Improving Organizations: Guidelines, Methods and Resources for Organizational Change Agents

Sections of this topic

    Improving/Changing Organizations: Guidelines, Methods and Resources for Organizational
    Change Agents

    Much of the content
    of this topic came from this book:
    Consulting and Organization Development - Book Cover

    Suggested Pre-Reading

    Performance Management

    Sections of This Topic Include

    Overview of Organizational Change

    Understanding the Nature of Organizational Change
    Major Types of Organizational Change
    Why Change Can Be Difficult to Accomplish
    Requirements for Successful Organizational Change
    Various Organizational Change Models
    Major Roles During Successful Organizational Change
    Do Most Organizational Change Efforts Fail?

    Undergoing Organizational Change

    Collaborative Consulting Skills for Accomplishing Significant
    How to Choose Which Strategies (Interventions) to
    Use for Change

    Categories of Possible Strategies (Interventions)
    to Use for Change

    – – – Human Process Interventions (Group and Individual
    Human Relations)

    – – – Technostructural Interventions (Structures, Technologies,
    Positions, etc.)

    – – – Human Resource Management Interventions (Individual
    and Groups

    – – – Strategic Interventions (Organization and Its External
    Implementing Strategies for Organizational Change
    — Finish Phases in Consulting

    General Resources

    Additional Perspectives on Change
    Also See These Closely Related Topics
    of the Field of Organization Development

    General Resources
    – – – Service Organizations Focused on Organizational
    Change and Development

    – – – Online Groups
    – – – Toolkits, Etc.
    – – – Bibliographies of Books About Change Management


    (Be sure to read the description in Organizational
    Performance Management
    to understand where organizational change typically
    fits into the cycle of activities in ensuring strong performance in an organization.)

    Organizations are rapidly changing like never before. Numerous driving forces
    are causing these changes, including increasing markets and associated competition,
    increasing expectations of transparency and accountability, and an increasingly
    diverse workforce.

    As a result, leaders and managers are having to learn about guiding and supporting
    significant change within their own organizations. It is difficult to find a
    management book today that does not include the topic of change.

    The purpose of the first section in this topic is to give you a broad overview
    of organizational change so that you will have a meaningful context in which
    to undergo your own change efforts. The next section is more of a “how
    to” in understanding how to plan and implement a change effort.

    However, that new information will not evolve into actual knowledge and skills
    unless you continue to practice applying it. That next section refers to a process
    called collaborative consulting that has been proven to be successful in guiding
    and supporting others to successfully implement systems for long-lasting, successful


    Understanding the Nature of Organizational

    What is a Change Agent?

    A change agent is the person or team who’s currently responsible for the overall
    change effort. It could be different people at different times during the change.
    For example, it could be a champion for change who encourages the change. Then
    it could be an expert on change who plans the change. Then it could be the leader
    in the organization who drives the change.

    Clearing Up Terms and Language About
    Organizational Change and Development

    There are several phrases regarding organizational change and development that
    look and sound a lot alike, but have different meanings. As a result, there
    seems to be increasingly different interpretations of some of the phrases, while
    others are used interchangeably. Without at least some sense of the differences,
    communications about organizational change and development can be confusing
    and frustrating.
    Cleaning Up the Language About Organizational
    Change and Development

    Why the Word “Change” is Heard So Often

    See a video
    about various driving forces causing major changes in organizations, including
    in their cultures and structures, and in how they are governed, led and managed.
    This affects consultants, as well. From the Consultants
    Development Institute

    Many people argue that organizations are changing like never before. Some of
    those changes are planned to be accomplished over a long period. However, organizational
    change is often provoked by some major driving force, for example, a public
    relations crisis, sudden opportunity in markets, dramatic reduction in profits or
    new Chief Executive Officer with a very different leadership style.

    The subject of organizational change has reached evangelical proportions. There
    is seemingly an explosion of literature about the subject and an accompanying
    explosion in the amount of consultants who offer services in this general area.

    See a video
    about language about change, types of change, barriers to change, overcoming
    barriers, phases in change, priorities in each phase and models for change.
    From the Consultants
    Development Institute

    When people struggle to accomplish successful organizational change –
    whether in for-profit, nonprofit or government organizations – it is often
    because they do not understand the nature of organizational change, types of
    change, barriers to change, how to overcome the barriers, major phases in proceeding
    through change, various models for planning and guiding change, and types of
    approaches (interventions) to implement successful change. That is the focus
    of this topic in this Library.

