• catastrophe theory;
  • organization;
  • organizational change;
  • organizational practice;
  • pressure for change;
  • resistance to change


Change in an organizational practice may occur rapidly or slowly. Social scientists have paid little attention to rates of social change; yet the rate of an organizational change can be as important for an organization as its content. Drawing on catastrophe theory, a “cusp catastrophe” model of organizational change is developed deductively. This model relates an organization's choice of practice to the degree of pressure for change and resistance to change. Five conditions are identified which must be met in order for the model to hold. Two general ways of using the model are suggested: working within the model to affect the incidence and rapidity of change, and influencing the conditions upon which the model rests to produce alternative change dynamics. Methods of empirically testing the model and the applicability of the model to other system levels are considered.