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From nuclear grief to wind growth: A stages-of-grief model of organizational change in the German utility industry

abstract The Fukushima nuclear accident in 2011 once more underlined the need for fundamental changes in the energy system. In Germany, this change started already in the late 1990s with a new energy policy and challenged the strategies of large organizations in the utility sector. In this paper, we propose a conceptual framework based on Elisabeth Kübler-Ross’ (1969) stages-of-grief model. We argue that, similar to the five stages of grief identified when people mourn the death of their loved ones, organizations that are deprived of the basis of their corporate strategy built around fossil and nuclear power generation undergo different stages of grief. Based on a document analysis of industry association publications, we identify how corporate reactions change from denial to anger, followed by bargaining and depression, before finally reaching the stage of acceptance. The proposed model can explain why organizations exhibit different behaviors over time in the face of a fundamentally changing environment. Moving beyond purely rational explanations, “nuclear grief” can improve our understanding of organizational responses to disruptive change. Our paper also has important policy implications, in that it helps policy makers to better understand the different stages through which an organization has to go, and allows for stage-specific interventions that may support firms in coming to terms with the loss of their previous strategy, and embracing the new opportunities created by renewable energy.
   
keywords Renewable Energies, Strategic Management, Stages of Grief, Institutional Theory, Lobbyism, Utility Firms, Content Analysis, Decision-Making
   
partner
type dissertation project
status ongoing
start of project 2011
end of project 2012
additional informations
topics Renewable Energies, Strategic Management, Stages of Grief, Institutional Theory, Lobbyism, Utility Firms, Content Analysis, Decision-Making
methods Content Analysis
contact Elmar Friedrich