system' is introduced. Likely explanations for resistance to organisational change are advanced in order to help foresee and plan for minimising the potentially negative effects of resistance to change.

The paper concludes by suggesting a specification for a set of principles for change management in police organisations. These principles are derived from both the author's research and more general, contemporary management theory and practice.


The processes and dynamics of change in the functioning, structure and work force of organisations is a well documented subject from Basil & Cook (1974) to the more recent works of Moss-Kanter (1989), Senge (1991) and Pedler et al (1991). Most writers on organisations, it seems advance some comment on the phenomena and consequences of change from their own particular perspective.

Theories of change management however, are far from complete and the phenomena of change management is relatively poorly explained. (Evered 1980) In relation to both change interventions at an overall organisational level and changes at an individual task level there is little commonly agreed material in the form of action guides for either participants or managers. This absence of any unifying theories that explain the change as a dynamic systematic process might be justified, or at least explained, by the number, complexity and variability of the factors involved. Issues as diverse as individual psychological phenomena to macro economic and political theory all potentially have their place in explaining organisational change.

A recurring theme of many writers, is that the effects and consequences of organisational change can be widespread, even from the most seemingly insignificant alteration to a task or procedure, through to major organisational re-structuring and re-sizing. The consequential effects of either the prospect of change, or the actual implementation of change are often found to extend far beyond the immediate issue that is the focus of the change itself. (Beardshaw and Palfreman 1990)

It may be demonstrated that within organisations, such reactions frequently produce antagonism towards the source of the stress, which may rightly or wrongly be perceived as the change. When the change relates to work associated procedures, or structures, the negative outcomes can range from a temporary and marginal reduction in productivity, through to internal sabotage and/or major industrial action. The outcomes will be dependant upon a large number of inter-relating factors and competing individual objectives such as the security of employment, future potential/remuneration, type of work etc. (Bass and Stogdill 1990, Brown and Campbell 1994, Carnall 1990, Davis and Shackleton 1975)

From this brief analysis, it is suggested that in order to understand and describe the process of change in police organisations, it is necessary to consider not only the human reactions to change, but also the mechanistic organisational functions and processes that bring about those effects in humans. Any attempt to disentangle functional, process and structural issues from the social and psychological aspects of the work force will result in an incomplete analysis. Therefore it is suggested that an integrative and holistic approach is necessary in order to understand and explain the processes of change in police organisations.

It is argued that if the change process were fragmented and reduced to analyses of individual features of the process which correspond to existing micro theories, then it is unlikely that an holistic analysis could subsequently be assembled. Such a product would more probably amount to a set of unrelated observations of the change programme that could not be related together in any meaningful way. An overarching macro approach is therefore required.


It can be shown that police organisations may be considered as open systems and the concept of their 'degree of openness' might be introduced. It is suggested that that the greater the amount of information shared by a policing system with its environment, the greater the degree of openness.

It is argued that police systems that are more open, will inevitably change more than others that are not. If an open organisation is in constant interaction with its environment, then it will be responsive to external influences through the openness of the system boundary. (Kast and Rosenzweig 1981) This in turn implies that a more open system will potentially experience higher levels of unplanned changes as the organisational system will not be in sufficient control of its environment to prevent such events.

Ironically the simplest means of avoiding such unplanned changes would be exclude inputs from the environment, thus limiting the stimuli to change. Change of this type to the system characteristics would alter the degree of openness and move the system towards a more closed mode of operation, which has been argued to be undesirable in policing systems. Such closed policing systems being typified by the characteristics previously described, as well as by Scarman (1981) and Smith et al (1983), whereby the policing system was not responsive to inputs from the human environment.

The degree of openness of the system boundary implies that some interactions which take place between the system and its environment will be appropriate to the systems' behaviour, whilst some will not. e.g. It would be appropriate for a policing system to be responsive to inputs from a Community Police Consultative Committee that sought to reduce crime in a particular area, but perhaps not so appropriate for police to be responsive to an informal residents' association's wishes to reduce policing in their area in order that unlawful activities might flourish.