    Factors of Change
    That May Cause Change in an Organization

    That May Cause Change in an Organization: Planned and Unplanned

    Reasons Why Organizations Need to Change

    Major Types of Organizational Change

    Organizational change can seem like such a vague phenomena unless you can think
    of change in terms of the various types of change. There are different types,
    including the scope, pace, urgency and style of the planning for change.

    Organization-wide Versus Subsystem Change

    Examples of organization-wide change are an organizational redesign and change
    in overall strategies. Experts assert that successful organization-wide change
    requires a change in culture – cultural change is another example of organization-wide
    change. Those examples change the entire organizational system.

    Organizations have many subsystems, as well. Examples of a change in a subsystem
    include removal or addition of a product or service and reorganization of a
    certain department.

    Transformational Versus
    Incremental Change

    Transformational change is a radical and fundamental shift in the way the entire
    organization operates. Transformational change is sometimes referred to as quantum
    change. An example is changing the culture from the traditional top-down, hierarchical
    style of leadership to a network of self-directing teams. Another example is
    using Business Process Re-engineering to take apart all the parts of the organization
    and then put them back together in a more optimal fashion.

    In contrast, incremental change is making small adjustments over time to improve
    the performance of the organization usually by increasing efficiencies in various
    processes, such as in refining product development and delivery and in reducing
    labor costs through attrition.

    Remedial Versus Developmental Change

    Change can be intended to remedy a current situation, for example, to improve
    the poor performance of a product, reduce burnout in the workplace, become much
    more proactive and less reactive, or address large budget deficits. Remedial
    projects often seem quite focused and urgent because they are addressing a current,
    major problem. It is often easier to determine the success of these projects
    because the problem has been solved or not.

    Change also can be developmental – to make a successful situation even
    better, for example, to expand the amount of customers served or duplicate successful
    products and services. Developmental projects can seem more diffuse and long-term,
    depending on how specific and important the goals are for the change.

    Unplanned Versus Planned Change

    Unplanned change can happen when a sudden crisis occurs in the organization
    that can cause its members to respond in a highly reactive and disorganized
    fashion. Examples are when the Chief Executive Officer suddenly leaves the organization
    or a significant public relations problem occurs.

    Planned change occurs when leaders in the organization recognize the need for
    a major change and proactively organize a plan to accomplish the change. Examples
    are strategic planning that is focused on truly strategic topics and succession
    planning for key leaders in the organization.

    Additional Perspectives

    Types of
    Organizational Change
    Three Shades of Change

    With Type I Change

    Type II Change

    Why Change Can Be Difficult to Accomplish

    Change can be difficult for you and your client to accomplish for a variety
    of reasons.

    • People are afraid of the unknown. They communicate their
      fear through direct means, such as complaining about the plans for change.
      Or, they communicate their fear indirectly, for example, coming late to meetings
      and not taking agreed-upon actions.
    • People think things are just fine. This might occur if
      the executives in the organization have not adequately communicated the need
      for the change.
    • People are inherently cynical about change. This cynicism
      often occurs if earlier attempts at change were unsuccessful and it was not
      admitted to the employees.
    • People doubt there are effective means to accomplish successful
      They may have read publications in which writers assert that
      most organizational change efforts fail.
    • There may be conflicting goals in the organizational change effort.
      A conflicting goal might be, for example, to significantly increase
      resources to accomplish change, yet substantially cut costs to remain viable.
      That conflict can occur, especially if employees were not involved in the
      plans for the change.
    • Change often goes against values held dear by members in the organization.
      For example, they might disagree that the organization should maximize profits
      more than contribute to their community. This situation is not uncommon, particularly
      in nonprofit organizations.
    • People get burned out during the change effort. Organizational
      change usually takes longer to achieve than most people expect. This problem
      can occur if the question “Is this realistic?” was not continually
      asked and if an insufficient number of staff were not involved in the planning.
    • Key leaders leave the organization. Especially in smaller
      organizations or organizations with very limited resources, leaders might
      not believe they are receiving sufficient value for what they are investing
      in the organization. They might conclude that it is better to just leave.
      Or, the change may not be going as expected, and the leaders are asked to
    • Participants do not understand the nature of planned change.
      Frequently, participants expect the change to be according to a well-designed,
      well-organized effort that has few surprises. When surprises do occur, they
      lose faith in the change effort and seek to abandon it.
    • The relationship between the consultant and the client “sours.”
      The relationship can deteriorate, especially if the client does not want to
      change or if the project struggles because of one or more of the above-listed
      barriers to change.

    You can overcome many of those barriers if your consulting project meets the
    requirements for successful change listed below.

