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Blended Change Management: Concept and Empirical Investigation of Blending Patterns 49
Figure 2. Opportunities and risks of tool blending
To respond to the resulting ambivalent connotation of
blending by a simple “blending: bane or boon-approach”
turns out to be too superficial. Instead the rational design
of toolboxes should follow the principle of “no integra-
tion without evaluation”. Evaluation serves as a guide for
all activities supposed to amplify opportunities and to
mitigate risks related to tool blend ing. Figure 2 illustrates
a simplified evaluation of blending face-to-face tools and
electronic tools in change management.
In corresp ondence to the hybr id character of the object
of evaluation, i.e. the mix of online and onsite tools, the
evaluation model for blended toolboxes is also based on
a hybrid design. The evaluation of the two tool clusters is
focused on their respective strengths and weaknesses.
Opportunities are the result of the “productive tension”
in a hybrid construction (area above the diagonal in Fig-
ure 2) whereas risks come from “unproductive frictions”
between the diverse components (area below the diago-
nal). The evaluation is boiled down to just one typical
strength and weakness of each cluster. Face-to-face tools
like, for example, group discussions or bilateral discus-
sions often have a strong impact on the motivation by
offering the possibility to give immediate and personal-
ized feedbacks and by satisfying social needs. These ad-
vantages, however, come along with high costs for trav-
eling to physical meetings, work shops or seminars. Elec-
tronic tools like e-mail or intran et po rtals typically h av e a
broad reach, since they are able to deliver information
quickly and easily to geographically dispersed employees,
team members, or customers affected by the change.
However, this broadcasting bears the risk of social dep-
rivation of the actors involved because emotional feed-
backs in the change process are impaired. Thus, elec-
tronic tools often leave social needs as well as security
needs unsatisfied and fail in dealing with confusion,
anxieties, and other typical effects of change.
Tool blending attains synergy effects in terms of rich-
ness and reach of communication when simultaneous
communication via intranet and workshops is applied.
Compensation of weaknesses by strengths of the addi-
tional tool is reached when the time needed for seminars
can be reduced by providing general basic information
via electronic media prior to the onsite seminars. One
category of risk caused by blending is conflict: Providing
redundant content by print and by electronic media may
provoke a conflict with project budget restrictions. In-
compatibility may even cause chaos, for instance when
contradictory content is delivered via electronic media
and physical meetings respectively. This may be due to
the fact that electronic media are normally more
up-to-date whereas print media often distribute obsolete
data in turbulent change processes.
2.2 Patterns of Tool Blending
2.2.1 Dimensions of Blendin g Pat terns
To analyze, categorize and design blended toolboxes a
multidimensional approach is needed that is based on
three paramete rs of bl ending:
Scope: This dimension covers the quantitative aspects
of blending, i.e. the number of tools incorporated in the
blended toolbox and the proportions of blending, i.e. the
ratio of percentage of use of the tools in question.
50:50-proportions stand for balanced blending while an
80:20-ratio indicates the dominance of one tool category.
Diversity: A combination of workshops, flyers, meet-
ings and a letter from the CEO in the employees’ maga-
zine characterize homogeneous blending since all tools in
the list rely on conventional communication via physical
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Blended Change Management: Concept and Empirical Investigation of Blending Patterns
50
meetings or print media. The level of diversity increases
when both face-to-face tools and electronic media (e.g.
e-mail, virtual communities and weblogs) are used. Di-
versity stems from contrast between tools (heterogeneous
blending), since electronic media, unlike face-to-face
change management, go along with asynchronous com-
munication and lack a direct contact between the partici-
pating players.