Unplanned and unforeseen change to an organisation will generally arise if the organisation does not have sub-systems designed to monitor leading or key indicators of environmental activity that critically influence the systems' performance. Despite disciplined and careful environmental scanning, police organisations might still be victims of unplanned change arising from:

  1. environmental crises that in themselves were sudden and unforeseen,
  2. systems entropy either internally or externally such that the known, gradual decline in a systems' performance suddenly and unpredictably accelerates with a catastrophic effect, forcing sudden change,
  3. sudden and unforeseen psychological and social/psychological factors effecting either staff internally or the public externally.


The degree of complexity involved in the organisational change process thus gives rise to the need for the specification of a simple macro model of the change process. Figure 1 shows three elements of the change process:

  1. the stimuli for change,
  2. the target for change,
  3. the stages of the implementation.


Figure 1 The Macro Model of Change

Figure 1 initiates at the point where a stimulus for a future change leads to the identification of the target for change. The target is the actual system or procedure that is to change and is thus the subject of the change implementation that will be achieved through one or more stages. As implementation progresses, so observation and evaluation of the results will feedback to the original situation which originally gave rise to the stimulus for change.

If the system outputs satisfy the need for change, then the stimulus for change will reduce or disappear. If not, then the stimulus to change will modify, perhaps identifying a different target for change implementation and so on until the need is met and there are no further stimuli to change. The model is therefore iterative and dynamic, in that repeated passes will bring an alteration to both the system and the situation in need of change.

A steady state will only be achieved when there are no inputs from the environment, and no further internal inputs to create stimuli for change. This is a most unlikely situation for policing systems that are seen to exist in turbulent social environments (Jackson and Keys 1984) and are thus subject to frequent environmental stimuli to change, if they have open characteristics.

Additionally, a steady state would only be achieved if every change implementation were wholly successful in respect of achieving design objectives. It is argued later, that a process of adjustment to systems is likely to be necessary after implementation. Therefore whilst the macro model of change might be argued to be stochastic, it is more probable that in relation to policing systems it is perpetually dynamic.


The principle that open systems exchange signals through a boundary with their environment, gives rise to the concept of inputs to a system that stimulate and motivate change - these may be termed 'change stimuli'. Kast and Rosenzweig (1981) adopted the synonymous term "...sources of impetus for change..." (pg. 565) and noted that they arise from many sources, namely:

  1. environmental,
  2. technical,
  3. structural,
  4. psychological,
  5. managerial,
  6. goals and values

Moss-Kanter (1989) used the expression 'forces for change' to convey a similar idea which she suggested arose from:

  1. a departure from tradition
  2. a crisis or galvanising event,
  3. strategic decisions,
  4. individuals who are 'prime movers',
  5. action vehicles - the mechanisms that practically achieve change.

In general terms, it seems that leading writers have identified similar phenomena and ascribed a slightly different emphasis to their explanations. For the purpose of examining change in police organisations the expression 'change stimuli' has been chosen to amalgamate the ideas of the above writers with changes affecting police systems arising from any one or more of the following sources, either internally or externally:

  1. managerial initiative and/or 'fashion in management'
  2. social and/or psychological factors of staff and the public, including criminals, victims, other involved individuals, as well as opinion formers,
  3. cultural factors - assumptions by staff as to how the organisation operates,
  4. structural design - the relationship between parts of the organisation,
  5. technological developments
  6. organisational goals and values vii. political and/or economic factors, national, regional or internal.

The diagram at Figure 2 shows the origins of the major types of change stimuli that input to policing systems and start the process of change.

It is suggested that change stimuli neither exist, nor bring about change, in isolation; whether internally from other organisational sub-systems, or externally as discrete inputs from the environment.

Rather, change stimuli are likely to be complex mixtures of pressures and motivations that have arisen from a number of apparently disconnected sources. This proposition is expanded by Senge (1990) in his description of 'connectedness' and 'interdependencies' between systems and their environments.

Figure 2 distinguishes between internal and external origins of change stimuli, but it is not the case that the headings shown are mutually exclusive. It is likely there will be some degree of external influence on every internal feature. For instance, trends or fashions in management approaches and style usually have their origins outside the police service, but through the process of learning and experience, police managers adopt the principles of a particular 'style' and implement the corresponding changes. Thus the origin of the change is external to the police system, but the stimulus arises internally.

