We draw on the grounded theory methodology to analyze an automation project in a global parcel delivery company, as implemented in three parcel sorting hubs in two countries, seeking to identify key factors in successful change and the role of the change leader. We show that a crucial—but often neglected—aspect of successful change is the detection and management of tensions stemming from uncertainty. By recognizing and managing uncertainty and tensions (in this case, manual vs. automated, corporate vs. site, and planned vs. emergent), the change leader, here the industrial engineering function, can orchestrate the differing views and expectations of corporate actors toward a successful implementation of a change program. In line with recent theories on paradoxes and tensions in organizational change, our empirical outcomes imply that effective leadership of change requires the conscious acceptance of uncertainty and tensions between opposite options in key decision areas.
- Organizational change