Coupling: Blending ranges from loose to tight cou-
pling of tools. In the case of loose coupling, change
managers pick different tools out of a blended toolbox to
be applied in distinct sectors or stages of the change pro-
ject. By this strictly separated handling, tools can be ad-
justed to different segments of the context (e.g. different
target groups like employees versus temporary man-
power, top management versus lower management),
preferences of clients (reflecting their respective corpo-
rate culture) and modules of the change concept (e.g.
redesigned business processes, organization charts, in-
centives systems, lay-offs). From a rational management
point of view this corresponds to the idea of contingent
management with respect to tool utilization. Likewise,
face-to-face communication in the pilot phase can be
combined with electronic communication in the roll
out-phase which allows an adjustment to the size of the
respective target groups.
Tight coupling is either related to toolboxes in terms of
blended menus or blended bundles. Blended menus offer
at least two tools (e.g. e-mail or telephone, print media or
electronic newsletters, physical workshops or virtual
meeting on internet community platforms) as alternative
options. Providing menus is client-friendly but quite
costly: Since tools are not pre-selected within a contin-
gent change management approach (i.e. loose coupling),
the entire range of diverse options has to be provided
until employees or clients make their choices.
In blended bundles, tight coupling is performed in a
“total” fashion yielding new genuinely hybrid tools that
incorporate both genes of their parent tools: Project
meetings are not either face-to-face or virtual, but semi-
virtual with some team members participating ph ysically,
others virtually via videoconferencing. Communication
is neither purely top-d own nor bottom-up , but takes place
in an iterative down-up process.
Each of the three dimensions also serves as a scale to
measure the level of hybridity of tool blending. So a
broad, balanced scope of heterogeneous and tightly cou-
pled tool bundles represents the maximum challenge for
change managers because the performance of the blended
toolbox cannot be easily traced back to the strengths and
weaknesses of the tool components in question. Focused,
unbalanced homogeneous and loosely coupled toolboxes
on the other hand are by far easier to understand and to
evaluate.
2.2.2 Engineered and Emergent Patterns
Like strategies, structures, systems or other building
blocks of management, toolboxes are either the result of
deliberate planning (engineered patterns of blending) or
the result of unplanned activities (emergent patterns of
blending) or possibly a (hybrid) combination of both, in
the tradition of hybrid pro cess models like guided evolu-
tion, logical incrementalism, organic rationality or or-
ganized anarchy.
Engineered patterns of blending are created by a ra-
tional planning process. The objective of this process is
achieving an optimal opportunity-risk ratio. This is ac-
complished by aggregating the weighed positive and
negative evaluations of blended concepts (see Figure 2).
The aggregation has to consider reciprocal interaction
effects triggered by the tension between the components
of a hybrid toolbox.
Emergent patterns of blending are not determined by
rational procedures of evaluation and design. Like in all
other fields of management, change managers are not
necessarily guided by the rational evaluation of opportu-
nities and risks. There are many other factors that influ-
ence blending activities. Some of them are apparently
irrational from the standpoint of rational optimization. A
prominent example is “change management follows
fashion”, with “hypes” (quite common in the lifecycle of
electronic trends [18]) representing an extreme species of
fashion. However, go-with-the-flow behavior in change
management may have definitely rational advantages for
the situation of the individual manager [19]. The long list
of factors influencing the behavior of change managers
contains many personal factors such as
1) expertise in change management, e.g. number of
change projects managed in the past.
2) personal preferences for tools: preferences may be a
matter of familiarity with tools or even an expression of a
dogmatic approach when for instance orthodox disciples
of OD refuse to adopt Business Process Reengineering
tools because of a cultural misfit.
3) lack of skill in handlin g specific tools.
4) avoidance of risk: Cautiousness may also make
change managers refrain from tool blending which very
likely provokes some risks ( see Figu re 2).
5) variety seeking: Openness to new tools and trends.
This experimental approach is sometimes reflected in
randomly composed toolboxes.
To assess the respective relevance of rational and
personal determinants of tool blending and the result-
ing relevance of engineered or emergent patterns re-
spectively, empirical investigation is required. Exist-
ing analyses are non-empirical, empirical but focused
on the range of complementary tools or focused on
single tools (not on toolboxes) or empirical but case
study-based providing evidence that lacks representa-
tiveness.