Change stimuli may emerge from a strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats (S.W.O.T.) analysis of the political, economic, social, technological and environmental (P.E.S.T.E.) factors arising around the organisation's activities. Alternatively, the change stimuli may impact directly upon the Service in the form of new legislation or government directives. In either case the effect is similar in that the Service has to respond to an externally stimulated change, rather than an internally identified need for change.

The issue is that the police service as an open system will, by definition, change through time by virtue of inputs from the human/social environment. These inputs may act directly upon, and influence existing members of the organisation and therefore be reflected in the attitudes and culture of the staff. Thus changes in society brought about by changing values, education and social norms would progressively bring about changes to policing systems.


Figure 2. Internal and External Change Stimuli

Policing systems are however principally constituted of police officers and subject to continual turnover with a proportion leaving the system, predominantly through retirement, whilst new recruits join the system. The organisation is volatile and thus becomes increasingly subject to the values and attitudes of the newer members.

Models of social evolution may add a further potential complexity to the analysis of stimuli for organisational change. (Khandwalla 1977) For instance, if the police service is constitutionally representative of the society it protects (Critchley 1967), then if society changes through time, then so too will the police service. If the policing system is open as suggested, then it is argued that whether societies are subject to evolutionary or revolutionary change, then the changes occurring in the policing environment will be reflected in the characteristics of the policing system.

In societies with closed policing systems, it is suggested that the policing organisation would probably peruse its own goals and objectives despite changes in the human environment. Examples of policing systems where this seems to be the case are widespread in totalitarian regimes. (Alderson 1979)

The more obvious examples of such long term change stimuli would be those coinciding with cultural changes in wider society. i.e. attitudes to equal opportunity issues, race, gender and age, as well wider employment issues relating to leisure time, work re-location and the manufacturing/service industry ratio.

The motivation for internal change in the police service may often be seen to be the dominant characteristic of a change programme, whereby the achievement of the change is seen as an end in itself. For example, such a situation would exist where more staff energy was applied to the implementation of a computerised information system than to the use of the data subsequently produced.

This example although trivial in itself appears to be similar in principal to many problems commonly found within the commercial organisations described by Moss-Kanter (1991) and Senge (1990) and it serves to illustrate a significant principle. As a first step towards implementing change, it is highly desirable that the change stimuli are correctly identified, prior to analysing the current situation and designing the changes. Failure to do so is likely to lead to unsuccessful implementations, or to inappropriate changes that will not correspond to the original problem situation and thus fail to address the stimuli for change.


The concept of a 'target for change' arises from the proposition that whether organisational change is planned or unplanned the focus of attention (manifestation) of the change will be apparent. Whether or not the stimulus for change arises externally or internally to the organisational system, it can be suggested to have direction and thus have an apparent target. Kast and Rosenzweig (1981) used the expression 'foci of attention' to convey a similar idea and suggested the concept of 'levels of foci'.

These commence at the individual level of people and ascend through roles, interpersonal issues, inter-team and inter-group factors to the final level of the whole organisation.

However this definition seems to omit many of the relationships, information flows and dynamics that are vital attributes of the functioning of organisational sub-systems. A more complete concept can be developed using Checkland's (1972, 1981) methodology as a starting point, where the notion of a 'root definition' and a 'rich picture' are advanced. The idea being that a system, or a part of a system, that is relevant to a problem situation can be defined precisely and then elaborated to incorporate significant elements and relationships. This is much closer to the concept of a change target in that the root definition would encompass all relevant attributes and the rich picture would relate these to other sub-systems and the environment, or system climate.

Other writers make similar distinctions in order to isolate the portion of an organisation that is the centre of attention. For example, Flood and Carson (1993) explain the value of making a distinction between a 'narrow system of interest' which forms part of a 'wider system of interest'. Jackson and Keys (1984) refer to the notion of the 'problem context', which incorporates the sub-system itself, the relevant decision makers and the problem solvers.

Despite the practical complexities surrounding this approach, the concept of a target for change is considered important. The target for change provides a focus for where the change is to take place within the organisation, whilst allowing a full understanding of what it is that has to be changed and the consequential effects. It helps the problem solver to avoid considering change in isolation from other significant features of the system.

The target for change is seen as the actual sub-systems, including all procedures and staff that are subject of change or alteration. Targets for change are seen as occurring in three generic groups as shown at Figure 3.


