Symbols were mentioned earlier in this Study Text during our discussion of culture and the cultural web.
Their importance in the context of change is that they can often be used as levers of change. However, it is
important to understand that the significance of a given symbol may vary from person to person; this
makes their use as a tool of management difficult....
(a) New rituals can be introduced and old ones abolished in order to communicate and implement
change. For example, the replacement of a strictly hierarchical approach to management with a
culture of coaching and empowerment can be signalled and reinforced by the introduction of social
occasions such as office parties that will allow staff to meet relatively informally.
270 8: Managing strategic change Part C Organising and enabling success
(b) Formal systems and processes can have symbolic aspects, typically when they signal status and
power relationships, but also when they direct attention to new concerns, such as customer
(c) Changes to physical aspects of the workplace can have strong symbolic effect, as, for instance,
when open-plan offices or hot-desking are introduced.
(d) The behaviour of leaders and change agents has very powerful symbolic effect and must reflect
intended change if the intention is not to be undermined: staff will respond far better to example
than to edict.
(e) Language can have symbolic significance beyond the bald meaning of the words used. Wellchosen
words can inspire and motivate change; similarly, the use of badly chosen words can
undermine their inherent meaning.
(f) Stories have an important symbolic role, but are not easy to exploit since much corporate
communication is automatically dismissed as mere marketing puff.
Routines are the habitual behaviours that members of the organisation display, both internally and
externally. They are not procedures or processes but the wider ways of doing things that are typical of the
organisation. They are closely linked to the paradigm. The problem of routines is that they can subvert
change efforts. For example, it is unlikely that simply explaining required new processes and procedures...
will lead to their effective adoption: existing routines will mould the way they are put into operation.
When a top-down change programme requires the introduction of new methods, the detail of
implementation can be driven by the careful identification of critical success factors and the competences
When change is to be introduced in a less directed way, change agents may focus on routines, extending
existing ways of doing things toward what is required and then 'bending the rules of the game' when
sufficient stakeholder support has been created.