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Advice to Practitioners: A Review of the Popular Press Literature on Planned Change Communication
Unformatted Document Text:  Advice to Practitioners - 2 managers in communicating the changes they initiate. Policy makers’ and managers’ calls for change gain legitimacy and authority through their apparent consistency with the gurus’ writings . . (p. 519). Popular press writings on change are of two types: (a) publications that tell practitioners what changes they ought to make, and (b) publications that tell practitioners how to make change happen. Our interest in this study was to examine the latter type of popular press advice. While organizational scholars and communication scholars have produced some research with applied implications for change implementers in organizations (cf. Lewis, 2000; Johnson & Rice, 1987; Miller, & Monge, 1985; Miller, Johnson, & Grau, 1994; Smeltzer, 1991; Tyre & Orlikowski, 1994), the bulk of the advice for practitioners exists in popular press books. While some organizations rely upon outside consultants for advice on implementation of large scale changes (e.g., downsizing, mergers), many day-to-day changes and mid-level transitional changes are managed by using off-the-shelf business advice books. Even consultants make use of many of these books in their advice giving. We have become interested in the contents of practitioner advice books about change for two reasons. First, if these books, as they appear to, have influence on actual managerial practice, it would be useful to examine the shared themes and variance in advice that exists within them. That understanding would serve as a basis of explanation for the actual tendencies observed in implementers’ choices of implementation tactics. Second, it also seems a useful comparison to understand the sources of support and evidence (to the extent they exist) cited by these practitioner-oriented books. Such books may serve as a wealth of potential evidence that scholars have thus far ignored (a sort of hidden volume of case studies) and they may serve as a rich source of hypotheses for effects of strategies proposed by consultants and “gurus” that scholars have not yet examined in systematic studies of change. Aside from Zorn et. al’s (2000) examination of the use of the “Nuts” book about Southwest Airlines change efforts, we have found no empirical examination of the contents of such advice in popular press literature about change. There seems to be a clear bifurcation between the review of scholarly

Authors: Lewis, Laurie., Stephens, Keri., Schmisseur, Amy. and Weir, Kathleen.
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Advice to Practitioners - 2
managers in communicating the changes they initiate. Policy makers’ and managers’
calls for change gain legitimacy and authority through their apparent consistency with
the gurus’ writings . . (p. 519).
Popular press writings on change are of two types: (a) publications that tell practitioners what
changes they ought to make, and (b) publications that tell practitioners how to make change happen. Our
interest in this study was to examine the latter type of popular press advice. While organizational scholars
and communication scholars have produced some research with applied implications for change
implementers in organizations (cf. Lewis, 2000; Johnson & Rice, 1987; Miller, & Monge, 1985; Miller,
Johnson, & Grau, 1994; Smeltzer, 1991; Tyre & Orlikowski, 1994), the bulk of the advice for
practitioners exists in popular press books. While some organizations rely upon outside consultants for
advice on implementation of large scale changes (e.g., downsizing, mergers), many day-to-day changes
and mid-level transitional changes are managed by using off-the-shelf business advice books. Even
consultants make use of many of these books in their advice giving.
We have become interested in the contents of practitioner advice books about change for two
reasons. First, if these books, as they appear to, have influence on actual managerial practice, it would be
useful to examine the shared themes and variance in advice that exists within them. That understanding
would serve as a basis of explanation for the actual tendencies observed in implementers’ choices of
implementation tactics. Second, it also seems a useful comparison to understand the sources of support
and evidence (to the extent they exist) cited by these practitioner-oriented books. Such books may serve
as a wealth of potential evidence that scholars have thus far ignored (a sort of hidden volume of case
studies) and they may serve as a rich source of hypotheses for effects of strategies proposed by
consultants and “gurus” that scholars have not yet examined in systematic studies of change.
Aside from Zorn et. al’s (2000) examination of the use of the “Nuts” book about Southwest
Airlines change efforts, we have found no empirical examination of the contents of such advice in popular
press literature about change. There seems to be a clear bifurcation between the review of scholarly


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