Using Visualizations as a Strategic Tool During Change.

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Master Thesis


Master of Science in Business and Economics, 60 credits

Visual Change Management in Dutch Retail Organizations: an Exploratory Study on

Using Visualizations as a Strategic Tool During Change.

Thesis in Business Administration, 15 credits

Halmstad 2020-05-22

Caitlin van der Schans



First of all, I would like to thank all the organizations that participated in the survey. Due to the difficult situation the world is currently dealing with, their time is even more valuable, which makes their participation to this research very much appreciated.

Furthermore, I want to express gratitude to my supervisor Susanne Durst (Full Professor of Management) who, throughout this whole process, always provided valuable, constructive feedback and very kindly helped and guided me during our supervisions.

Lastly, I want to acknowledge and thank my mom (Margot van der Schans-Janssen), who, not only had to constantly listen to my struggles, but nevertheless always helped and inspired me when I needed it.

Caitlin van der Schans




Title: Visual Change Management in Dutch Retail Organizations: an Exploratory Study on Using Visualizations as a Strategic Tool During Change.

Author: Caitlin van der Schans Supervisor: Susanne Durst

Examiner: Christine Tidåsen

Keywords: Change management, Internal communication, Strategic change, Visualizations, Visual management


Organizations today are having to initiate the necessary changes as they are pressured to keep up with market environments that often yield unpredictable and complex events. When initiating, and more importantly, attempting to implement these changes, the theory states that 70% of these efforts fail. One of the reasons behind this high rate of failure is the ineffective internal communication during strategic change, which results in misunderstandings and perhaps even resistance among employees. Here, building on previous research, it is argued that visual management can play an important role. However, the current theory lacks empirical research that investigates or examines the current usage of visualizations as a strategic tool during change, as the majority focuses on providing literature reviews or theoretical frameworks.

Research question:

To what extend do organizations use visualizations within the process of organizational change?


The purpose of this dissertation is to get a better understanding of the usage of visualizations as a strategic tool during the process of organizational change.


In order to fulfil the purpose of the thesis and to be able to explore the research question, a quantitative research design was chosen. The data for this thesis was collected through a web-based questionnaire among organizations situated in The Netherlands. A specification was made towards organizational structure whereas the retail sector can be characterised as having multiple hierarchical levels. The survey consisted of three parts each dedicated to a sub-question relating to the main research question. In total, 282 respondents participated in the research.


Theoretical framework:

An overview of the current literature is provided starting with describing the topic of change, where several aspects such as the factors supporting and hampering change and the process of strategic change are discussed. In addition, a specification is made towards communication, where especially internal communication during change is highlighted. The final component in this theoretical framework is visualizations, which is discussed by summarizing what the current theory states regarding characteristics, types, strategic usage and the field of visual management. All of this through a strategic scope and within the setting of organizational or strategic change.


In this dissertation, it was discovered that a very low amount of organizations perceives their change efforts to be successful. This may be due to things not always going according to plan, where interestingly, a high number of organizations did state that plans are created during strategic or organizational change. Secondly, the data showed how organizations are already showing a significant use of visualizations as a strategic tool during change. However, the more ‘complex’ visualizations scored noticeably lower on usage and frequency. Lastly, within the findings of this thesis it became apparent that organizations perceive the usage of visualizations during change to be very positive.

Especially high numbers were found on how using visualizations can lead to employees better understanding why the changes are needed.




1.1 Background ... 1

1.2 Problem discussion ... 2

1.3 Research purpose and research questions ... 3

1.4 Disposition... 4


2.1 Change ... 5

2.1.1 Emergent vs Planned change ... 6

2.1.2 Factors supporting/hampering change ... 7

2.1.3 Strategic and organizational change management ... 8

2.1.4 The process of strategic change ... 9

2.2 Communication ... 11

2.2.1 Internal communication during change ... 12

2.3 Visualizations ... 13

2.3.1 Usage of visualizations ... 14

2.3.2 Visualizations as a strategic tool during change ... 15

2.3.3 Visual Management ... 16


3.1 Research philosophy ... 17

3.2 Research approach and purpose ... 17

3.3 Research design ... 18

3.4 Data collection ... 18

3.4.1 Primary data ... 18

3.4.2 Secondary data ... 19

3.5 Survey design ... 19

3.6 Pilot testing ... 22

3.7 Population and sample ... 23

3.8 Reliability ... 24

3.9 Validity ... 24

3.10 Ethical Considerations ... 24

3.11 Data analysis ... 25


4.1 Information about the respondent/organization ... 26

4.2 Successfulness of change efforts ... 28

4.2.1 Planned vs emergent change ... 28


4.2.2 Success rate of change ... 30

4.3 Visualizations as a strategic tool during change. ... 32

4.4 Data visualizations ... 32

4.4.1 Information visualizations ... 33

4.4.2 Concept visualizations ... 33

4.4.3 Strategy visualizations ... 34

4.4.4 Metaphor visualizations ... 35

4.5 Perception on usage of visualizations as a strategic tool during change ... 38


5.1 Theoretical implications ... 42

5.2 Managerial implications ... 44

5.3 Limitations and implications for future research ... 45


7 APENDIX ... 52

7.1 A periodic table of visualization methods (Lengler & Eppler, 2007, p. 6) ... 52

7.2 Web-based questionnaire... 53



Figure 1. Different perspectives of change. ... 6

Figure 2. Four generic change scenarios. ... 6

Figure 3. Lewin’s three-step model. ... 9

Figure 4. The Lasswell-model. ... 11

Figure 5. Hierarchical levels in the retail sector.. ... 23

Figure 6. Organizations’ number of persons employed. ... 26

Figure 7. Size of the organizations according to Eurostat (2016). ... 27

Figure 8. Results regarding perceived success rate of organizational change efforts. ... 31

Figure 9. Organization’s usage of visualizations... 36

Figure 10. Frequency of organization’s usage of visualizations. ... 37

Figure 11. Results regarding perceived usefulness of visualizations. ... 39

TABLES Table 1. Disposition of the dissertation. ... 4

Table 2. Internal and external triggers for change. ... 7

Table 3. Sources of resistance or inertia. ... 8

Table 4. Eight-steps to transforming your organization ... 10

Table 5. The six categories of visualizations. ... 13

Table 6. Survey questions regarding the organization. ... 20

Table 7. Survey questions regarding the successfulness of change efforts. ... 20

Table 8. Survey questions regarding the usage of visualizations during change. ... 21

