Change Interventions

Change Interventions

BUS 370 Organizational Development

First and Second Order Change

Change is a process, it is the movement away from its present state towards a future state . Change can be both planned or unexpected. It can be temporary or permanent. It can be large or even small and its impact can be huge or even very minor. There are several ways to manage change, but before you can manage it, you must know what type of change it is. When it comes to organizational development, there are two types of change, first and second order change. First order change is when there is a change within a process or system, second order change is when there is a new process or system implemented .

First Order Change

First order change is considered easy to implement and it may be easily reversible. It is simply altering frequency, intensity or duration of the current behaviors. These may be small changes implemented at a personal level. It is expected that when a group of people collectively make small changes or improvements, the larger group becomes better as a whole .

First order change happens often, a good example would be for a sales team. Sales teams have budgets, targets and stretch goals. If the sales of a product are low for the month, management may put more pressure on selling those products, possibly even create incentives around improvement. Business is still business, there is no earth-shattering change, just simply a shift in focus. An individual can also implement a first order change. For example, sales is truly a numbers game. If you pitch your product to enough people, you are bound to get someone to buy. It’s the law of the harvest, you reap what you sow. With that being said, if a sales rep is not satisfied with a 1 in 10 sales ratio, they may implement minor changes to their sales process. They may take a little extra time building a positive relationship with their potential customers, earning trust and creating value. Again, nothing mind blowing, just small changes to a process that is already in place.

Second Order Change

Second order change is a change in which alters ways of thinking, different processes and new behaviors. The fundamentals are different, the approach is different, and it requires training and adjustment . Second order change is a radical change, there is no going back, it is permanent, this is a change to the core. It introduces new structures and new principles .

Second order change doesn’t happen nearly as often, it is a because change with a potential big impact. Vision and culture both change through the process. A good example would be with the same sales team. If the sales team has been built and focused on selling one or two particular products and the company decides to change direction with the products they offer, this would be considered a second order change. A commission structure for the new product would need to be developed, the sales professionals would need to go through training on what the product is, how it benefits the consumer, and how to position it to sell it.


First order and second order change have one thing in common and that is they represent change. The differences are pretty drastic, they simply measure the magnitude of the change. Whether it is a simple and possibly temporary or adjustment, or if it is dumping everything you know and approaching how you do business in a completely different way. To successfully manage change, it is important to identify whether it is a first order or a second order change, this will help identify the magnitude and the impact of the considered change.

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