The literature on planned organizational change contains numerous theories and models proposed and many references to success and failure rates and factors. However, the literature does not currently provide a synthesized body of evidence on such rates and factors and the effectiveness of specific models. The literature was reviewed to provide a brief historical overview of organizational change, evidence on change success and failure rates and factors, and an overview of contingency and paradox theories which provided the theoretical underpinnings for the study. This study provided a meta-ethnographic synthesis of 298 articles reporting qualitative case studies of planned organizational change published in English in peer-reviewed journals from January 2000 through June 2016. The articles represent planned change initiatives in 497 organizations. Reports of change leaders and participants were viewed as first order constructs. Interpretations of case study researchers were considered to be second order constructs. The interpretations resulting from translation and analysis of the content identified as part of an a priori coding framework process developed based on the pilot study and a review of existing change literature were considered to be third order constructs/themes. The research questions focused on meta-findings, meta-methods, and meta-theories. Meta-Findings: 1. What is the evidence for success and failure rates in planned organizational change?, 2. What is the evidence for success factors in planned organizational change?, 3. What is the evidence for failure factors in planned organizational change?; Meta-Methods: 4. Are change process models used in the practice of planned change?, 5. How are change process models used in the practice of planned change?, 6. What additional themes emerge through interpretation of studies of implementation of planned change processes?; Meta-Theories: 7. What theories are used in the study of planned organizational change?, 8. Are contingency and paradox theories used and/or present and relevant in the study of planned organizational change? Findings identified a success rate of 67% and a failure rate of 24% with some studies reporting mixed results or no conclusions regarding success or failure. The most frequently noted success factors were top management support, communication, employee involvement, quick wins, and vision. The most frequently noted failure factors were culture shift issues, lack of buy in, no strategies to address barriers to change, no awareness of barriers to change, negative reactions of change recipients, and absent or ineffective communication. Rarely did practitioners use or researchers encourage use of planned change process models. Components of existing planned change process models were recognized in planned organizational change, even though a specific model was not identified. The most frequently used theories were change, change management, identity, discourse, learning, culture, and leadership. Contingency and paradox theories are meta-theories that underlie other change theory bases used.

Date of publication

Fall 10-17-2019

Document Type




Persistent identifier


Committee members

Andrea D. Ellinger, Ph.D., Rochell R. McWhorter, Ph.D., Russ Vince. Ph.D.


Doctor of Philosophy in Human Resource Development

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