Table 9. Survey questions regarding perception on usage of visualizations during change. ... 22

Table 10. Size of the organizations according to Eurostat (2016). ... 27

Table 11. Number of respondents stating their organization plans change. ... 28

Table 12. Creation of change plans per organizational size. ... 29

Table 13. Frequencies of the two statements regarding success rate of change efforts. ... 30

Table 14. Organization’s usage of data visualizations. ... 32

Table 15. Organization’s usage of information visualizations. ... 33

Table 16. Organization’s usage of concept visualizations. ... 33

Table 17. Organization’s usage of strategy visualizations. ... 34

Table 18. Organization’s usage of metaphor visualizations. ... 35

Table 19. Frequencies regarding the perception on usage of visualizations during change. ... 38



Within this chapter, background information, together with a problem discussion is provided to give the reader insights into organizational change and the usage of visualizations. Furthermore, the research purpose will be discussed to ultimately formulate the research question(s) for this dissertation.

There are several key concepts that are discussed within this paper. These need some initial explaining in order to avoid misunderstandings as they are mentioned multiple times.

∙ Change: is a term that frequently appears within this dissertation. However, when using this term, it is important to note that a specification is made towards strategic or organizational change which can be a result of strategic change and is defined as “a reconfiguration of components of an organization to increase efficiency and effectiveness” (Boohene and Williams, 2012, p. 136).

∙ Visualizations: can be defined as “the representation of data, information and knowledge in a graphic format which is conducive to acquiring insights, creating a vivid picture, developing an elaborate understanding or communicating experiences” (Bititci, Cocca & Ates, 2016, p.

1573). The six different types: data visualizations, information visualizations, concept visualizations, strategy visualizations, metaphor visualizations and compound visualizations created by Lengler and Eppler (2007) are utilized throughout this thesis.

∙ Visual Management: is one of the more important aspects of this paper as it combines the usage of visualizations as a form of communication during strategic change with the purpose of facilitating its process (Eriksson & Fundin, 2018).

1.1 Background

In order to keep up with new, dynamic market environments, organizations are often required to initiate necessary changes (Kotter, 2007). Many of these changes are therefore driven by unpredictable and complex events within this environment that pressures organizations to e.g. downsize, change/reorganize structures, introduce new technologies/products (Waddell, Creed, Cummings &

Worley, 2019). Many studies emphasize the importance of a good execution of this process of strategic change. Unfortunately, there are as many that exemplify the struggles of successfully implementing these changes within an organization. For example, mistakes that are made in any of the phases of organizational change can have serious negative impacts on the organization (Kotter, 1995). Even


capable managers still make errors while executing the renewal of strategy and it can therefore be noted that this process is a fragile one when it comes to executing it in a correct and successful manner (Kotter, 1995). Skogland & Hansen (2017) even go as far as to mention that “approximately 70 per cent of all organizational change initiatives fail” (p. 95), which empirically demonstrates how hard it is for organizations to execute strategic change successfully. Nowadays, a lot of research has been conducted to investigate the reasons behind the failure of implementing strategic change in a successful manner.

As this is an interesting topic, many different causes or reasons for these failed attempts are provided by existing research. These reasons can be e.g. employee’s resistance to change (Rafferty & Jimmieson, 2017), management’s loss of focus (Beer & Nohria, 2000), poor execution of after-action reviews (Darling, Parry & Moore, 2005) and unplanned uncontrollable factors (Jones, Firth, Hannibal &

Ogunseyin, 2019) to name a few. Each providing their own solutions, frameworks or overall advice for tackling these problems to ultimately guide practitioners in the successful implementation of organizational change.

1.2 Problem discussion

When examining several solutions, frameworks or advice for a successful implementation of organizational change, one can notice certain similarities between those. One framework, or model that has gained a lot of attention by researchers are the Eight Steps to Transforming Your Organization, created by Kotter (1995). Research that has been conducted after this (Sidorko, 2008; Appelbaum, Habashy, Malo & Shafiq, 2012; Rajan & Ganesan, 2017), has inspired others to create either variations or more in-depth and practical analyses. One aspect that not only Kotter has pointed out, but that has been discussed by several authors as well is the internal communication during strategic change. Barret (2002) shows the importance of this, arguing that “without effective employee communication, change is impossible and change management fails” (p. 219). Most change efforts therefore fail due to lack of consistent and clear communication resulting in uncertainty, misunderstandings and resistance to change among employees (Elving, 2005; Genkova & Gehr, 2016; Angelova, 2016). Therefore, it is important to note that, according to Komodromos, Halkias & Harkiolakis (2019), when done right, communication during the change process will result in trust and a common vision among employees and the organization as a whole, ultimately increasing the success rate of the implementation of change.

As there are several interesting takes on the implementation or use of this eight-step model (Kotter, 1995), for this dissertation, one in particular will be highlighted as the authors of the following study have found an interesting and feasible way to facilitate change. Eriksson and Fundin (2018) added an extra dimension to the eight-step model by introducing the use of visualizations during the process of strategic renewal or organizational change. The authors argue that through visual management within the (internal) communication of a new or change in strategy, a common image (among the employees)


of the future will be created, thus increasing the likability of this change being executed in a correct and successful manner. Eriksson and Fundin (2018) introduce a very practical and solid framework within their study. However, the authors do note that the proposed model has not been tested empirically and remains therefore a theoretical one (Eriksson & Fundin, 2018). Furthermore, before one can test this model empirically, it is still unknown, within the current body of research, if and to what extent visualizations as a strategic tool are already used within the change process. To illustrate this shortcoming, it seems that most researchers either focus on creating literature reviews (Bell & Davison, 2012; Tezel, Koskela & Tzortzopoulos, 2016; Goransson and Fagerholm, 2017) or the ones that do investigate the use of visualizations empirically, do so within other aspects of the organization (Eppler

& Platts, 2009; Bititci et al., 2016).

