Title page for ETD etd-06212005-082736

Document Type Master's Dissertation
Author Du Toit, Gysbert Petrus
Email gys.dutoit@sasol.com
URN etd-06212005-082736
Document Title Cognitive complexity’s influence on information needs in change
Degree MCom (Human Resources Management)
Department Human Resource Management
Advisor Name Title
Prof H E Brand Committee Chair
  • no keywords available
Date 2004-12-03
Availability unrestricted
1. Problem and Objective

Communication and provision of information are often sited as essential aspects in change management. Addressing individual needs is a challenge when a change initiative affects various people. A considerable challenge is also to address individual needs on a micro level, while manage change on a macro level.

The integrative theory that endeavours to address organisational levels of work, while also focusing on individuals, is referred to as requisite organisational theory. Elliot Jaques’ theory is known by various names, like: the Requisite Organisation (RO), Stratified Systems Theory (SST) or the levels of work (LoW). The human aspect in RO theory, that matches a person to the ability to function in complexity and work, is based on the innate mental ability to organise information. This ability is also referred to as cognitive complexity. There is consequently a theory that explains micro and macro dynamics, while considering people’s natural ability to deal with information. This posed the opportunity to investigate the theory’s practical application in organisational change.

The objective of this research is consequently to determine cognitive complexity’s influence on information needs in change.

2. Theoretical Investigation

The theoretical investigation ranges from detail in the cognitive complexity section of the literature study to a broad scope in the information and change sections. Writings on change abounds, ranging between practice and theory. The literature study focuses on understanding concepts of cognitive complexity, but it is easier comprehensible when understood in terms of a unified theory in the human resources discipline.

3. Qualitative Research Investigation

This study utilised the theoretical and validated research background which is currently practically applied in organisations by assessment methods like Career Path Appreciation (CPA) and the Initial Recruitment Interview Schedule (IRIS).

The investigation was of an explorative, qualitative nature. Focus groups with similar cognitive complexity profiles were selected. Profiles were obtained from a database in which individuals were assessed by CPA or IRIS. It was possible to conduct eight focus group sessions in three geographical regions.

Data was generated by transcription of the focus group sessions as well as the written responses from the participants. Concepts were identified from the sessions. Concepts were clustered, until four primary groups emerged from the main clusters.

4. Conclusion

Information needs, encompasses much more than information flow. There is a hierarchy of information needs, that changes according to the application areas of people capable of increasing cognitive capability.

A general framework of people’s needs for information during change was constructed during this research. Four building blocks form the basis of people’s information needs. The building blocs are: information flow, people considerations, change implementation, and context.

People have much in common concerning information needs, irrespective of cognitive complexity. Cognitive complexity has an influence on people’s needs for information during change. There are variations in importance of information needs to individuals in the model, according to levels of cognitive complexity. The different strata of cognitive complexity, correspond to theory that describes different levels of work. This is in accordance to principles of a requisite organisation. It is evident that the shift in areas of importance in the needs for information, is related to the intended use of the information.

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