HR strategy during culture change: Building change agency

Document Type

Journal Article


Cambridge University Press


School of Business and Law / Centre for Innovative Practice




Barratt-Pugh, L., Bahn, S. (2015). HR strategy during culture change: Building change agency in Journal of Management and Organization, 21(6), 741-754. Available here.


This paper explores the role played by a Human Resources (HR) department orchestrating culture change during the merger of two large State departments with dissimilar cultures. A 2-year case study determined what HR strategies were having the greatest impact on embedding new organisational values to produce a more flexible culture and how these practices could be accelerated. This paper indicates how a more strategic approach by HR departments can support and develop relational managing capability that accelerates cultures change towards a more flexible work environment.This paper describes the context of the change process, the relevant literature, and outlines the research process. The findings from the phases of the data collection are summarised revealing the traumatic perceptions of the change process, but also the instrumental actions of some managers, working creatively with their teams to tackle new tasks and projects. The evidence suggests that these informal practices of task allocation were at the core of change agency in this case study and put the new flexible organisational values into action. The findings illustrate how the organisation moves from valuing managers for their technical competence to valuing managers for their relational competence.The paper then discusses what strategic HR actions were accelerating this process and illuminates the critical role of building managers as change agents. The paper concludes by confirming the need for a strategic approach by HR during organisational change. Building manager capability and supporting informal change agency practices is presented as a core focus for HR during such organisational cultural change programmes.



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