Figure 3 Types of Change Target

Figure 3 implies that the targets for change, although occurring within three identifiable groups, interact to produce the actual situation that is to be changed, more conveniently described as the 'narrow system of interest'.

On the basis of the work arising from the major schools of organisational theory, it can be proposed that organisations will have change targets within the three broad generic groups shown which broadly correspond to the major schools of theory as follows:

  1. culture - essentially the human relations school, incorporating social, psychological and human features and phenomena,
  2. structure - incorporating the rational approaches, including power, authority and accountability relationships, operating procedures and rules,
  3. systems - the unifying approach that understands the organisation to be interacting with its own sub-systems and environment.


The actual changes necessary to bring about an alteration to the target, have to be subjected to a process of implementation for the change process to be complete. It is only when the changes have been made and the outputs from the new processes are fed back to the change stimuli, (Figure 2) that it becomes possible to determine whether there is a continuing need for change and/or adaptation. Cleland and King (1983) referred to this feedback process as the 'project control sub-system'.

The process of implementation is conceptually more straightforward than either planning for change, or subsequently making the new system operate according to expectation. It might be argued that if a system is not performing according to design and/or expectation then it has either not been fully implemented, or it is not an appropriate system to realise the expected or desired change.

It is argued here, that there is a distinction to be made between the type of processes of planning, designing and organising for change, and the later stages of implementing the changes and then actually stimulating/adjusting the new system to produce the required results. It is suggested that the earlier stages are essentially intellectual processes, whilst the later stages need the addition of leadership and motivational skills (Bass 1990) to actually produce the changes.


The outputs of the human psychological and social psychological (psycho social) sub- system are seen as crucially significant to the process of implementing change, whatever the change stimuli. If the change requires individuals or work groups to make some adaptation to their routines and procedures at work, then psycho social factors will have a major influence on the outcome. (Brown 1954, Argyle 1972)

If staff support for change is required and is not forthcoming, the impact of a technical change can be zero, or even negative. (Kast and Rosenzweig 1981) Therefore an understanding of the common human processes of change that are repeated throughout organisational change programmes is essential for achieving successful implementations. Thus benefit for the organisation might be derived and organisational goals achieved.

The macro model of change described earlier provides the basis for the development of a generalised process model of change that incorporates the role of managers. The inclusion in the model of an organisation's manager's role is vital to the process of change, as it is only through staff and their effective direction, motivation and co-ordination that the organisation's goals might be approached. (Koontz and O'Donnell 1976)

Such a model might be seen as a manager's process or action guide for addressing change. Figure 4 assembles the minimum necessary management activities for achieving change associated with the elements of the macro model in the form of a flow chart.


Figure 4. Manager's Process Model of Change

The process shown at Figure 4 initiates with identification of the change stimuli. This will enable decision makers to determine whether changes are to be of a systemic nature at a strategic level, or confined to limited tasks and procedures that may take place without management intervention. In such an event, managers will need to be aware of alterations to tasks as the consequential effects may not be clear from the operational level.

The management and staff communication sub-systems include all the formal and informal information routes customarily utilised within the organisational system for the exchange of information between staff and managers, as well as for providing managers with system output performance information. In the case of major change the communications sub- system is likely to include special communications procedures and arrangements designed to promulgate information specifically relating to the change programme.

Management information will enable the target for change to be identified and decisions made as to which aspects of the system need to be changed. Further research may be necessary at this stage and systems thinking will enable the consequential effects of the proposed changes to be managed appropriately. (Senge 1990)

The counter resistance sub-system continually interacts with the implementation process in such a way as to facilitate the implementation at every stage. It will be shown that resistance to change in organisational systems by staff and managers is a very common phenomenon which can be relied upon to emerge in one form or another during most change programmes. (Kast and Rosenzweig 1981) It is therefore desirable to provide for the eventuality by planning effective counter measures.

