Creating a Colorful Model of Change: Reflection on Developing a Theory as Scholar-Practitioners

Hans Vermaak*, Léon de Caluwé

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


This article describes how a meta-theory of change, now referred to as the “color model,” was developed over a period of two decades. We look back to better understand how one creative idea took on many manifestations and is now a widely used theory. We identify three distinct periods of development: inception, storming and norming, and maturity. In each of these periods, we discern a similar pattern of activities, in line with Smith and Hitt’s four-stage model of theory development: tension, searching, elaboration, and proclamation. The case illustrates the journey was spurred on by breakdowns in meaning, influenced by context and serendipity, and shaped by incremental elaboration. As academic practitioners, we discuss how our position in the field affected the way we approach theory development. We conclude the article with a discussion on the downside of originality.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)225-239
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Management Inquiry
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2017


  • change management
  • organizational development
  • qualitative research

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