Openness to change: The vital component of organisational change

Openness to change


Openness to change: Definition and explanation

Openness to change refers to an individual’s level of acceptance and conscious awareness of the possibility that change may be needed across a range of situations and scenarios, together with the appetite or drive to enact that change.

The main components of openness to change 1,2,4 are:

  1. Acceptance of the need for change
  2. Willingness to support the change
  3. Positive affect or emotions towards either the change or the potential consequences of the change
  4. An appetite or drive to enact or be involved in the change

These are seen as a “necessary initial condition for successful planned change”1 (p. 60)

The 3 openness to change factors

The 3 factors that shape someone’s openness to change3

  1. Content
  2. Context
  3. Process

5 predictors of openness to change

There are considered to be 5 predictors of the level of openness to change an individual has4:

  1. The perception of threat the change presents to the individual (content related)
  2. The level of trust an individual has in the organisation/people around them or the management / leadership to handle the change well (context related)
  3. The level of trust the individual has in their immediate manager or other immediate entity (for example the board or share holders if there are the individual reports to immediately (context related)
  4. The individual’s experience or history of previous change events (context related), and
  5. The level of participation or sense of control an individual perceives they have in the change effort and direction (process related)

Upper Echelon Theory6

Previous research has found that openness to change is largely based on an individuals7:

  1. World view or beliefs – in other words their perceptions, comprehension, and interpretation of the world
  2. Values
  3. Personality

Openness to change is becoming a key trait of interest,, particularly for leaders, and has recently become a primary focus for researchers in the areas of organisational development, organisational change and the areas of human capital and the key traits for successful organisational employees and leaders.

The Role of Uncertainty

It has been found that leaders exert the most influence on change when the environment is particularly uncertain 5

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  1. Miller, V. D., Johnson, J. R., & Grau, J. (1994). Antecedents to willingness to participate in a planned organizational change. Journal of Applied Communication Research, 22, 59–80.
  2. Wanberg, C. R., & Banas, J. T. (2000). Predictors and outcomes of openness to changes in a reorganizing workplace. Journal of Applied Psychology, 85, 132–142.

  3. Armenakis, A., & Bedeian, A. G. (1999). Organizational change: A review of theory and research in the 1990s. Journal of Management, 25, 293–315.
  4. Devos, G., Buelens, M., & Bouckenooghe, D. (2007). Contribution of content, context, and process to understanding openness to organizational change: Two experimental simulation studies. The Journal of social psychology, 147(6), 607-630.
  5. Waldman DA, Ramírez GG, House RJ, Puranam P. Does leadership matter? CEO leadership attributes and profitability under conditions of perceived environmental uncertainty. Acad Manage J (2001) 44(1):134–43.10.2307/3069341
  6. Jadhav, E. D., Holsinger Jr, J. W., & Fardo, D. W. (2015). Openness to change: experiential and demographic components of change in local health department leaders. Frontiers in public health, 3.
  7. Aronson E, Wilson TD, Akert RM. Social Psychology, 6/E [Internet]. 6th ed. Santa Cruz, CA: University of California; (2006) [cited 2013 Nov 25]

The Levels of Organisational Development

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