    Requirements for Successful Organizational

    Cummings and Worley, in their book Organizational Change and Development
    (Fifth Edition, West Publishing, 1993), describe a comprehensive, five-phase,
    general process for managing change, including: 1) motivating change, 2) creating
    vision, 3) developing political support, 4) managing the transition and 5) sustaining
    momentum. That process seems suitable for organizing and describing general
    guidelines about managing change.

    Whatever model you choose to use when guiding organizational change, that model
    should include the priorities and areas of emphasis described in the following
    five phases of change.

    Motivating Change

    This phase includes creating a readiness for change in your client’s organization
    and developing approaches to overcome resistance to change. General guidelines
    for managing this phase include enlightening members of the organization about
    the need for change, expressing the current status of the organization and where
    it needs to be in the future, and developing realistic approaches about how
    change might be accomplished.

    Next, organization leaders need to recognize that people in the organization
    are likely to resist making major changes for a variety of reasons, including
    fear of the unknown, inadequacy to deal with the change and whether the change
    will result in adverse effects on their jobs. People need to feel that their
    concerns are being heard. Leaders must widely communicate the need for the change
    and how the change can be accomplished successfully. Leaders must listen to
    the employees – people need to feel that the approach to change will include
    their strong input and ongoing involvement.

    Creating Vision

    Leaders in the organization must articulate a clear vision that describes what
    the change effort will accomplish. It should readily convey the benefits to
    the employees, as well. Ideally, people in the organization have strong input
    to the creation of the vision and how it can be achieved. It is critically important
    that people believe that the vision is relevant and realistic.

    Research indicates that cynicism is increasing in organizations in regard to
    change efforts. People do not want their leaders to promote an idealized vision
    that will completely turn the organization around and make things better for
    everyone all the time. They want to feel respected enough by their leaders to
    be involved and to work toward a vision that is realistic, yet promising
    and rewarding in the long run.

    Developing Political Support

    This phase of change management is often overlooked, yet it is the phase that
    often stops successful change from occurring. Politics in organizations is about
    power. Power is important among members of the organization when striving for
    the resources and influence necessary to successfully carry out their jobs.
    Power is also important when striving to implement a plan in which everyone
    is involved. Power comes from the authority of one’s position in the organization.
    Power also comes from credibility, whether from strong expertise or integrity.

    Some people have a strong negative reaction when talking about power because
    power too often is associated with negative applications, for example, manipulation,
    abuse or harassment. However, power exists in all human interactions and is
    not always bad. It is how the power is used that determines how the power is

    A strong mechanism for ensuring political support for the change effort is
    to develop a network of leaders at various levels who interact and count on
    each other to support and guide the change effort. Means to do that can include
    ensuring that all power-players are involved in recognizing the need for change,
    developing the vision and methods to achieve the vision, and maintaining organization-wide
    communications about the status of change. Any recommendations or concerns expressed
    by members to the leaders must be promptly recognized and addressed.

    Managing Transition

    This phase occurs when the organization works to make the actual transition
    from the current state to the desired future state or vision. In consultations,
    this phase usually is called the implementation phase. The ways that consultants
    and organizations go through this phase can vary widely, ranging from clearly
    delineated phases and steps to a continual mutual engagement with the client
    from which the project activities continue to unfold. See How
    Consultants Customize Their Approaches

    Conventionally, it includes implementing a variety of “interventions”
    designed to make the necessary change in the organization, ranging from strategic
    planning, leadership development and team building to whole-systems change,
    strategic restructuring and cultural change.

    Ideally, the various interventions are detailed into associated actions that
    are integrated into one overall Implementation Plan. If the change is deep and
    extensive, then each action plan would includes specific objectives, or milestones,
    that must be accomplished by various deadlines, along with responsibilities
    for achieving each objective. Rarely are these plans implemented exactly as
    planned. Thus, as important as developing the plan, is making the many ongoing
    adjustments to the plan while keeping other members up-to-date about the changes
    and the reasons for them.

    These changes might require ongoing coaching, training and enforcement of
    new policies and procedures in the workplace. In addition, means of effective
    change management must continue, including strong, clear, ongoing communications
    about the need for the change and status of the change.

