In Part A we laid the foundation for an understanding of change from several key perspectives. In Chapter 1 we introduced a number of key concepts, including change work, approaches to diagnosing change issues, disciplines for enacting change and the enquiry–action framework. We then surveyed a range of key concepts and change frameworks to demonstrate that there are different valid ways to understand and approach change. The last of the Foundations chapters introduced innovation as a separate change type and perspective of growing importance.
As we move into Part B, we now turn our attention to a series of chapters on diagnosing change. An excellent place to start is with the concept of context and the way it influences what is useful or useless, relevant or irrelevant. Context is examined alongside the closely related notion of environments, within which context takes on its identifiable forms.
All organisations operate within complex environments. By ‘environment’ we do not just mean the economies or industries in which they operate and compete. The organisations themselves have an internal context made up of numerous interdependent factors. Change agents must focus enquiry on understanding these environments.
There are many different ways of viewing change. Examining change using a context-based approach has considerable practical applications. These include: gaining an overview of the broader change situation; the identification of change priorities across a range of key areas; the development of a high-level map to orient change efforts; and a means to evaluate different approaches change.
This chapter explores different organisational contexts to better understand the complex change environment. A deeper appreciation of an organisation's general and specific circumstances informs both change priorities and approaches. The role of contextual analysis in orienting through mapping and building a shared understanding will also be explored. Some key models of external and/or internal environments will be introduced and compared. Context will be shown as a catalyst that brings to the surface key independencies between organisational dimensions, facilitates enquiry and enables action. Lastly, the chapter will pose some issues associated with adopting a contextually informed approach, including dealing with complexity.
□The complex nature of context
Context may be viewed as the situation within which some things exist or happen, and the means by which those things may be better understood. Context is sometimes referred to interchangeably as the environment. An organisation's context is made up of multiple factors. It has different layers, or levels, and time dimensions.