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Blended Change Management: Concept and Empirical Investigation of Blending Patterns
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51
3. Empirical Investigation of Blending
Patterns
3.1 Survey Design
To examine the “real world” patterns of tool blending,
the department of organizational behavior at Stuttgart
University conducted an online survey amongst German,
Swiss and Austrian change experts in first quarter of
2008. In addition to this, a weblog (http://www.change-
zweinull.de) was installed to enable a virtual sharing an d
exchange of knowledge. The arena of tool blending ex-
amined was the configuration of non-electronic and elec-
tronic tools. The tools were clustered into two groups:
face-to-face tools (workshops, multiplicators, top man-
agement commitment, employee magazines, seminars,
brochures/folders/flyers, bilateral talks) and electronic
tools (virtual communities/internet forums, intranet por-
tals, information videos, e-mail newsletter, web-based
trainings, podcasts/webcasts, individual weblogs, social
networking platforms, wikis, and corporate weblogs).
The web 2.0 tools investigated are individual weblogs,
corporate weblogs, wikis, social networking platforms
and podcasts/webcasts. This selection reflects the com-
mon web 2.0 tools [20–23].
The majority of respondents were contacted directly
via personalized e-mails. The respondents were asked to
forward the e-mail to other change managers among their
colleagues and clients. Furthermore, a link to the survey
was integrated in several electronic newsletters. The pro-
ject weblog also provided the possibility to take part in
the survey. With 305 respondents the return rate (as per-
centage of the number of mails sent) is 15.5%.
Almost half of the respondents are consultants, less
than a fourth of the respondents are academic staff and
faculty, and approximately one sixth of the respondents
are employed in manufacturing or service companies.
Change managers (people who have already managed
change projects) cover almost three fourths of the re-
spondents. Within this group, a majority of change man-
agers has managed between six and 50 projects and can
be regarded as well-experienced in change management.
Change managers who have managed more than 50 pro-
jects account for only 4.3%. A look at the change exper-
tise focusing the spectrum of change categories shows
that 45% of all change projects are restructuring projects,
followed by strategy shift projects with approximately
one third of all projects. 30% of the participating change
managers predominantly manage business process reen-
gineering and cultural change projects respectively. Ap-
proximately 20% of the change managers are regularly
involved in the management of IT implementation pro-
jects. The survey investigated mainly a) the incidence of
face-to-face and electronic change management tools in
change management and b) the existing patterns of
blending as well as their determinants.
3.2 Results
Scope of tool blending: The surv ey supports the assump-
tion that the use of multiple change management tools is
standard. More than 70% of the respondents use at least
four tools in change management frequently or always.
Almost 9% use ten or more instruments at least fre-
quently. Only 35% of the respondents use two or more
electronic media frequently or always. When the answers
“frequently” and “sometimes” are aggregated, more than
70% of the respondents use at least two electronic tools
in change management.
Diversity of tool blending: From the data, three basic
types of blended toolboxes can be distinguished with
respect to the diversity of blending: Focused toolboxes
are used by change managers who concentrate on a par-
ticular “core cluster” of tools (here: face-to-face tools).
These managers are reluctant to blending and conse-
quently do not use any instrument from the other cluster.
In blended toolboxes a distinction between a primary
cluster and a secondary cluster is not feasible. The re-
spec tive change man agers do no t have a clear p reference
for one of the two groups but use tools from both groups
frequently. Change managers working with ad hoc tool-
boxes do not use any tool more frequently than “some-
times”. Apparently, there is no preference for one cluster
of tools among these change managers. Rather, these
change managers configure their toolboxes randomly.
Table 1 demonstrates the respective frequencies of tool-
boxes in the sample.
Differentiating the instru ments used with respect to the
cluster they belong to shows—not surprisingly—that
merely one respondent focuses so lely on electronic tools,
while 31% focus on face-to-face instruments in change
management. Blended toolboxes represent the biggest
portion in the sample (67%), whereas ad-hoc mixes ac-
count for only 2.7%.