Various measures might be more or less appropriate at different stages of implementation, depending upon progress. Such measures might include one or more of the following:

  1. the provision of a dedicated or enhanced internal communications system to promulgate change information to the work force,
  2. regular, persuasive demonstrations of the positive features of the change by describing the advantages and benefits accruing to those involved,
  3. presentation of a rational analysis of the inappropriateness of the old /existing system,
  4. association of achievement of change with the internal reward systems i.e. advancement, recognition, financial rewards and/or tangible inducements,
  5. association of non achievement of change with internal sanctions system, i.e. threat to security, lack of advancement, worsened financial prospects, loss of, or reduced status/position, use of formal disciplinary procedures.

Finally, when implementation is complete, Figure 4 shows a decision point where a judgement is made as to the suitability of the new output. If the output is not meeting the design requirement and the stimulus for change remains present, then more research may have to be undertaken and the process re-started.

If a marginal improvement is observed then it is possible that an inappropriate target was selected, or the new system has only been partially implemented. In such an event, the change process should re-commence with identification of the target for change, which in any event, may have altered since the first change process.

For police managers, as with others, change is an issue that may be relied upon to frequently recur, bringing with it many predictable challenges, especially regarding staff. Managers and leaders are by definition agents of change; they are people whose acts affect other people, more than other peoples' acts affect them. (Bass 1990)


It is inaccurate to assume that resistance to change is always a negative phenomena, although it is frequently perceived in that way. Organisations whether commercial or public service, have a need to pursue multiple objectives for survival and amongst these is likely to be a need for some stability, balanced with a need to change. (Carnall 1990)

Police organisations, especially those operating within conurbations, carry out their function within an extremely turbulent human environment (Scarman 1981, Jackson and Keys 1984) where both public and government opinion can fluctuate rapidly and widely.

To correspondingly react to such fluctuations would severely curtail the ability of the police to strategically and efficiently tackle crime and other issues. The same argument may be said to be true for government departments who see their role as providing stability in the face of political changes in government.

Similarly, it might be argued that a commercial organisation that tried to continually adapt its product to suit every market opportunity, might discover the desirability of some stability in order to consolidate its position. Similarly, organisations where traditions are significant to the corporate goals might attach a high value to stability, i.e. the market or trading position, corporate image, corporate integrity. In such operations, a high turnover of staff who represented the corporate culture of 'stability' would be undesirable.

In such circumstances resistance to change would amount to a corporate asset rather than a constraint. In order to stimulate change under such conditions it would therefore be necessary to bring about gradual alterations to the corporate culture that was being sustained by the long serving members.

Here, the organisational balance would be towards resistance rather than change. Whereas in an organisation that was dependent upon a creative reaction to it's environment, the balance would favour adaptive staff, who are possibly younger and less inclined to exhibit values associated with established norms of 'how things are done'.

The human and social factors contributing to a resistance to change form a complex psycho social sub system, the elements of which may be categorised as follows. Each will be discussed in turn:

  1. psychological factors,
  2. psycho-social factors,
  3. sunk costs,
  4. personal strategies,
  5. confusion.


The following table presents the frequently encountered, major psychological factors that may be apparent singly, or in combination to produce an individual's resistance to organisational change. There are many unusual, or even abnormal psychological conditions that may occur in people that will create a resistance to change, or constrain them from tackling unfamiliar circumstances, i.e. psychopathy, acute paranoia, schizophrenia. (Sacks 1985)

Such conditions are exceptional and the list presented here, drawn from the following sources, does not attempt to be exhaustive in this respect. (Brown 1954, Davies and Shackleton 1975, Lupton 1978, Vroom and Deci 1978, Brown and Campbell 1994) Rather those conditions shown are attitudinal phenomena that exist in the majority of humans at work. (Argyle 1972)