1.3 Research purpose and research questions

Before one can test Eriksson and Fundin’s (2018) model of visual management, it should be empirically investigated whether organizations are using visuals as a strategic tool within their change process.

Therefore, the purpose of this dissertation is to get a better understanding of the usage of visualizations as a strategic tool during the process of organizational change. This study therefore has, due to the lack of similar studies on this particular topic, an exploratory nature.

With this in mind, the main research question for this study, is as follows:

- To what extend do organizations use visualizations within the process of organizational change?

Building on this research question, together with the purpose and literature review of this study, the following sub- (research) questions can be created. They will be investigated and explored further with the gathered empirical data of this study.

RQ1: To what extent do organizations perceive their change efforts to be implemented successfully?

RQ2: Which types of visualizations are used by organizations during the process of organizational change?

RQ3: How do organizations perceive the use of visualizations as a strategic tool during the process of organizational change?


1.4 Disposition

In order to provide the reader with an overview of the structure of this dissertation, in Table 1, the disposition is presented.

Table 1. Disposition of the dissertation.

1. Introduction

Within this chapter, background information, together with a problem discussion is provided to give the reader insights into organizational change and the usage of visualizations.

Furthermore, the research purpose will be discussed to ultimately formulate the research question(s) for this dissertation.

2. Theoretical background

This chapter provides the reader with information on what is known about change in general, followed by a section dedicated to organizational change (types, influencing factors and process). Afterwards, a specification is made towards (internal) communication during change and how visualizations can play a role within this process. Furthermore, within this chapter, it is demonstrated from what theory inspiration was drawn to create the research questions.

3. Methodology

The purpose of this chapter is to discuss the research philosophy, the research approach and purpose. This is followed by providing the reader with information on how the empirical data for this thesis was collected and analyzed.

4. Results and discussion

In this chapter the results of the collected data are presented and analyzed while following the structure of the questionnaire. Afterwards, these results are interpreted and combined if needed followed by a short discussion in regards to each research question.

5. Conclusion

The purpose of this chapter is to present the conclusions of the research findings. The initial research question is discussed by connecting the findings with the theory. Furthermore, the reader will be provided with some theoretical and managerial implications as well as the limitations of this thesis together with the recommendations for future research.



This chapter provides the reader with information on what is known about change in general, followed by a section dedicated to organizational change (types, influencing factors and process). Afterwards, a specification is made towards (internal) communication during change and how visualizations can play a role within this process. Furthermore, within this chapter, it is demonstrated from what theory inspiration was drawn to create the research questions.

2.1 Change

If there is one thing that is constant within our history, it is that there is change, which has been a topic of research for many years (Paton & McCalman, 2008). History also shows that many have attempted to manage and exploit the change that happens in the most effective way. Therefore, Paton and McCalman (2008) argue that change and management are to be considered as synonymous. Continuing to mention that change is a process, that has a purpose, plan, implementation and evaluation, which these authors consider to be: Change Management. As this dissertation puts the focus on organizations that are dealing with change, it will be situated in this context. Therefore, within this dissertation change management will be defined as managing the “fundamental changes in how business is conducted in order to help cope with a new, more challenging market environment” (Kotter, 2007, p. 4). When attempting to illustrate the content of change management and its characteristics, in the existing literature, many different uses or perspectives can be detected. Therefore, the clear structure provided by Cameron & Green (2019) will be used in order to shortly summarize what is known about the topic followed by a specification towards which perspective or application of change is especially relevant for this dissertation.

Within the book written by Cameron & Green (2019), three different perspectives of change management are discussed. The first type is individual change, which entails the four different approaches on how change is affecting or influencing the individual. These being: behavioral (change in behaviors), cognitive (achieving results), psychodynamic (the inner world of change) and humanistic psychology (maximizing potential). The second type that is discussed by Cameron & Green (2019) is team change. Here, the main effect of change discussed is within the context of team development, roles and the inner relationships that are apparent within this group of people.


Figure 1. Different perspectives of change. Adapted from Cameron & Green (2019).

Both the first and second type are of less significance for this dissertation, this because the focus throughout this thesis is on organizational change, which is the third type of change. However, they are worth mentioning as they are all interconnected with each other (see Figure 1).

Apart from demonstrating the different perspectives on change, it is important to illustrate the several applications of the matter as well. Again, following Cameron & Green’s (2019) structure, the authors illustrate four different change scenarios. These four scenarios are illustrated in Figure 2.

Figure 2. Four generic change scenarios. Adapted from Cameron & Green (2019, p. 181).

However, as this dissertation has a strategic scope, a focus is put on the strategic change process. This strategic change process initiates through an internal or external trigger and ultimately leads to changes within: the organizational structure, the commercial approach, the organizational culture and the relevant processes (Cameron & Green, 2019). It is thus clear that in order for the applications of change to happen, the strategic change process is already in place. Within the following chapters on change, a more defined explanation is given for how change occurs, what triggers/hampers it, followed by the specification towards organizational change and its strategic implementation process.

2.1.1 Emergent vs Planned change

Throughout the existing literature on change, two main approaches are discussed among scholars, those being either planned or emergent (van der Voet, Groeneveld & Kuipers, 2014). Emergent change, can be understood as “unpredictable, often unintentional, can come from anywhere, and involving relatively informal self-organizing” (Liebhart & Garcia-Lorenzo, 2010, p. 216). Planned change however, is based on the fact that organizations go through a predetermined set of phases or steps in order to attain a solicited future state of affairs (van der Voet et al., 2014). For this dissertation, it is interesting to focus on planned change, as its more structured nature enables one to gain a better and clearer understanding of what steps are essentially taken to reach this desired new state. This proves more difficult to

Organizational change

changeTeam Individual



change Mergers and

acquisitions Cultural

change IT-based process change


accomplish with emergent change. Therefore, all models and frameworks that are discussed in the following chapters are adopted from the planned change perspective, characterized by their pre- determined phases or steps in order to successfully implement the change. Furthermore, when questioning organizations about their change process, the knowledge of whether a specific plan for change was created, enables the researcher to better answer the established research questions that are in fact set within this specific planned change approach.

