We have images in our mind of everything that is happening around us. 

These images are strong references that shape our thinking, attitude and action. We often become very rigid due to these images and it becomes difficult to shift our lens of seeing things.  

This holds true about organizations because we have such mental images about organization we work with. 

For example, if we have a mental image of an organization as machine then we as managers will see our role as mechanics who see faults everywhere and are ready to fix it and take care of its repair and maintenance. 

So our images define how we see and understand organization and find solutions of problems. 

Change managers and leaders who are responsible for implementing change do have their own images of organizations. And these images do have an impact on their role as change manager. 

It is important to first understand personal image as change manager and second being able to switch from one image to another or from one role to another.  This ability to adopt different images, perspectives relating to change management is key to successful and effective implementation of change.

Broad images of change outcomes

How are our images about organization and change formed? 

In 2002, Palmer and Dunford first defined two broad images of tasks of management – one is controlling and other is shaping . 

The image of management as controlling describes change managers role is to plan , organize, supervise, direct, report and budget different activities. This is sort of top-bottom approach of management and where they are controlling every thins and giving directions to achieve the desired outcome. 

The  second image is that of management as shaping explains that change managers engage everyone in decision making process. This image is about making employees involved in designing and execution of change so they become more committed to their work. 

Furthermore, these broad approaches may be divided into categories based on the outcomes they produce:

  • Intended change outcome: This image is about planning change outcomes and achieving them accordingly. It is based on the belief that change is the result of intent and actions of change managers and leadership. 
  • Unintended change outcome:This image is based on assumption that changes managers always face difficulty in achieving change outcomes as that were planned and intended. This is because of internal and external factors that affect change. 
  • Partially intended change outcome:This image is based on assumption that some of planned change outcomes are achievable and some are not. There are many factors such as process, knowledge, skills affect ability of change managers to deliver intended change outcomes. So, change initiatives are not achieved as these were planned initially. There are external factors as well which influence on the change plans. 

06 Images of Change Management

Palmer studied further this framework and proposed that there are 06 images of change management. Each is different and based on opposing visions of the management role on the one hand, and the delivery of change outcomes on the other.

The table given below gives overview of 06 images of change management.

 Images of Managing
Images of Change OutcomesControlling Shaping 
Intended Director coach
Partially intendedNavigatorinterpreter
06 images of change management

Let us discuss them in detail.

1. Change Manager as Director

In the director’s image, management is viewed as controlling, and change results are viewed as being attainable as planned. As the term implies, the change manager’s job is to direct the organization toward the intended goals.

They need to direct employees toward the organization’s objectives. This suggests that change is a strategic management decision that affects the organization’s well-being and survival. 

The director’s image assumes to mandate that the new system can be developed in accordance with and that it will operate well, resulting in a high-performing organization that is more aligned with its external environment. 

2. Change Manager as Navigator

In the navigator image, control is central to management activity, despite the reality that a variety of external factors imply that, while change managers may achieve certain desired change outcomes, they may have limited control over other results. 

The initiative is managed by a navigator, as the name implies. It’s the same reason why ships and planes can’t always be operated on autopilot.  To manage diverse types of situations, the ships require continual input from the captain. 

A change manager, on the other hand, ensures that the objectives are accomplished regardless of changing dynamics both inside and outside the organization. No planning, preparation, or communication ensures success. This is because change is inherently unexpected and unwieldy. 

The functions of the change manager are to find possibilities, gather resources, track progress, and navigate a path through the complexity rather than to direct.

3. Change Manager as Caretaker

The managerial role in the caretaker image is still one of control, while the capacity to exert that control is severely limited by a variety of internal and external forces that drive change despite management objectives. 

Several internal and external factors are beyond our control. The term “caretaker” refers to the reality that managers do not have complete control over all factors. The managers act as caretakers, ensuring that the change process proceeds as planned in the face of changing circumstances.

Managers have no power to stop this natural process; at most, they are caretakers of the company as it progresses through the stages. As a result, change managers have a limited role, managing changes rather than determining whether or not they occur.

4. Change Manager as Coach

The assumption in the coach image is that change managers can modify the organization’s capabilities in certain ways. The coach works with the members of the organization. 

As change is a difficult process, the goal of the coach is to make this less threatening. They sit down and talk about their workers’ viewpoints, offering helpful feedback and suggestions. The change manager, like a sports coach, develops the organization’s or team’s skills so that it is more likely to succeed in a competitive environment. 

Rather than mandating the state of each play, as a director would, the coach focuses on establishing the correct principles, abilities, and skills for the organization’s members to attain the intended results. 

5. Change Manager as Interpreter

The role of the change manager as an interpreter is to assist others to make sense of events and changes that in return form a changed company. It is the responsibility of change managers to convey to others what these changes represent. 

However, there are frequently conflicting perceptions of the same concerns, particularly when multiple groups with different interests and views are involved. Individuals must be aligned with the organization’s aims. It may be necessary to interpret the objectives into tasks. 

Individuals and groups must also create goals for themselves. Through a set of goals, the change manager, working as an interpreter, justifies the aims.

6. Change Manager as Nurturer

The image of the change manager as a nurturer believes that even little changes may have a significant influence on companies and that managers may be unable to control the consequences. They may, on the other hand, nurture the organization, cultivating properties that allow strong self-organization.

Consider nurturer to be a gardener who helps shape the plants. Plants must be watered, fertilized, cleaned, and trimmed regularly. Organizations, too, require regular care to form them according to the vision.

Through a process known as self-organization, these attempts periodically result in the spontaneous development of a completely new dynamic order.” In this situation, the change manager must nurture self-organization while having little control over the direction and character of any spontaneous new instructions that may develop. 

Final Words

06 images of change management helps us to raise awareness of alternative interpretations of change by highlighting diversity of assumption change managers make about change. Through this framework, we also understand about organisation’s dominant image of change and how change managers and leaders are looking at things from their own different perspectives.