  1. Uncertainty - Staff not knowing in sufficient detail what has to be done, or what the new system requires of them may create a situation where change will be resisted. Uncertainty can arise due to:
    1. poor internal communications,
    2. staff inattention to new instructions,
    3. an inability or reluctance to understand what is required,
    4. a situation that is inherently uncertain and cannot be made more certain.
  2. Confidence - a lack of confidence in individuals that they will actually be able to perform the new tasks or procedures will militate against implementation of change. Poor levels of confidence may arise from:
    1. inadequate training or communication,
    2. the absence of an opportunity to experiment in a safe environment.
  3. Anxiety - a condition exacerbated by poor confidence and uncertainty which manifests as worry, which in turn may create unacceptable levels of stress in staff. It is natural for humans to strive to reduce the source of anxiety and if this is perceived to be the impending change, then the changes may be selectively ignored and/or resisted.
  4. Stress - a potentially severe constraining condition that may limit the performance of routine activities and in such severe cases, will result in inactivity, a loss of self esteem and a disregard of new or unfamiliar challenges or changes.
  5. Confusion - a state of mental disorder brought about by not being able to relate the present activities with the new requirements. Likely to be compounded by poor internal communication and/or a failure by managers to agree clear objectives.
  6. Fear - an emotion brought about by the prospect of imminent danger the reaction to which is either to fight or flee. Fear of impending but unknown change will limit current performance and create future resistance to change, even before proposals are drafted. The implementation of new technologies have demonstrated how some staff have 'fled' from the prospect of assimilating new skills.

  7. Depression - a personal mood of helplessness, excessive melancholy and inadequacy often associated with other physical or mental conditions. Will severely constrain an individual's motivation to progress current work and especially to develop and/or implement changes.


Earlier the concept of organisational culture was described and the importance of culture to the change process was recognised and developed as one of the targets for change. The significance of organisational culture to the change process principally arises from the potential of people in groups to have common set of values that can be applied to disrupt or resist change. (Gahagan 1975)

Culture in the broadest sense is no more that a combination of psycho social factors interacting with organisational goals in the workplace to produce observable effects. The elements of a cultural sub-system have been identified from a variety of sources by Schein (1985) and may be summarised as follows:

  1. observed behavioural regularities - language, rituals, dress, demeanour,
  2. the norms that evolve in working groups - fair day's work for a fair day's pay,
  3. dominant values - quality of service, adherence to the law,
  4. organisational philosophy - the vision or knowledge that guides an organisation towards its staff and /or customers,
  5. the rules - that have to be learnt by a newcomer in order to be accepted,
  6. feeling or climate - the impression created by physical layout and how staff interact with outsiders.

Both Schein (1985) and Bass and Stogdill (1990) show evidence that where the above factors develop into an organisational culture that is resistant to change, it becomes difficult to envisage how successful development and innovation may be achieved. Examples are particularly striking in this regard where technology has dramatically altered the nature of certain tasks and change implementation has been resisted at a high cost to all concerned. i.e. the newspaper and printing industries, television and video services, railway signalling and robotics in production industries.

From a management perspective the prospect of implementing change against such resistance would represent a considerable challenge. If the stimuli for change were clear and strong, then the pressure on a manager to implement change would be likely to be considerable. But ironically, when such change is tackled, a worsened situation is probable for the manager.

This presents a personal dilemma for managers. Is the change to be avoided and the short term prospect improved, leaving the long term position at risk? Or, is the change tackled with probable high personal costs in the short term, with the long term outcome possibly remaining uncertain?

If the manager is experiencing stress from other aspects of working life, then in the face of such a dilemma, it would not be surprising to find the manager adopting methods for avoiding change as a deliberate strategy. (Basil and Cook 1974)

The view that organisational cultures tend to persist and are often resistant to change was advanced earlier; but there is not a straightforward solution to avoid the managers' dilemma and to achieve successful implementation of cultural changes. Kilmann et al (1985) suggests that if managers wish to change cultures they need to consider three steps:

  1. minimising the opportunity for external justification and the minimal use of extrinsic forms of motivation, rewards, punishment,
  2. giving individuals the opportunity to see the inherent worth of what they are being asked to do, intrinsic motivation,
  3. providing a way out of the organisation for people who cannot accept the new pattern of values and beliefs.


The 'sunk cost' concept refers to the situation where time, energy and/or money have been invested in an existing system by key individuals who retain some influence. Sunk costs can include vested interests, but may also represent the considerable investment of personal resources in the current systems made by an experienced manager. (Kast and Rosenzweig 1981)

This may mean that regardless of the merits of a proposal, an experienced manager may be highly resistant to changing the situation in which he has a sunk cost. Thus attempts to alter the status quo by either external consultants, or internal innovators is likely to encounter this difficulty. The sunk cost concept may therefore explain why it appears to be more difficult to bring about changes in an organisation that is predominately populated by older, more experienced individuals. They are simply more likely to have sunk costs in existing systems.