2.1.2 Factors supporting/hampering change

In order for change to happen, there are certain drivers that support change, but also some that may inhibit this process of implementation (McGuire & Hutchings, 2016). For the demonstration of the key factors that support change, findings of a study conducted by Jones et al. (2019) are utilized to exemplify these from both an internal and external perspective. Their findings on what these triggers can entail are summarized in Table 2:

Table 2. Internal and external triggers for change. Adapted from Jones et al. (2019, p. 164).

Internal triggers External triggers

∙ simplifying work processes

∙ realigning the business structure

∙ reducing error rates/wastage/costs

∙ addressing staffing issues.

∙ addressing what the competition were doing

∙ keeping up with the change in customer needs

∙ addressing fall-out from fraud and public scandal (in a small number of cases)

∙ public pressure

∙ reduction in funding

∙ embracing new technology

∙ growth/decline in sales

Unfortunately, according to the existing literature (Rosenbaum, More & Steane, 2018), there are also factors that may hamper, slow down or even fail change efforts. All these factors combined can form an overall resistance to change, which can be explained as both an active and passive opposition that

“produces costs overruns, delays, distortions or rejection” of this intended change (Ansoff, Kipley, Lewis, Helm-Stevens & Ansoff, 2019, p. 551). This shows that naturally, resistance to change is often perceived as a negative influence. However, one can look at this from another perspective as well, it being perceived as something positive for a successful implementation of change in the future.

Resistance to change offers a great opportunity to understand and learn from these factors or forces that are hindering this process, providing valuable feedback and insights (Ford & Ford, 2009).

A study conducted by del Val and Fuentes (2003) examines the several sources of resistance and inertia (i.e. efforts to keep the status quo and therefore not willing to make change happen) by empirically testing these. The authors have created a distinction between factors within the formulation and implementation of change showing both internal and external forces within those. For the purpose of


solely exemplifying what sources, or in this case which factors, can hamper change from happening are taken from their study (del Val & Fuentes, 2003). They are displayed in Table 3:

Table 3. Sources of resistance or inertia. Adapted from del Val & Fuentes (2003, p. 150).

Inertia in the formulation stage Distorted perception, Interpretation barriers and vague strategic priorities

∙ Myopia

∙ Denial

∙ Perpetuation of ideas

∙ Communication barriers

∙ Organizational silence

Low motivation

∙ Direct costs of change

∙ Cannibalization costs

∙ Cross subsidy comforts

∙ Past failures

∙ Different interests among employees and management Lack of a creative response ∙ Fast and complex environmental changes

∙ Resignation

∙ Inadequate strategic vision Inertia in the implementation stage

Political and cultural deadlocks

∙ Implementation climate and relation between change values and organizational values

∙ Departmental politics

∙ Incommensurable beliefs

∙ Deep rooted values

∙ Forgetfulness of the social dimension of changes

Other sources

∙ Leadership inaction

∙ Embedded routines

∙ Collective action problems

∙ Capabilities gap

∙ Cynicism

This visualization of all factors supporting and hampering change demonstrates how e.g. delicate this process actually is (Walker, Armenakis & Berneth, 2007). Therefore this process of organizational change needs to be mapped out further, in order to get an understanding of how change actually happens within organizations.

2.1.3 Strategic and organizational change management

A definition for organizational change management has to be discussed within this dissertation, as it is different from change, and can be related to many different topics. Kunisch, Bartunek, Mueller and Huy (2017) argue, that one sometimes needs to make a distinction between strategic and organizational change. These authors further emphasize on the fact that even though both are used interchangeably, they still may encompass different scopes or ranges of changes. However, Waddell et al. (2019) do note that change aimed at modifying strategy, can ultimately relate to changes within both the organizational structure and the supporting processes. This shows how both terms can be used in different contexts and have different meanings when used interchangeably. Therefore, it is essential to note that within this dissertation, a focus will be put on organizational change. The following definition of organizational change by Boohene and Williams (2012) will thus be utilized to further specify what this entails exactly,


so that any misconceptions of the subject are avoided: “Organizational change can be defined as a reconfiguration of components of an organization to increase efficiency and effectiveness” (p. 136).

2.1.4 The process of strategic change

The body of literature concerning the field of organizational change, is quite extensive. However, there are some models or frameworks concentrating on the strategic change making process that have gained more attention than others. One of those is the three steps model introduced by Kurt Lewin in 1951, which became, together with his other work, one of the leading frameworks within change management practices (Burnes, 2004). As showed in Figure 3 below, the three steps of the model each represent a phase in the process of making changes (Cameron & Green, 2019). The first step consists of unfreezing the current state of doing business in the organization. Here, the current state should be defined where both driving and resisting forces (that influenced the change) together with the new desired end state should be pictured. The second step of Lewin’s model involves moving the organization to a new state through the involvement and participation of both employees and management. Finally, the third step is about refreezing the new state of affairs by setting several new standards (Cameron & Green, 2019).

Figure 3. Lewin’s three-step model. From Cameron & Green (2019, p. 111).

Lewin’s work has received criticism by other researchers, arguing that this model was, for example, solely applicable for small-scale change initiatives, or disregarded organizational politics and other influences that may affect the change making process (Burnes, 2004). However, it should be acknowledged that his work inspired many others to further research and generate additional information or frameworks to this matter (Burnes, 2004). One could assume that one of these researchers was John Kotter, who, within the change management field, gained popularity after introducing his eight-steps model in 1995. After conducting research in over 100 organizations, Kotter noticed several lessons to be learned when conducting planned change, and converted these into his eight-step model (Cameron

& Green, 2019). With this model Kotter explains the eight most made errors by management through analyzing these with his own gathered data (Kotter, 1995). Here, he combines practical implications


with theory and provides both advice and guidelines, but also which pitfalls or errors management should try to avoid. This may be one of the reasons why this model has gained so much attention among other researchers and managers as well. The eight steps Kotter has established are: establishing a sense of urgency, forming a powerful guiding coalition, creating a vision, communicating the vision, empowering others to act on the vision, planning for and creating short-term wins, consolidating improvements and producing still more change, and institutionalizing new approaches (Kotter, 1995).