    Sustaining Momentum

    Often, the most difficult phase in managing change is this phase when leaders
    work to sustain the momentum of the implementation and adjustment of plans.
    Change efforts can encounter a wide variety of obstacles, for example, strong
    resistance from members of the organization or unexpected changes in the environment
    outside the organization. Client resistance can be expected because organizational
    change requires a change in behaviors, which can be very difficult. Authentic
    responses to the resistance can be very effective. See Authenticity
    — How to Remain Authentic With Yourself and Others

    The role of support cannot be minimized. Despite its importance during organizational
    change, the role of support is often forgotten. Strong, visible, ongoing support
    from top leadership is critically important to show overall credibility and
    accountabilities in the change effort.

    Supervisors play a critical role in effectively delegating tasks to employees
    and providing ongoing support in the form of feedback, coaching and training.
    Employee performance management plays a key role in ensuring that the required
    actions are being taken at the right times and are being done with high quality.

    At this point in a consulting project, it may be wise for the consultant to
    ensure he or she has ongoing support themselves (for example, from other consultants)
    who can provide ongoing objectivity, affirmation and other forms of support.

    Additional Perspectives

    The following links are to articles that together provide an increasingly comprehensive
    and detailed orientation to change management.
    Basic Overview
    of Organizational Change

    Mistakes in Managing Change

    Requirements for Successful Organizational Change
    Change Management

    Various Organizational Change Models

    See a video
    about models for change, roles during change, interventions, how choose them and principles for changing systems.
    From the Consultants
    Development Institute

    The purposes of an organizational change model are to 1) provide guidance to
    leaders of the change effort and 2) give a common perspective and frame of reference
    for participants when communicating about their change effort. The following
    paragraphs provide a general overview of some of the more prominent change models.
    The purpose of the overviews is to increase your general knowledge about approaches
    to change and help you grasp the diversity of approaches. The overviews are
    not intended to provide you detailed guidelines about implementing any of the

    Note that there are many other change models, many of them formed by modifying
    the well-known models, such as Kurt Lewin’s action research. Also note
    that, because there is no standard definition for a change model, some readers
    might consider some of the following to be standard management practices, rather
    than means to affect change.

    Unfreeze, Move, Refreeze

    Lewin’s model is probably the most well known. Its simple, but powerful,
    premise is that to change a system, you first have to “unfreeze,”
    or loosen up those structures and influences that currently hold the system
    together. Without attention to those factors, the actions to accomplish desired
    changes are not likely to be successful because they will continue to encounter
    strong resistance from members of the organization.

    Structures can be loosened in a variety of ways. The means mentioned in the
    above section Requirements
    for Successful Organizational Change
    about motivating change and creating
    a vision are powerful for unfreezing an organization. The next general phase
    in this model is about moving the change along, including by developing political
    support as described in the above section. The final phase is about developing
    and implementing new structures, such as new plans, policies and procedures,
    which freeze, or hold, the current state of change in place. The means mentioned
    in the above section about managing the transition and sustaining momentum would
    be very useful in refreezing the intended changes.

    3-Stage Model of Change

    Action Research

    Lewin’s action research model is based on an overall cycle of 1) clarifying
    the current problem in the system, 2) involving a specialist or consultant,
    3) gathering data and diagnosing the situation, 4) providing feedback to people
    in the system, 5) incorporating members’ feedback to further clarify the
    problem and its causes, 6) developing action plans to address the problem, 7)
    taking those actions and 8) gathering data to assess the effects on the problem.
    The cycle can also generate tremendous learning for those involved.

    Many models for consulting are based on action research and include various
    modifications. They include, for example, more involvement of members of the
    organization in the process, and less focus on “diagnosis” and more
    focus on joint discovery. There is also more focus on strengths and opportunities
    and less on weaknesses and problems, as well as more focus on learning.

    Action Research

    Business Process Reengineering (BPR)

    This method aims to increase organizational performance by radically re-designing
    the organization’s structures and processes — by starting over from the ground
    up. As with any major model for change, there are many proponents and opponents
    of BPR. BPR can require an extensive amount of detail, attention and time and
    can be quite demanding on employees.

    Still, the process might be one of few that provides clear guidelines and procedures
    for carefully dissembling and assembling an organization. The model, like Future
    Search Conference (below) and Whole
    Systems Change
    , really forces leaders to take a complete, fresh look at
    systems in their organization and how to re-develop those systems anew.

    Process Re-Engineering

    Future Search Conference

    Marvin Weisbord developed the future search approach, which can involve 30-100
    people or more, usually over three days, to articulate a preferred future and
    develop the action steps to accomplish that future. It is an example of a relatively
    recent category of change models called large-scale interventions. Large-scale
    change is an example of transformational, organization-wide change.

