A Definition and Implementation of Organizational Change

Sections of this topic

    Organizational Change Unveiled: Definition and Implementation

    Every now and then I gift myself with the luxury of time available for reflection, and I “mine” my own learning of what existed. What made that effort a successful change process? Why did that one and that one work well? First of all, my experience is that organizational development work is a very fragile enterprise.

    • People run out of energy
    • Key executives change positions
    • Consultants burn out from their constant marginality
    • Timing is everything: Marv Weisbord talks about “harvesting” as a stage of readiness.
    • LUCK often plays a large role.

    Patterns in The Process

    So in this fragile endeavor, there are patterns, which I have experienced, which are repeatable and above all very cyclical. And they are all combinations of action and learning. See the model, “Definition and Implementation of Organizational Change.”

    To work with a client you have to develop an inquiry relationship, together you have to be able to diagnose the situation and look at alternatives. All of this work comes down to the consulting relationship and our ability to build a mutual and collective capacity to inquiry: into individual, group, and organizational conditions requiring the focus and attention of the work. This joint inquiry results in a vision, a sense of what the leadership feels it needs to do.

    Learning It By Doing It

    The vision is the trigger of the Design and Start Up phase. When leaders start to publicize their vision they discover the implications of the change and as they discuss these, there are additional values that get clarified and the vision has to clearly define the intent of the effort.

    As the leadership group starts to involve others, the focus shifts to Evolving the Intervention Strategy. I always talk about this as “the trip planned” and “the trip taken”- there are always differences between what I expect and how we need to capitalize at the moment to shift an understanding of what might be needed to support the change. When we are clear about this we move forward with the design into Implementation, we execute the process, we do it and we learn and adjust the change and only then does the momentum change from cycling backward in feedback loops, to moving forward and looking downstream.

    Adjustments Along The Way

    As I experience this I have learned that through each of these phases, we see ourselves and others and the problem before us in different ways as we move through the change process. It is the inquiry relationship that is the foundation of the work that follows. Who has done serious inquiry and not come out changed? Through this, we learn to see things we had not previously appreciated and we realize that much of what we thought we knew was based on assumptions, which I now see. There is no going back from that. If done well, it provides the courage to begin the design and start-up of a needed constructive effort, which involves influencing others in system change.

    What do you think?


    For more resources, see the Library topics Consulting and Organizational Development.


    Jim Smith has over 40 years of organization development experience in a wide range of organizations. He can be reached at  ChangeAgents@gmail.com