In Table 4, all eight steps(/stages) are portrayed, together with a short explanation regarding the actions needed and the pitfalls to avoid.

Table 4. Eight-steps to transforming your organization. Adapted from Kotter (2007, p. 3).

Stage Actions Needed Pitfalls

Establish a sense of urgency

∙ Examine market and competitive realities for potential crises and untapped opportunities.

∙ Convince at least 75% of your managers that the status quo is more dangerous than the unknown

∙ Underestimating the difficulty of driving people from their comfort zones.

∙ Becoming paralyzed by risks.

Form a powerful guiding coalition

∙ Assemble a group with shared commitment and enough power to lead the change effort.

∙ Encourage them to work as a team outside the normal hierarchy.

∙ No prior experience in teamwork at the top.

∙ Relegating team leadership to an HR, quality, or strategic-planning executive rather than a senior line manager.

Create a vision ∙ Create a vision to direct the change effort.

∙ Develop strategies for realizing that vision.

∙ Presenting a vision that’s too complicated or vague to be communicated in five minutes.

Communicate the vision

∙ Use every vehicle possible to communicate the new vision and strategies for achieving it.

∙ Teach new behaviors by the example of the guiding coalition.

∙ Under-communicating the vision.

∙ Behaving in ways antithetical to the vision.

Empower others to act on the vision

∙ Remove or alter systems or structures undermining the vision.

∙ Encourage risk taking and non-traditional ideas, activities and actions.

∙ Failing to remove powerful individuals who resist the change effort.

Plan for and create short- term wins

∙ Define and engineer visible performance improvements.

∙ Recognize and reward employees contributing to those improvements.

∙ Leaving short-term successes up to chance

∙ Failing to score successes early enough (12-24 months into the change effort) Consolidate

improvements and produce more change

∙ Use increased credibility from early wins to change systems, structures, and policies undermining the vision.

∙ Hire, promote, and develop employees who can implement the vision.

∙ Reinvigorate the change process with new projects and change agents.

∙ Declaring victory too soon—with the first performance improvement.

∙ Allowing resistors to convince “troops”

that the war has been won.

Institutionalize new approaches

∙ Articulate connections between new behaviors and corporate success.

∙ Create leadership development and succession plans consistent with the new approach.

∙ Not creating new social norms and shared values consistent with changes.

∙ Promoting people into leadership positions who don’t personify the new approach.

As Kotter explains in his fourth step, communication of the vision in a correct and decisive manner may be very challenging (Kotter, 2007). Especially when it comes down to motivating employees to participate in the change, where the author argues that “Without credible communication, and a lot of it, the hearts and minds of the troops are never captured.” (Kotter, 2007, p. 8). Therefore, one can note that within change management, the use of clear strategic communication is one of the most imperative


aspects. As mentioned before, Kotter has investigated over a 100 organizations during their change efforts, concluding that 70% of them fail, is a big statement. With all this information from the previous paragraphs on organizational change, the first research question can be created:

RQ1: To what extent do organizations perceive their change efforts to be implemented successfully?

2.2 Communication

When talking about communication, various interpretations can be taken from this term. Therefore, it is first important to define this concept, within the context of this thesis. To put it simply, one can define communication as the “social interaction through messages” (Kalla, 2005, p. 303). However, there can be much more to the concept, as argued by Oliver (1997), where the author gives a more in-depth definition of communication which consists of “an interchange of ideas, facts and emotions, by two or more persons, with the use of words, letters and symbols based on the technical problem of how accurately the symbols can be transmitted, the semantic problem of how, precisely the symbols convey the desired meaning, and the effectiveness of how the received meaning affects conduct in the desired way” (p. 64). These two different definitions demonstrate how detailed or simple one can interpret the term communication as a whole. Naturally, as there are different ways of interpreting the term, together with looking at the literature, the book Communication Models (Narula, 2006) also contains many different models or frameworks on the matter that have been created over the years (and are still being created as of now).

One model, that will be exemplified within this dissertation, with the sole purpose of illustrating the process of communication, is the one from Harold D. Lasswell, which he created in 1940. It is one of the most popular communication models which preceded many others as it was the only one not taken from another discipline (Sapienza, Iyer & Veenstra, 2015). The Lasswell-model consists of five different building blocks that are portrayed in Figure 4.

Figure 4. The Lasswell-model. Adapted from Narula (2006).

Sapienza et al. (2015) do mention the misconceptions or misinterpretations together with common criticism on the model. However, one thing that stays more or less the same for every existing communication model (including Lasswell’s), are the essential elements of which the communication process consists: Sender, Message, Channel, Receiver (Narula, 2006, p. 24). Within a study conducted

Who Said what In which

channel To whom With what



by Kalla (2005), communication is said to have four different domains, which the author further investigates. The four different domains are: business communication, management communication, corporate communication and organizational communication (Kalla, 2005, p. 305). Within Kalla’s (2005) study, the author then attempts to create an integrated view of internal communications, adopting the four domains of communication as they, according to her, all contribute to/can be considered as forms of internal communication. Communication can be of importance for many aspects of the organization, and as Verčič, Verčič & Sriramesh (2012) argue, it is an essential element of change management, hence the focus on internal communication for this dissertation.

2.2.1 Internal communication during change

The importance of internal communication within change was first highlighted using Kotter’s eight-step model (1995). However, it is not only him that emphasizes on how strategic, and especially internal communication, can have an essential effect on the success rate of the initiated changes by the organization. Kitchen and Daly (2002) argue that internal communication can be seen as a key factor for a successful implementation of change, further illustrating that it is utilized when announcing and explaining change while simultaneously demonstrating the positive and negative effects to employees.

As more than 70% of initiated organizational changes fail or are implemented ineffectively, this may be due to the underestimation of an adequate internal communication strategy (Angelova, 2016). Defining internal communication can, however, be hard, as it can entail many different things within the organization. Furthermore, Kitchen & Daly (2002) argue that within different organizational structures and hierarchies (some may e.g. be flatter than others), one cannot simply define it as “how management communicates with employees” (p. 49). Providing one specific definition for internal communication proves difficult, especially in relation to change management, as there are many different perspectives on the matter and it has not yet been recognized as a separate field of research. (Verghese, 2017).

