Towards an Understanding of System Wide Change

Andrew Pettigrew, David Denyer, Joanne Murphy

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The big issues of change in our age no longer lie just within organisations or institutions and in the fields of management and organisation studies and we need to prepare ourselves for this reality. Contemporary societies are challenged by international terrorism, mass migration between continents and countries, the malevolent behaviour of financial institutions across international borders, and the efforts of health systems to deal with issues such as safety and obesity. While the struggles to deal with these issues can and do involve institutions, they cannot be understood, ameliorated or resolved by institutional action alone. Some have referred to these macro phenomena as wicked problems (Rittel and Webber, 1973, Head and Alford, 2015), or more recently as grand challenges (Ferraro, Etzon and Gehna, 2015). These metaphors are useful attention directors, but as yet they have neither stimulated the lines of empirical enquiry we need, or provided the appropriate conceptual framework or theory base to underpin the analytical understanding and practical appreciation of the big change issues of the day. This short developmental paper briefly sketched out some of the challenges associated with studying system wide change and the potential approaches which may be useful in addressing these challenges.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 04 Sep 2017
EventBritish Academy of Management Warwick Sept 2017 - Warwick University, Warwick, United Kingdom
Duration: 04 Sep 201707 Sep 2017


ConferenceBritish Academy of Management Warwick Sept 2017
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom

Bibliographical note

This collaborative paper won Best Paper for the Organisational Transformation, Change and Development' Track and forms the basis of an invited submission of AOM Annals (2018)


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