    In the approach, a consultant works with a small planning group to design the
    event. All key internal and external stakeholders are encouraged to attend.
    Participants examine the past, present and future of the organization from the
    perspective of the participants themselves, the organization and its industry.
    Participants discover their shared values and assumptions to clarify a preferred
    future or vision. The vision emerges from various scenarios, built from considering
    what has worked and what has not worked in the past — but especially what has
    worked. Short-term and long-term action plans are established. Emphasis is on
    building to the desired future, rather than on solving problems.

    Search Conference in Theory and Practice

    McKinsey 7S Model

    The model was developed by Watermann and Peters and depicts seven dimensions
    of organizations that must be considered when accomplishing organizational change.
    Imagine a circle of six circles with one circle in the middle. The middle circle
    is labeled “shared values.” Shared values represent the overall
    priorities in how the organization chooses to operate. The six outer circles
    include “strategy,” “structure,” “systems,”
    “skills,” “staff” and “style.” The point
    of the model is that an effective organization has to accomplish a fit between
    all seven S’s, and to realize that a change in any one of the seven dimensions
    will effect a change in all others.

    Strategy is the overall direction of the organization and how it is going to
    follow that direction. Structure is the organization of the company, defining
    its roles and lines of authority. Systems include the processes and procedures
    that guide day-to-day activities in the organization. These three are the hard

    Skills are the capabilities of the organization. Staff includes the organization’s
    people and how their expertise is utilized. Style is how the organization is
    led. These three are the soft S’s.

    McKinsey 7S Framework

    Various Additional Models

    of Organizational Performance Management Systems
    Management (systematic, explicit implementation of a strategic plan)

    Plan Do Check Act (this approach also is quite common)
    Lewin’s Freeze Phases
    McKinsey 7S Model
    8-Step Model

    Transition Model

    Adaptive Change
    Prosci ADKAR

    Major Roles During Successful Organizational

    The process of organizational change can include a variety of key roles. These
    roles can be filled by various individuals or teams at various times during
    the change process. Sometimes, individuals or teams can fill more than one role.

    Change Initiator

    It is conventional wisdom among organizational development consultants that
    successful change is often provoked by a deep “hurt” or crisis in
    the organization, for example, dramatic reduction in sales, loss of a key leader
    in the organization, warnings from a major investor, or even actions of a key
    competitor. It is not uncommon then that someone inside the organization reacts
    to that deep hurt and suggests the need for a major change effort. Often the
    person who initiates the change is not the person who becomes the primary change

    Change Agent

    A change agent is the person or team who’s currently responsible for the overall
    change effort. It could be different people at different times during the change.
    For example, it could be a champion for change who encourages the change. Then
    it could be an expert on change who plans the change. Then it could be the leader
    in the organization who drives the change.

    After the project plan has been developed and begins implementation, the change
    agent might be an implementation team comprised of various people from across
    the organization. If the change effort stalls out, the change agent might be
    a top leader in the organization who intercedes to ensure the change process
    continues in a timely fashion.

    It is extremely important for the consultant to always know who the real change
    agent is at any time during the project because that person or team usually
    has the most influence on the success of the project, and therefore is the most
    important role to be working with then.

    Here We Are. Now What?: Tips for Change Agents in 2011
    Agents: The Who, What, Where, When, Why and How

    Organization Change: Learning from the Best

    Champion for Change

    Change efforts often require a person or team to continue to sustain strong
    enthusiasm about the change. This includes reminding everyone of why the change
    is occurring in the first place, and the many benefits that could come if it
    is successful. The champion might be the same person as the change agent at
    various times in the project.

    Sponsor of Change

    Usually, there is a one key internal person or department that is officially
    the “sponsor,” or the official role responsible for the success
    of the change process. In large organizations, that sponsor often is a department,
    such as Human Resources, Strategic Planning or Organization Development. In
    smaller organizations, the sponsor might be a team of senior leaders working
    to ensure that the change effort stays on schedule and is sustained by ongoing
    provision of resources and training.

    Leadership, Supervision and Delegation

    Leadership could defined as setting direction and influencing people to follow
    that direction. A person can lead themselves, other individuals, other groups
    or an entire organization. Supervision is a leadership role and is guiding the
    development and productivity of their direct reports in the organization. Effective
    supervisors are able to achieve goals by guiding the work of other people –
    by delegating.

    Note that supervisors exist throughout an organization, depending on its particular
    structure. For example, the Board of Directors supervises the Chief Executive
    Officer (CEO), the CEO supervises middle managers and middle managers supervise
    entry-level supervisors.