Internal communication does play an important role for the (successful) execution of changes, whether strategic or organizational. Therefore, it is evident that within this matter, many errors are made as well.

One study conducted by Mosadeghrad and Ansarian (2014) synthesized previously conducted research on how poor and ineffective communication negatively affects the rate of a successful implementation of change. The authors argue that “Ineffective communication delays the process of organizational change and leads to conflicts and damaged relationships between people” (Mosadeghrad & Ansarian, 2014, p. 202). Especially the latter demonstrates the importance of clear and effective internal communication during change. The literature suggests several models or guidelines with interesting insights for conducting internal communication correctly. For example, Angelova (2016) summarized several communication channels and tools organizations can utilize during, e.g. organizational or strategic change. These channels and tools range from the use of the organization’s intranet to E-mail


and face to face communication, providing insights regarding the effectiveness together with their strengths and weaknesses (Angelova, 2016). Another study, more focused on the employee’s resistance to change, for example recommends the facilitation of employee development within internal communication. More specific, involving employees throughout the whole process of change by informing and communicating in such a way that it encourages them to actively participate (Proctor &

Doukakis, 2003). Highlighting the importance of internal communication within change management, is needed to further demonstrate how visuals may play an essential role here as they are to be considered as a form of communication (Bititci et al., 2016) which will ultimately be the main focus of this dissertation.

2.3 Visualizations

Within this dissertation, a definition of the term visualization is adopted from Bititci et al. (2016), stating that it “concerns the representation of data, information and knowledge in a graphic format which is conducive to acquiring insights, creating a vivid picture, developing an elaborate understanding or communicating experiences” (p. 1573). As visualizations can take up several forms, each with different goals and utilization purposes, for this dissertation, the periodic table elaborated by Lengler and Eppler (2007) is discussed to demonstrate this. The authors have created six categories of visualizations that can be used within management practices of the organization. The six categories together with a short explanation and some examples taken from their study is showed in Table 5.

Table 5. The six categories of visualizations. Adapted from Lengler & Eppler (2007, p. 3-4).

Data Visualization

Visual representations of quantitative data in schematic form (either with or without axes) and are mainly used for getting an overview of data.

For example: Pie Charts, Area Charts or Line Graphs Information


The use of interactive visual representations of data to amplify cognition, meaning that the data is transformed into an image; it is mapped to screen space and can be changed by users as they proceed working with it.

For example: Semantic Networks, Treemaps or Flow Chart Concept


Methods to elaborate (mostly) qualitative concepts, ideas, plans and analyses through the help of rule-guided mapping procedures.

For example: Concept Map, Grantt Chart or Mind Map

Metaphor Visualization

Effective and simple templates to convey complex insights, fulfilling a dual function. First, they position information graphically to organize and structure it. Second, they convey an insight about the represented information through the key characteristics of the metaphor that is employed.

For example: Metro Map, Story Template or Iceberg/Tree Strategy


The systematic use of complementary visual representations to improve the analysis, development, formulation, communication and implementation of strategies in organizations.

For example: Strategy Canvas or Technology Roadmap

Compound Visualization

Consists of several of the aforementioned formats. They can be complex knowledge maps that contain diagrammatic and metaphoric elements, conceptual cartoons with quantitative charts, or wall sized infomurals.

This label typically designates the complementary use of different graphic representation formats in one single schema or frame.


The purpose of discussing these six categories is to demonstrate how visualizations can take form in practice. The periodic table of visualization methods by Lengler and Eppler (2007) can be found in the appendix. This periodic table shows many more examples of visualizations used within management practices, all categorized under these six categories.

2.3.1 Usage of visualizations

There are different reasons for the usage of visuals within organizations. Eaidgah, Maki, Kurczewski and Abdekhodaee (2016) provide a couple of examples of how visualizations serve their purpose within organizations. They argue that it: simplifies flow of information, provides information at the point of use, empowers employees, facilitates continuous feedback and goal communication, increases transparency, improves discipline, creates shared ownership, promotes management by facts, boosts moral and supports continuous improvement.

Thus, the use of visualizations can have different purposes and functions, however, according to Bell and Davison (2012), there are some challenges to overcome when dealing with this subject. To give an example within the context of change, Erikson and Fundin note that using visualizations in an early stage “could also lead to a deadlock since what has been seen can never be unseen” (2018, p. 713).

Another literature review states that some studies within the existing literature on visualizations (and management) have faced criticism arguing that it has been more practical instead of empirical, adding that the subject can be used in various different contexts which scholars need to take into consideration when focusing on this subject (Tezel et al., 2016).

Although noted that the use of visuals is not without risk, mainly due to the possibility of misinterpretations and the general discussion on how to define the topic, their advantages are well acknowledged within the literature (Bititci et al., 2016). They have a positive influence on learning, improving quality of perceived information, supporting coordination between people, creating involvement and engagement, fostering overall improvement and so on (Bititci et al., 2016, Tezel et al., 2016).


When relating the usage of visualizations back to the purpose of this study, the goal is to investigate to what extent organizations are using these visuals within the process of change. Through a review of the current literature, the following information can be found. According to Goransson and Fagerholm (2017), the overall usage of visuals has been increasing over the last couple of years. These authors have concluded from their own literature review that especially during the years of 2005 till 2015, the usage of visual approaches within strategic communication has been slightly emerging. However, it is unclear whether this is the case within the change process as well, the authors do not mention this. Therefore, for the second research question, the following is explored:

RQ2: Which types of visualizations are used by organizations during the process of organizational change?

