A study of large organizational change projects was done in 228 private and public sector firms across Norway to examine the causes and consequences of renewal efforts and the strategies used by firm level management and union leaders to involve the workforce in the planning, design and execution of change. The research focus was on management's choice of different forms of worker participation and their effects on the project outcomes. Data came from structured interviews with the top manager and an elected employee representative in each firm.
The results showed that most major changes occurred in organizational structures and administration, undertaken primarily to increase efficiency and as a response to financial difficulties. In the private sector, the planning and design phases of change projects were dominated by top management, with very little involvement by non-managerial employees. Public sector employees played a larger role in the early phases of the projects, mostly through their elected representatives in legally prescribed forums. In both the private and public sector, there was more worker participation in the execution of change, both through elected representatives and more direct worker involvement of an ad hoc, firm-specific, nature.
Neither the extent nor form of participation contributed to the success of the change projects. Instead, the project outcomes were primarily a function of external pressures experienced by the organization, the importance of renewal for organizational survival, and the flexibility of management and labor to accommodate to change. Resistance to change did not decrease as a function of worker participation, but it was influenced by the degree of labor-management agreement in the firm.