    The topic of leadership has become one of the most prominent topics in all
    of management literature today. It is almost impossible to find a general management
    book that does not include frequent mention of the topic of leadership. There
    are a variety of reasons for this, one of the most important being that successful
    organizational change requires strong, ongoing and visible leadership in support
    of that change. Leaders must model the type of behaviors that they want to see
    in their organization. Other reasons include:

    • Leaders must ensure that desired results are clarified and widely communicated,
      including to define the vision and goals.
    • Leaders in the organization must “walk their talk.” They must
      behave according to the same values and behaviors that are needed during the
      change effort.
    • Leaders must ensure the ongoing accountabilities, resources and support
      to ensure that actions are taken to accomplish the overall change effort.

    There simply is no substitute for the role that leadership and supervision
    play in accomplishing successful organizational change. Thus, it is extremely
    important that leaders and supervisors in the organization have a strong understanding
    of basic principles of successful change in organizations.

    Additional Perspective

    How to Know When
    to Facilitate, Train or Coach

    Do Most Organizational Change Efforts Fail?

    Since the early 1990s, there has been a common assertion that 70% of change
    efforts fail. That statistic has been mentioned by prominent people and organizations
    in the field, including John Kotter, Michael Hammer and James Champy, Michael
    Beer and Nitin Nohria, McKinsey & Company and the Harvard Business Review.

    It has been used a powerful motivator for further research in organizational
    change, more innovation in models for change, and more commitment from leaders
    in making change actually happen.

    However, many are skeptical of that assertion. They cite the lack of valid
    research that concludes that finding. They mention numerous examples of success
    stories about change. Some assert that it is mostly independent consultants
    (those who are not employees of their client’s organization) who believe that
    statistic, while internal consultants believe that change is mostly successful.

    Regardless of the opinions about the validity of the statistic, it is a significant
    topic to examine when talking about organizational change. Here are a variety
    of opinions for and against the statistic.

    Assertions That Most Fail

    Truth Behind Why 70% of Organizational Change Projects Are Still Failing
    7 Reasons Why Organizational Change Fails
    70% of Organisational
    Change Efforts Fail. 8 Steps for Leading Change.
    Cracking the
    Code of Change
    Organizational Change Almost Always Fails

    Doubts About Those Assertions

    Most Misleading – and Exploited – Statistic About Change
    Time to Abolish the 70% Change Failure Rate Statistic
    to Kill the Phantom 70% Failure Rate?
    of Change Projects Fail: Bollocks!
    Do 70% of
    Organisational Change Initiatives Really Fail?


    Collaborative Consulting Skills for Accomplishing
    Significant Change

    Research over the years has found that the most successful approach to accomplishing
    long-lasting, successful change in organizations is to use a highly collaborative
    approach in working with the members of the organization to implement that change.
    That approach, including its nature and various phases, is fully explained in
    the Library’s topic:
    Consulting for Performance, Change and Learning

    Before selecting appropriate strategies for change below, you and your client
    should have done the necessary activities in the contracting
    of the consulting process, especially to ensure the client’s readiness
    for change. You also should have done the discovery
    , especially to identify the causes from the symptoms of the client’s

    How to Choose Which Strategies (Interventions)
    to Use for Change

    See a video
    about where consultants should focus, where clients should focus, where
    projects should focus and core components of change plans. From the Consultants
    Development Institute


    There are a wide variety of strategies often referred to as “interventions”
    to use to guide successful change in organizations. There is no unique intervention
    to use for each different situation in an organization. However, there are some
    key considerations when selecting from among the many choices. (The term “intervention”,
    unlike the term “strategy”, has its detractors. Thus, this topic in
    the Library often refers to strategies.)

    Also, before you and your client select the best type of strategies, be aware
    of your strong biases about how you view organizations. Without recognizing
    those biases, you might favor certain types of strategies primarily because
    those are the only ones you can readily see and understand, even if other types
    of strategies might be much more effective in your project.
    Understand the Preferred
    Lens Through Which You View Organizations

    Now, Select the Best Category of Interventions

    With your client, discuss the findings from your research in the discovery
    . For example, did it suggest problems primarily among how individuals
    and groups got along with each other? Lack of strong internal practices to support
    growth? Lack of performance among many employees and teams? Need for an effective
    response to rapid changes inside and/or outside the organization?

    Then read the introductions to each of the four categories of interventions
    in the section below to find the most likely category of interventions to use.
    Then select the category that seems to most closely match the nature of your
    findings. (If you and your client had selected a particular change management
    model, then that model might suggest a certain strategy for accomplishing the

    The choice need not be the best one right away. If you and your client work
    collaboratively, always respectfully and honestly sharing impressions of the
    activities in the project and reflecting on what they are learning, then you
    will end up using the best interventions.