2.3.2 Visualizations as a strategic tool during change

As this dissertation has a strategic scope on the usage of visualizations, it is important to illustrate this with literature. Therefore, the study conducted by Eppler and Platts (2009) will be utilized in order to demonstrate how visualizations can have an impact on the strategic processes of an organization. These authors explicitly show how the strengths of visualizations can counter the challenges that may arise during the strategizing process. Eppler and Platts (2009) establish this through findings of the existing literature. It is interesting to name some examples, to further strengthen the argument on how visualizations can, in fact, help the strategic processes of an organization. One example the authors give is that the lack of identification with the strategy, can easily be countered by the usage of visualizations as the literature shows how it creates involvement and engagement among managers. Another example is how it sometimes is challenging to persuade employees of the strategy where here, again, visualizations prove to be ideally suited for the creation of convincing communication that has a persuasive effect on the employees (Eppler & Platts, 2009, p. 45). However, within the current body of knowledge, there is not much existing research on how visualizations may further positively help the strategic processes within an organization, especially within the context of change. Thus, this further shows the significance of this dissertation by contributing new (empirical) knowledge to this existing gap of the usage of visualizations as a strategic tool.


2.3.3 Visual Management

As Eriksson and Fundin (2018) mention in their study, visual management is not a field of its own yet, but a combination of both change management and visual communication. Therefore, one should note that visual management is thus defined as interdisciplinary. The authors emphasize on how difficult it is to find the clear connection between both within today’s literature. However, within the literature of this study, where both change management and visualizations as separate topics are discussed, a focus has been put on how these two subjects fit together. Eriksson and Fundin (2018) have created a framework, combining Kotter’s (1995) eight steps, with the use of visualizations, thus showing how both fit together and providing a solution on how these two subjects can benefit from one another. The authors mention that the framework remains a theoretical one solely, pointing to the fact that is has not yet been empirically tested. The effectiveness of this framework can only be tested in a longitudinal research, which for this dissertation, due to the limited time and resources, is not feasible.What several authors (Eriksson & Fundin, 2018, Bititci et al., 2016, Lengler & Eppler, 2007) fail to mention or describe, is to what extent organizations are already making use of visual management (i.e. using visualizations during change management), which, as mentioned before, is the purpose of this dissertation. Furthermore, the same authors (Eriksson & Fundin, 2018, Bititci et al., 2016, Lengler &

Eppler, 2007) do demonstrate the positive and important role these visualizations can play during change management. However, the question arises whether organizations are even aware of this facilitating role visualizations can play during change. Therefore, for the third research question, the following will be investigated:

RQ3: How do organizations perceive the use of visualizations during the process of organizational change?



The purpose of this chapter is to discuss the research philosophy together with the research approach and purpose. This is followed by providing the reader with information on how the empirical data for this thesis was both collected and analyzed.

3.1 Research philosophy

In order to argue for why a certain research method and strategy is chosen, the research philosophy needs to be described. This research philosophy can be referred to as “a system of beliefs and assumptions about the development of knowledge” (Saunders, Lewis & Thornhill, 2007, p. 130). When choosing a specific research philosophy, it will be based on, in this case, the assumptions the researcher makes concerning the two main approaches within of the nature of science: objectivism or subjectivism (Holden & Lynch (2004). The relation to either one of these two opposites are determined by the researcher’s assumptions on ontology, epistemology and axiology. Ontology refers to the assumptions made about the nature of reality, epistemology is about knowledge and how this is communicated to others and axiology refers to the role of the researcher’s values and ethics (Saunders et al., 2007). Within the objectivist approach, which is applied for this thesis, there are several stances the researcher can take. For this thesis, a positivistic position is taken. Thus, the researcher’s view on reality is real, external and independent (ontology), knowledge is perceived as observable and measurable facts (epistemology) and there is an objective stance on what is researched (axiology) (Saunders et al., 2007).

3.2 Research approach and purpose

There are currently three different approaches to theory development. The deductive approach, used when collecting data for the purpose of testing an existing theory, the inductive approach, used when collecting data for the exploration of a phenomenon to ultimately build or generate theory and the abductive approach, a combination of induction and deduction where one goes back and forth from testing to building theory (Saunders et al., 2007). Within this dissertation, the primary research approach is deductive. This because the research questions are created and based on the what the existing theory states, where afterwards, they are explored with empirical data.

The research purpose for this thesis is exploratory as with the collected data one tries to get a better understanding of what is researched. Here, general research issues are examined in order to narrow this down to certain specific topics/gaps to create the proposed research questions which can, if needed, be


transformed into hypotheses (Bell, Bryman & Harley, 2018). However, as the current knowledge or data on these topics is lacking testable hypotheses, the proposed research questions are to be explored only.

3.3 Research design

Because the research philosophy within this thesis is positivistic, and as its characteristics are in line with the purpose of this thesis, a quantitative research design is chosen. McCusker and Gunaydin (2014) argue, that the purpose of quantitative research is to “classify features, count them and construct statistical models in an attempt to explain what is observed” (p. 538). It is common for quantitative research to consist of the testing of hypotheses with quantifiable data, however, this is not always necessary as a great amount of quantitative research does not require those (Bell et al., 2018). In this thesis, the theory will instead act as a base for the creation of research questions which the researcher will use in order to collect this data. A quantitative research design will enable the researcher to acquire real, quantifiable data that is without biases, subjectivism or open for interpretation aspects that are apparent when using a qualitative design (Holden & Lynch (2004).

3.4 Data collection

The collected data within this study consists of both primary and secondary data. The dissertation starts off with a review of secondary data, this being the literature collected from other research. Hereafter, empirical data (primary), is collected and analyzed together with the literature (secondary). When collecting both types of data, some precautions or measures have to be kept in mind during this whole process.

3.4.1 Primary data

For the collection of primary data, a self-completion questionnaire was created. This ultimately means that respondents will answer questions by completing the questionnaire by themselves, without guidance or additional information provided by the researcher (Bell et al., 2018). This collection method was chosen as these self-completion questionnaires have several advantages that are especially relevant for this thesis. These advantages are: less open questions, easy to follow design, lower risk of ‘respondent fatigue’, quick to administer, cheap or costless and convenient for respondents (Bell et al., 2018).