Moss-Kanter (1984) refers to a similar phenomenon ("Innovating Against the Grain" pg. 69) and suggests that it is rare in any long established, traditional organisation for a manager to be positively innovative. "...in such organisations, most people never bother to peruse ideas for improvements." (pg. 70)


The following categories, drawn from a variety of sources, (Hyde 1990, Basil and Cook 1974, Schein 1985) show some methods by which managers might form deliberate personal strategies to avoid change. It will be argued that whether or not they are successful will depend to a large extent on their prevailing psychological condition and how far the manager might be committed, either individually, or conspiratorially to resisting change.

It will be noted that the first three methods are also the involuntary means by which humans cope with other unpleasant psychological effects. For instance, ignoring the obvious, or blocking out is the brain's reaction to high and excessive levels of stress. Looking backwards is a means of coping with present unpleasant emotions, (such as bereavement) and simplification is a short term solution to coping with an excessive number of simultaneous difficulties of many types. (Davies and Shackleton 1975)

The issue here is that these three methods are natural human responses that are a part of the brain's programmed defence mechanisms. These defence responses help to protect individuals from unpleasant and potentially damaging effects, which make the identification of what is an individual's deliberate strategy and what is a natural reaction, difficult to separate.

  1. Blocking out - by adopting a 'closed mind' which selectively rejects any input associated with the subject of change, it is possible for the individual to ignore any issues that are thought likely to be conflictual or troublesome. A problem can be compounded when potentially manageable changes are avoided to the extent that the problems build to a point where they present an insoluble crises to the individual.
  2. Looking backwards - the individual adopting this method relies upon earlier experiences by applying 'yesterdays' solutions to 'today's' problems. The approach may be seen as potentially safe, but frequently the problems will be significantly altered through time within open organisations. The environment in which the problems exist will also probably have changed to a point where existing solutions may be inappropriate. It is highly probable that neither problems or solutions in social systems remain the same. There may also be a tendency for individuals to reflect upon successful strategies that have contributed to personal success and achievement in the past. It may be tempting in such circumstances to consider that similar strategies might always produce the same successes.
  3. Simplification - the when the situation to which the change relates, is made easier to understand and tackle by narrowing and simplifying the issues to a point of over generalisation, trivialisation, or superficiality. In the search for a straightforward and non fallible change, the individual may reduce the complexity of a seemingly insoluble problem to a simple and safe change that is not too threatening to herself, himself, or others. Superficially it may look as though change has taken place, whereas in reality any change is marginal. Such an avoidance approach may be seen as the opposite to a systemic approach to change.
  4. Tokenism - a more sophisticated version of simply doing nothing. Typically the individual will agree to changes, debate implementation programmes etc., but practically, only the most superficial change will occur. This avoidance method is often associated with an apparently highly active approach to the changes, designed to persuade others (and perhaps the individual?) that change is progressing. However, once the activity has ceased, little will have changed in practice.
  5. Specialisation - involves concentration on a narrow subject to the exclusion of all other information and issues. It is another method that can be successfully adapted by the individual to demonstrate that change is taking place, whereas in reality little is occurring. Changes in the area of speciality have the potential to be successful in the short term. Ultimately, it is probable the changes will affect other elements of the system and wider more adventurous changes will have to be tackled, with the perceived attendant risks to the individual.


Whenever individuals do not clearly understand the purpose, mechanics, or consequences of a change they are likely to resist it. (Kast and Rosenzweig 1981) If individuals involved in the implementation process, especially line managers, are to be effective, then it is essential that they know exactly what it is that has to be achieved.

Of crucial importance is confusion or uncertainty about what lies ahead. In the absence of any knowledge about the changes that have taken place, or which are about to take place, rumour and speculation regarding negative consequences are almost certain to develop.

It has been argued in this chapter that organisational change is frequently perceived by staff in a negative context. Given that this occurs, it would not be surprising to find that where individuals are confused as to the future, resistance to the change develops faster than otherwise.

A potential solution to this situation would be to increase communication and thus learning about the change. The relationship between learning and confusion as a feature of the change process is presented in the model at Figure 7


Figure 7 Relationship Between Learning and Confusion Following Organisational Change

Here levels of learning and confusion are shown in an inverse relationship through stages of time. As learning about change increases, so confusion is reduced and thus resistance is also potentially reduced. Often associated with high levels of confusion are high levels of anxiety, but as confusion reduces, confidence will increase and anxiety will reduce.