    Categories of Possible Strategies (Interventions) to Use for Change

    For the sake of clarity and understanding, the following interventions are
    categorized. The four major categories are from Cummings and Worley, in their
    book Organizational Change and Development (West Publishing, 1993).
    The following interventions are often highly integrated with each other during
    a project for change.

    Before selecting your interventions below, it might be interesting now to consider
    an alternative perspective about selecting categories of interventions. In the
    article below, Edgar Schein, the developer of process consultation, a very meaningful
    and widely respected process for collaborating with clients to guide and support
    change, wonders how useful it really is to try categorize interventions. He
    ventures that it might be most useful instead to reflect on what emerges from
    continuing to help the client, rather than on which category of interventions
    to choose from.
    Can One Develop a Useful Typology of Interventions? (see the 3rd page)

    Human Process Interventions (Group and Individual Human Relations)

    The following human process interventions might be particularly helpful during
    change projects in organizations where, for example, there are many new employees,
    different cultures working together, many complaints among organizational members,
    extensive low morale, very high turnover and/or ineffective teams.

    Guiding Individuals




    Conflict Management
    Group Facilitation
    Group Learning

    Search Conference
    Work Teams

    Team Building
    Virtual Teams

    Technostructural Interventions (Structures, Technologies, Positions, etc.)

    The following technostructural interventions might be particularly helpful
    in situations having, for example, rapid growth but few internal systems to
    sustain that growth, much confusion about roles, a strong need to soon learn
    a major new technology or process and/or many internal operational systems that
    must soon be implemented.


    Process Re-Engineering

    Downsizing and

    by Objectives


    Tasks, Jobs and Roles

    Quality Management

    Work Design

    Human Resource Management Interventions (Individual and Group Performance

    The following human resource interventions might be particularly helpful in
    situations where, for example, new organizational goals have been established,
    many new employees have been hired, individual and team goals do not get achieved,
    plans do not get implemented and/or there is rapid turnover.

    Employee Performance Management

    Career Development
    and Inclusion
    Performance Goals

    and Feedback
    Improvement / Development Plans


    Performance Problems (“Performance Gaps”)


    Employee Development


    Development Planning

    Development Planning




    Development Planning

    and Development

    Employee Wellness Programs


    in the Workplace

    Assistance Programs

    Safe Facilities in the Workplace

    in the Workplace


    Violence in the Workplace

    in the Workplace

    in the Workplace

    Strategic Interventions (Organization and Its External Environment)

    The following strategic interventions might be particularly helpful in situations
    where, for example, there are rapid changes in the external environment, significantly
    increased competition, rapid expansion of markets, a likely merger or acquisition,
    and/or need for a comprehensive change throughout the organization.

    Business Planning

    Open Systems

    Organizational Alliances
    Organizational Transformation
    Systems Change

    Strategic Management
    (effective implementation of a Strategic Plan)

    Now Select the Best Strategy or Intervention in That Category

    Now that you have selected the most appropriate category of strategies with
    your client, discuss which strategy most closely matches your findings from
    the discovery. Again, if your choice is not the best one right away, then if
    you and your client have been working collaboratively, you will end up using
    the best strategy. Consider the following questions about your selected strategy.

    1. Does the nature of that strategy match the culture of your client’s organization?
      The best way to find out is to discuss the strategy with members of the organization.
    2. Do you and your client have the ability to implement that strategy? For
      example, the categories of technostructural and strategic interventions often
      require rather technical expertise in organizational design.
    3. Does the strategy suggest what actions are needed in order to implement
      it? For example, the strategy of strategic management might suggest a SWOT
      analysis, identifying strategic goals, developing action plans for each goal
      and then implementing the action plans.
    4. Does the strategy require more time to conduct than the time available to
      implement it? For example, a cash crisis requires immediate attention, so
      while a comprehensive strategic planning process might ultimately be useful,
      the time to develop and implement a strategic plan is impractical.
    5. Does your client’s organization have the necessary resources to implement
      the strategy? Consider resources such as expertise, funding and facilities.

    The following articles provide another set of considerations when selecting
    strategies (interventions).
    Four Change
    Management Strategies (scroll to near the bottom of the article)

    Management for You: Interventions for Change
    Development (OD) Interventions: What Type of Organizational Development or OD
    Intervention Do You Need?
    and Implementing Strategies for Change
    the Depth of Organizational Intervention

    Other Organizations’ General Lists of Interventions

    The following are lists offered by other organizations and professionals in
    the field, and are not from those in the Cummings and Worley book, Organizational
    Change and Development
    (West Publishing, 1993), as listed above.