This questionnaire is web-based as this proves to be both an efficient and also an effective data collection method (Cooper, Cooper, del Junco, Shipp, Whitworth & Cooper, 2006). The online survey tool provided by Esurv was used for this thesis. After the data collection was completed, the responses can easily be exported to IBM SPSS Statistics 25 and MS Excel, which are the two programs in which this data was further analyzed. When attempting to collect data, among the specified population, the


respondents were first contacted by phone. Afterwards, after agreeing to participate in the research, an e-mail was sent containing a link to the web-based survey. In the case of incompletion of the respondent, another e-mail was sent to remind the respondent. However, due to the low response rate this collection method yielded another approach was chosen. Through social media (i.e. LinkedIn and Facebook), the survey was sent to and posted in specific groups containing respondents of the specified population.

This way, the approach is still personal yet reaches much more respondents of the population. The total reach of distributing this survey on social media has been around 50.000. To raise the number of respondents, a short introduction about the researcher was given in order to make it more personal and so that the respondents knew the purpose and reasoning behind this survey.

3.4.2 Secondary data

The review of the literature counts as the secondary data that was collected. All articles that are referred to in the references fall under this topic. Within the literature review, not only has the theory been used or examined in order to come up with certain research questions, but their primary data has been analyzed as well. Here, it is very important to note whether this data is suitable for this research. Meaning that the aim, of this secondary data must be looked at closely, as it may differ from the one this study has (Johnston, 2017). Second, the year of publication of the secondary data has to be inspected as well.

Old articles may have theoretical significance, however, their empirical data may very well be outdated and therefore should be taken into consideration when utilizing this (Johnston, 2017). Therefore, when an (old) article is mentioned or referred to within this dissertation, the author has examined the findings/theory with a critical eye, making sure that assessments are made as objective as possible.

3.5 Survey design

This thesis and survey is focused on and administered for the Netherlands alone. Therefore, in order get more truthful and overall clearer responses, the questionnaire together with all communication with the respondents (i.e. organizations) was in Dutch. Therefore, as English is not regarded as a first language by respondents within the population, translating the questionnaire will minimize the possibility of misinterpretations or language-barriers. All phone conversations or overall communication with the respondents was done without giving any precautions, information or other instructions, thus avoiding the data-collector effect on the results. Furthermore, the length of the survey was kept as short as possible in order to make sure no respondents quit during the completion.


At the start of the survey, three questions were asked concerning the organization the respondent works for/owns. In Table 6, the questions are shown in both English and Dutch (actual language used for the survey) to show their similarity. Here, the function title, number of employees (persons working for organization), and number of outlets/stores are the different variables. These can later be used for the analysis in order to make distinctions in e.g. size. As for the specific design for the survey, the questionnaire is divided into three separate parts that each have different purposes.

Table 6. Survey questions regarding the organization.

General information about the respondent/organization.

What is your function title? Wat is uw functietitel?

How many employees does your organization have in

The Netherlands? Hoeveel werknemers (aantal personen) telt uw

organisatie binnen Nederland (ongeveer)?

How many stores/outlets does your organization have in The Netherlands?

Hoeveel vestigingen/winkels telt uw organisatie binnen Nederland (ongeveer)?

In the first part, three questions (see Table 7) are created to explore the first research question regarding the successfulness of change efforts within organizations. Here, one general question regarding the creation of plans during change is asked. This is continued by two statements, that were inspired by the theory in order to examine whether these change efforts are successful and whether the created plans are followed. For the two statements a 5-point Likert scale was utilized ranging from ‘strongly disagree’

to ‘strongly agree’. In addition, an ‘I don’t know/No opinion’ option was added in order to give respondents the freedom to not answer if they did not want to.

Table 7. Survey questions regarding the successfulness of change efforts.

Part 1: Setting the framework on change

When change occurs in your organization, is there a specific plan created?

Wanneer uw organisatie te maken krijgt met

verandering, wordt hier dan een specifiek plan/traject voor opgesteld?

To what extent do you agree with following statement?

~ When change occurs in my organization, the process of implementation always ends successfully. ~

In hoeverre bent u het eens met de volgende stelling?

~ Wanneer mijn organisatie te maken krijgt met verandering, eindigt dit altijd in een succes. ~ To what extent do you agree with following statement?

~ When change occurs in my organization, everything always goes according to plan. ~

In hoeverre bent u het eens met de volgende stelling?

~ Wanneer verandering zich voordoet binnen mijn organisatie, loopt alles altijd volgens plan. ~

In the second part, the usage of visualizations is measured, which can, in turn, be linked to the second research question. For this part, the different types/categories established by Lengler & Eppler (2007), are utilized. As mentioned in the theory, there are six different types of visualizations. However, the last type, compound visualizations, is left out of the survey. This because they are not as distinct as the others and it proves very difficult to portray or distinguish this one towards the respondents. Therefore, for the survey, the number is decreased to five types. At the beginning of this part of the survey, respondents


were provided with a short introduction to the concept of visualizations. Furthermore, some actual examples, put in a business context, of the specific type of visualizations were provided to further exemplify what each type entails (see appendix for the full questionnaire). This enables transparency in regards to how many types there are and gives respondents an indication of how long the questionnaire lasts. Furthermore, it is better for the flow of the survey, as it will be easier for the respondent to understand what is asked of them. For each type (see Table 8), respondents were first asked whether their organization makes use of this type, for which they can give a yes/no answer. Afterwards, respondents were asked how often their organization makes use of this type. In order to measure the frequency, a 5-point Likert scale is used ranging from ‘always’ to ‘never’. For both questions, again, an

‘I don’t know’ option was added to make sure respondents are not forced to answer something when they are not aware.

Table 8. Survey questions regarding the usage of visualizations during change.

Part 2: Adding visualizations as a strategic tool for change

Does your organization make use [Type] visualizations

during change? Gebruikt uw organisatie wel eens [Type] visuals tijdens

een verandertraject?

How often does your organization make use of [Type]

visualizations during change?

Hoe vaak gebruikt uw organisatie [Type] visuals tijdens een verandertraject?

What is important to note here is that for each type, a short but clear description was provided to explain what that specific type entails, together with some examples and actual visual representations of these examples. This was done with the purpose of making sure that each respondent fully understands the differences between each type and how they may be used in practice. The examples were therefore created specifically for this survey and were deliberately set in a business setting. In the appendix the whole survey can be found, containing the examples that were used to explain the different types.




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