Re: Change Fatigue

Devi Jankowicz (
Mon, 4 Aug 97 21:08:59 +0100

Harry Oxley writes:

> One of my graduate students (not a psychologist but a Management
>type) is interested in a work-group which has for some years been
>undergoing experimental and more or less chaotic changes in all directions
>at once.
> She has an idea which seems intuitively (and experientially)
>reasonable that people who keep having demands made on them to see things
>differently to how they saw them yesterday, again and again, in no single
>direction but of unrelated kinds, even if the changes are none of them in
>themselves too enormous, will eventually find it too much for them; she
>makes an analogy with metal fatigue - such as caused those Comet airliners
>to go pop in my youth.
> It struck me that this was just the sort of thing pcp people might
>well know all about. Any references please?


I don't have any direct reference to this field (though Helen Jones
might, having been working in one particular field of rapid change or the
past few years). Are you there Helen?

It occured to me that you might suggest your student searches the
literature for anything to do with the consequences of rapid staff
turnover amongst chief executives and functional heads, in those
organisations which deliberately foster the sort of "Excellence" climate
arising from Peters/Waterman. This rationale assumes that it's those
organisations which see leadership as involving the development,
articulation, and inculcation among their staff of corporate "visions".
These are seen as the responsibility of senior managers (well, of _all_
managers; but my guess, based on what happens in the police service, is
that middle managers tend to resist excessive change arising from such
inculcation attempts). Rapid turnover amongst those senior managers would
suggest frequent alteration of the "visions" on offer.

About the only direct reference that comes to mind is some old stuff on
climate-style match done by Kirton in the 1980s: apparently, there are
differential survival rates between "innovative" and "adaptive" employees
depending on whether they fit the climate, "adaptive" or "innovative",
being fostered in the organisation. Nothing here on the rate of change of
norms, values and beliefs in the climate, though.

The reference is:

Kirton, M.J. & McCarthy, R.M. "Cognitive climate and organisations",
Journal of Occupational Psychology 1988, 61, pp 175-184.
The following is relevant to the above.
Jordan, M., Herriot, P. & Chalmers, C. "Testing Schneider's ASA theory"
Applied Psychology: an International Review 1991, 40, 1, pp. 47-53.

Kind regards,

Devi Jankowicz