Implicit from Figure 7 is the notion that the reverse situation applies. If there is only little or ineffective communication, then there will be limited learning and thus the state of confusion and resistance to change will persist.


The variety and intensity of the human factors affecting the process of change have been shown to combine together to form a highly complex psycho social sub system. This complexity is compounded by the varying responses from individuals as the change process progresses through time. This progress and an individuals, response to it may be termed an individual's dynamic response to change.

It is suggested by a number of writers, especially from the Human Relations school of thought, (Trist 1968, Glen 1975, et al) that if an individual perceives he or she has ownership of the change then they will feel able to exercise some control over the situation.

Similarly, if an individual is at least allowed to participate and influence the change process, then some degree of ownership and control will be felt. (Williams 1994)

However if the perceived level of an individual's control over a change process is low, then it might be suggested that many of the elements and outputs of the psycho social sub- system will manifest as a resistance to change.

The cause of the resistance to change may alter through time, thus amounting to a continuum of obstacles to the change process. To an observer, it will not necessarily be possible to determine which particular output of an individual's psycho social sub system is causing the resistance at any particular time, although it might possibly be apparent if the individual(s) displays any behaviours associated with the resistance, i.e. anger, depression, stress.


This paper has sought to establish a number of principles of change management that are particularly significant to the implementation of change in policing systems, as follows:

  1. Communication - an effective means of communicating both the vision, need and the nature of the changes foreseen, is an essential feature of the change process. (Beckhard and Harris 1987) External communications become significant as the police system increases in 'openness' and the need to exchange information about changes necessary to improve outputs becomes relevant. These aspects of the change process have been shown to be especially significant within policing systems.
  2. Management Support - a willingness to change by senior management cannot be assumed to consistent with the views of individuals at operational or intermediate levels. The active support of senior and intermediate managers is essential to satisfactory change (Tyson and Jackson 1992) .
  3. Leadership - has been shown as necessary in order to overcome the high levels of uncertainty likely to accompany major change. The principles of effective change leadership (Bass 1990) should be applied to individuals and groups experiencing difficulty with practising new procedures and working within unfamiliar circumstances. Effective leadership will reduce confusion, improve individual's levels of confidence and self esteem, thus improving work performance.
  4. Change Targets - in recognising the difficulty of changing organisational culture, it is suggested that to be successful, change must affect each of the associated change targets simultaneously, if long term evolutionary change is considered as too slow for the needs of the organisation. For instance, appropriate management support and effective communication must be swiftly followed by changes to structures that are seen as reinforcing the nature of the change. Such changes must then be aligned with the necessary alterations to systems and procedures that actually produce the altered style of output. It has been shown that reliance on a single approach to change implementation is likely to be unsuccessful in a strong anti-culture.
  5. Coercive and Participative Change - the above conclusion leads to the proposition that a combination of an initial coercive change, succeeded by more participative approaches to further changes, is likely to be appropriate where a strong culture exists (ibid.). It has been shown that unless the organisational culture can be altered sufficiently quickly, the culture may become a powerful force in resisting further attempts at change. It is unlikely that a participative approach to change would be successful in negotiating major, fundamental changes, perceived as deeply affecting cultural norms. As many of the inducements and motivators available to commercial organisations are not available to police, it is concluded that coercive change is necessary to quickly tackle resistant cultural issues. Such an approach should be followed with a more participative style to address associated detailed changes.
  6. Change Teams - it has been argued that major change to policing systems is an inherently complex process. It is suggested as highly unlikely that the requisite skills detailed here for the management of the change processes will be available in a single individual or focused to a single individual by a hierarchical structure. Rather, the necessary complementary skills and experience might be incorporated in the concept of a 'change team' or 'task force' (Pedler et al 1991) which is suggested as appropriate within police systems. Multiple changes within different functions and locations might be achieved by establishing a 'network of teams' as suggested by Katzenbach and Smith. (1993)

Table of Contents | Legitimation and Culturalism: Towards Policing Changes in the European "Post-Socialist" Countries

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