The simple assignment of the respondents to one of
the two patterns specified by level of diversity (focused
and blended mixes) ignores the scope dimension of
blending. A valid measure of the hybridity of blending
(“blending index”) must encompass both diversity and
scope. The focused as well as the blended patterns are
more hybrid when they are based on a larger number of
change management tools. Hence, the scope dimension
was differentiated into “narrow”, “medium”, and “broad”
(see Table 2).
Using the blending index, the following types of pat-
terns can be distinguished according to their respective
degree of diversity: narrow focused (1), medium focused
(2), medium blended (3), and broad blended tool boxes (4) .
A look at the frequencies of the different patterns re-
veals a peculiar result: only 7% of the change managers
in the sample put a narrow focus on face-to-face instru-
ments, i.e. use three different tools frequently at the most.
Blended Change Management: Concept and Empirical Investigation of Blending Patterns
52
Table 1. Frequencies of blende d patte r ns
Diversity
Scope
(total number of tools used)
Focused
toolboxes
Blended
toolboxes
Total
Ad-hoc
toolboxes
All instruments 1 2 0 2
2 3 0 3
3 10 0 10
4 17 9 26
5 23 16 39
6 12 25 37
7 0 24 24
8 0 26 26
9 0 22 22
10 0 7 7
11 0 8 8
12 0 6 6
13 0 2 2
14 0 1 1
16 0 1 1
Total 67
(30.5 %)
147
(67 %)
214
(97 %)
6
(2.7 %)
Obviously, a broad scope of tools is essential for change
management. Tool blending as opposed to focusing is
only practiced when at least four tools are used fre-
quently. In the medium section of the scope dimension
(four to six tools) the respondents almost evenly disp erse
to the two “extreme” categories focused and blended
toolboxes, while there exist no focused p atterns for seven
instruments or more at all. The currently great impor-
tance of tool blending is furthermore confirmed by the
large portion of broad blended toolboxes (more than six
instruments are used frequently).
Coupling patterns: Factor analyses and regression
analyses were conducted to find out what context factors
lead to specific patterns of blending in general and of
coupling in particular. The set of determinants examined
that presumably impact coupling patterns contains task
oriented and person oriented factors. Task-oriented de-
terminants analyzed were:
change categories (the two categories of change
projects managed most frequently)
industry (withi n which change projects are m anaged)
project size in terms of employees affected (number
of employees affected)
project size in t erms of project m anpower (number of
project team members)
Three person-oriented determinants were integrated
into statistical analysis:
expertise (number of change projects managed)
occupation of the resp o ndents
blending mindset: Personal assessment of the
interaction between face-to-face change manage-
ment tools and electronic tools, representing some-
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Blended Change Management: Concept and Empirical Investigation of Blending Patterns 53
Table 2. Typology of blended toolboxes
scope
(focused toolboxes –
blended toolboxes)
focused blended total
narrow
(1 to 3 tools)
15
(7 %)
0
(0 %)
15
(7 %)
medium
(4 to 6 tools)
52
(24.3 %)
50
(23.4 %)
102
(47.7 %)
diversity
(all
tools)
broad
(7 or more tools)
0
(0 %)
97
(45.3 %)
97
(45.3 %)
total 67
(31.3 %)
147
(68.7 %)
214
(100 %)
Statistical measures refer to the recoded variable “blending index”. The underlying scale was recoded into 1)
narrow focused toolboxes, 2) medium focused toolboxes, 3) medium blended toolboxes, 4) broad blended
toolboxes. The arithmetic means have been calculated excluding answers “I cannot asses s”.
arithmetic mean=3,07; median=3,0; standard deviation =,988
thing like a personal “blending theory”. The respon-
dents ranked these tool relationships on a scale
ranging fr om “compl ementi ng” to “crowdin g out” of
tools.
