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Coping with chaos in change processes

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In their efforts to change organizations, managers and change consultants are time and again confronted with the limited controllability of organizations, the complexity and indeterminacy of change processes and the uncertain and ambiguous effects of their actions. In short, they are confronted with chaos. Some managers and consultants try to enhance their (illusion of) control over organizations by attempting to reduce chaos, while others accept and embrace chaos and base their change practice on it. This article focuses on the second group. Based on a study of literature and a series of interviews with experienced change consultants, a typology is developed, in which an enlightened modern, an ironic, and a postmodern way of coping with chaos in change processes is elaborated. The typology may help change consultants and managers with the development of their way of working and the articulation of their professional identity.

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