Timing of Organizational Change

As Jackson points out: “In addition to differences in the magnitude (degree) of change are differences in the timing of change”[1]. The difficulty here lies in the term “timing” which is used in various different ways. “Timing” can indicate the starting point of change in relation to whether the event which triggered the change happened before or after the change. In the first case, Jackson (2008) differentiates between a

  • reactive change, which is being conducted as a result of a critical situation, or a massive change within the businesses environment and an
  • anticipatory change, which is planned dependent of an obvious or apparent need[2].


This first way of interpretation leads to the question, whether an organizational change should be conducted before or after the event that showed the need. Most management literature agrees that proactive change must be preferred instead of reactive activities. However, this leaves the difficulty of finding the right time to start. Holland suggests: “The idea is to identify when the organization needs to have its change completed so that organizational goals in the marketplace can continue to be met.” If the performance trends of an organization show a negative development, the management needs to find the presence of business opportunities, see how long these opportunities stay open, and how soon the organization can accomplish or is in need of these opportunities.


In yet another interpretation of the term, “timing” covers the duration of a complete change from its beginning to its end. A change can happen reactive of short-term like for example just days or weeks. It can also take for years depending on the magnitude of the task:

Figure: Different Timings of (Planned) Change

[1] Jackson, S.E., et. Al (2008), p.76

[2] Jackson, S.E., et. Al (2008), p.76

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