Table 3 illustrates that there is a relatively high posi-
tive and statistically significant correlation between pro-
ject size (number of employees affected) and the blend-
ing index. Apparently, there is a tendency to focus on
few instruments in smaller projects, while large projects
trigger extensive blending in the use of change manage-
ment tools. This corresponds to the definition of loose
coupling via context segmentation (“different target
groups require different tools”). On the one hand, the
complementary use of electronic tools is probably re-
quired by the increasing demand for reach in large pro-
jects. Such enhancement of change management reach
can only be accomplished efficiently by using inter-
net-based media. On the other hand, effectiveness also
requires more intensive blending in large-scale projects
in terms of large number of employees affected. Along
with the number of targeted employees, the diversity in
this group of employees also increases. This heterogene-
ity can be dealt with by using a broad range of change
management tools to enable individualization of change
management activities, i.e. to adjust these activities to the
needs and preferences of the respective employees and
other target groups.
The project manpower, i.e. the number of team mem-
bers, also correlates positively with the blending index,
although less strongly and less significantly. Partly, this
is due to the relationship between the number of em-
ployees affected and the requisite size of project teams
which (not surprisingly) turns out to be statistically sig-
nificant. Moreover, the number of team members also
has an immediate impact on the blending of instruments:
on the one hand, electronic tools are mandatory to war-
rant the reach of change management activities. On the
other hand, the project requires a higher richness of
change management toolboxes to cope with the increased
need for individualization.
The analysis of correlation revealed another counter-
intuitive relationship between a context variable and the
blending index: the personal assessments of the interac-
tion between electronic tools and face-to-face change
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Blended Change Management: Concept and Empirical Investigation of Blending Patterns
54
Table 3. Correlations betw ee n context variables and blending index
Blending
index
Ocupa-
tion
Number
of pro-
jects
Industry
Employ-
ees af-
fected
Project
man-
power
Interac-
tion
Change
Catego-
ries
Corre-
lation
Blending
Index –,007
(n.s.)
,013
(n.s.)
–,086
(n.s.)
,289
(,000)
,150
(,039)
–,168
(,024)
,003
(n.s.)
Occupation –,398
(,000)
,127
(,069)
–,114
(n.s)
–,127
(0,69)
,069
(n.s.)
,075
(n.s.)
Number of
projects –,151
(,038)
,096
(n.s.)
,141
(,040)
–,006
(n.s.)
,101
(n.s.)
Industry –,140
(,050)
–,116
(n.s.)
,075
(n.s.)
–,021
(n.s.)
Employees
affected ,412
(,000)
–,016
(n.s)
–,077
(n.s.)
Project
manpower –,030
(n.s.)
–,052
(n.s.)
Interaction –,032
(n.s)
Change
categories
management and the blending index have a slightly
negative correlation. In other words, those change man-
agers who assume a harmonic complementary relation-
ship between the two groups of instruments (in Figure 2
above the diagonal) still tend to focus on one group of
instruments–and thus do not exploit the opportunities of
blended tool boxes. This is most likely caused by context
barriers, such as a lack of technical infrastructures, of
familiarity with tools, and/or by budget restrictions. Tight
budget restrictions are not only a problem in small pro-
jects. All varieties of change are currently exposed to a
high pr essure for efficiency [1 0]. Also, whenever ch ange
managers experience a low degree of acceptance for such
media amongst the employees affected, they may refrain
from deploying these instruments, although they assume
a harmonic relationship with other change management
tools.
In addition to correlations between the blending index
and task-or person-oriented context factors, interrelations
among the context variables were examined. For this
investigation, a factor analysis was conducted to discover
underlying factor structures. The factor analysis yielded
three components (see Table 4) which account together
for an explaine d vari ance of 53.1%.
The first factor–on which the variables blending in-
dex, number of employees affected and number of team
members are loading—represents the project size. The
structure of this component shows that large projects
require electronic change management tools and that
these instruments are always used in combination with
face-to-face tools. In turn, this structure also shows that
the use of blended toolboxes is not based on individual
tool preferences of change managers or employees af-
fected. The application of blended toolboxes is rather
driven by project requirements—in particular by project
size–and thus aims to compensate the weaknesses of
many a change management tool (see Figure 2).
