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Abstract

Managers recognize change as their number one challenge with the vast majority of their initiatives ending in failure. Managers of small organizations are particularly challenged because these organizations have limited resources and they are particularly vulnerable to environmental dynamics. Against this backdrop, we conducted a qualitative, longitudinal study into a small organization that struggled with strategic change over a seven-year period. We draw on concepts from Actor Network Theory to reveal the importance of effective, conscious, and proactive networking with internal stakeholders and with the powerful, external players upon which small organizations depend. This perspective also emphasizes that managers must pay attention to influential, non-human actors such as optimistic budgets, alluring drawings and pictures, persuasive presentation materials, and attractive spaces and buildings that operate very subtlety to frustrate or support change efforts. We conclude by proposing a model for strategic change in small organizations that focuses on aligning the interests of internal and external actors through comprehensive networking, triggered by destabilizing tensions, and affected both adversely and positively by powerful non-human actors.