Content matters: An alternative view on organisational change

Sijko J. Wierenga*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


This case study shows how the content of a change initiative can be used to predict the extent to which this initiative will activate the learning process of employees and, consequently, cause them to change their working methods. The object of this case study is a school for secondary education in The Netherlands. Its management team wants to improve school results and has formulated the content of the change as an elaboration of the ideology of professionalism. Both the change content and the employees’ cognitions are analysed by means of a mixed-method approach that is based on notions and techniques of cognitive anthropology. The results show that the envisioned change lacks cognitive relevance, as a result of which a change of working practice is not likely to occur, a conclusion that is claimed to be valid for organisational change processes more generally. This paper concludes that an analysis of the cognitive relevance of the content of a change enhances the quality of the predictions of success or failure of organisational change in concrete cases, and can be used alongside more conventional change approaches that focus on processual factors.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)590-608
Number of pages19
JournalInternational journal of learning and change
Issue number6
Early online date27 Oct 2021
Publication statusPublished - 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Inderscience Enterprises Ltd.


  • Cognitive anthropology
  • Educational change
  • NPM
  • Organisational change
  • Professionalism
  • Working practices


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