The second factor (change expertise)—consisting of
the variables occupation and number of change pr oje cts—
does not contain the blending index. The structure of this
factor is plausible: The occupation of the change manag-
ers affects the number of projects managed. For example,
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Blended Change Management: Concept and Empirical Investigation of Blending Patterns55
Table 4. Component diagramm (rotated compo-
nent matrix)
Component
1 2 3
Blending index ,562 ,473
Occupation ,778
Number of projects –,822
Industry ,356
Employees affected ,805
Project manpower ,703
Interaction –,711
Change categories –,314 ,559
Note: extraction method: principal component analysis. Ro-
tation method: Varimax with Kaiser-normalization, explained
variance: 53.1%. The results of the rotated component matrix
are considered.
Factor 1 (Project size): Blending index, employees affected,
project manpower
Faktor 2 (Change expertise): occupation, number of projects
Faktor 3 (Evaluation): Blending index, inter a ction
consultants are “full-time” change managers and thus
typically have ample change experience, while managers
in other industries are less experienced in change man-
agement.
The third factor (evaluation) captures the assessment
of the interaction between face-to-face change manage-
ment and electronic media as well as the blending index.
It does not deliver an explanation for blending practices
that is as obvious as the one provided by the first factor.
The negative correlation between the two variables (in-
teraction and blending index) has to be explained by
context factors not covered by the survey. On the one
hand, this correlation can be explained by some addi-
tional barriers to the use of blended toolboxes. On the
other hand, dynamics of toolbox design can be held re-
sponsible for this phenomenon: The majority (204 per-
sons or 87.6%) of the respondents diagnose a crowd-
ing-out relationship between face-to-face change man-
agement and electronic tools. More than half of these 204
respondents already use blended toolboxes. The state-
ment that the two groups of instruments crowd each other
out may derive from the assumption that the future brings
a migration from face-to-face change management to
electronic media, in other words a step-by-step shift of
proportions in favor of new electronic tools. This inter-
pretation gets further support from the respondents’
opinion concerning the future relevance of web 2.0-tools
in change management toolboxes. While most respon-
dents (64.9%) estimate the current percentage of web 2.0
tools-application in change management to be less than
10%, 82% expect this share to rise in the future. That
means the vast majority of the participating experts ex-
pects an increasing importance of electronic media in
change management.
4. Conclusions and Outlook
There is evidence provided by the survey that blended
change management is a reality reflected in blended
toolboxes. The majority of change managers advocate
tool blending. Only a minority concentrate on familiar
face-to-face tools. Tool blending is predominantly guided
by rational considerations: task features are more rele-
vant than personal preferences (such as affinity to tech-
nology or conservative tendencies towards familiar in-
struments) or experience. The scope, diversity and cou-
pling of tool blending primarily depend on project size:
Large-scale projects drive the use of several different
change management tools whereas small projects tend to
be focused on face-to-face change management. The
identified blending patterns are generic; they are in par-
ticular not influenced by specific change categories. The
opportunities of blended toolboxes assessed by the ex-
perts are currently not sufficiently exploited. In particular,
situational restrictions in the application of change man-
agement tools constrain the diffusion of new electronic
tools, although the experts assume a harmonic comple-
mentary relationship between these tools and face-to-face
change management activities. The experts’ assessments
outline a tool scenario that is characterized by blended
toolboxes with an increasing share of electronic change
management tools. This trend gets more momentum
when new hybrid tools such as augmented reality [24,25]
will be applied in the training of interpersonal and not
only technical skills. Unlike virtual reality (e.g. avatars),
these hybrid tools operate on an extr emely tight coupling
of virtuality and reality. Simulations of typical constella-
tions in change processes (e.g. conflict resolution, post-
merger integration, coopetitive arrangements within
networks) that are normally dealt with in physical role
playing and business theatre [13] up to date could profit
considerably from these sophisticated blended tools.
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