    (OD) Interventions
    Development OD Interventions
    Development (OD) Interventions
    Organization Development
    Organisation Development
    Interventions: An Overview
    Organization Development
    Interventions and Teams
    Cubes of Interventions – Organization Development

    Types of Capacity Building in For-Profit Organizations (and how clients choose

    Types of Capacity Building in Nonprofit Organizations (and how clients choose

    Implementing Strategies for Organizational
    Change — Finish Phases in Consulting

    Now that you and your client have selected a strategy to accomplish long-lasting,
    significant change in the organization, it is time to implement that strategy.
    One of the best approaches is to continue following the general phases in a
    collaborative consulting process. This topic assumes that you have already completed
    the contracting and discovery phases.

    Next, you would evolve into the action
    planning phase
    in order to begin detailing how to implement the strategy
    that you and your client selected. While doing this, you would begin to integrate
    the principles for successful organizational change that were explained above
    in this topic.

    After detailing the action plans, you would begin the implementation
    to implement the action plans, while concurrently managing the change.
    The guidelines in the description of that phase share some basics about managing

    After the implementation, you would conduct the project
    evaluation phase
    to conclude if the client’s problem had been solved; if
    the client had implemented the necessary systems to avoid that kind of problem
    in the future; and if the client did encounter that type of problem, then they
    would be able to solve it themselves.

    If those indicators of success were achieved, then you and your client would
    evolve into the project
    termination phase
    in which you would work to accomplish both an administrative
    and ethical closure to the project.


    Miscellaneous: Other Business and Management Topics to Round Out Knowledge

    and Promotion

    Benefits and Compensation
    Computers, Internet
    and Web

    Crisis Management
    Customer Satisfaction
    Customer Service
    Ethics in the


    Financial Management

    Financial Management

    (for for-profit)

    (for nonprofit)

    Legal Information
    (employee laws, etc.)

    Marketing (all facets)

    Policies (personnel)

    Project Management
    Program Management
    Public and Media

    Risk Management
    Social Entrepreneurship
    an Organization (for-profit or nonprofit)

    Volunteers (recruiting,
    managing, etc.)



    Additional Perspectives on Change

    Six Keys to Changing Almost Anything
    Top Down or Bottom Up Approaches to Change
    Implementing Successful & Sustainable Change
    Change Management and Employee Communication Strategies
    Four Ways to Increase the Urgency Needed for Change
    Change Model 3: John Kotter’s 8 Steps of Leading Change
    7 Dimensions: Principal Skills of Change Facilitators
    Change As Influence: How to Get the Attention of Deniers, Followers,
    Dreamers, and Leaders?

    You Don’t Need an Empire to Build Strength for Change
    Communication: Getting Everyone On Board The Change Train

    Management: How to Avoid Resistance Part 1

    Management: How to Avoid Resistance Part 2

    Also See These Closely Related Topics

    of the Field of Organization Development
    and Resources for Organizational Change Agents

    All About Consulting
    – Types, Skills and Approaches
    Consulting for Performance, Change and Learning
    and Resources for Contracting Phase of Consulting
    and Resources for Discovery Phase of Consulting
    and Resources for Action Planning Phase of Consulting
    and Resources for Implementation Phase of Consulting
    and Resources for Project Evaluation Phase of Consulting
    and Resources for Termination Phase of Consulting

    General Resources

    Service Organizations Focused on
    Organizational Change and Development

    Association of Facilitators

    International Society
    for Performance Improvement

    for Cultural Affairs — World-Wide

    Facilitators’ Network

    National OD

    Society for Human
    Resource Management

    Online Groups

    Organizational Change Practitioners
    (LinkedIn group)
    Change Consulting (LinkedIn
    Organization Development
    Network (LinkedIn group)

    groups (link to many different groups)

    Toolkits, Etc.

    Management Resource Library

    Change Resources

    Management Toolbook

    Bibliographies of Books About Change

    Here’s several lists of books about OD, some of them seminal and foundational
    about OD and organizational change.

    Learn More in the Library’s Blogs Related to Organizational Change

    In addition to the articles on this current page, see the following blogs which
    have posts related to organizational change. Scan down the blog’s page to see
    various posts. Also see the section “Recent Blog Posts” in the sidebar
    of the blog or click on “next” near the bottom of a post in the blog.

    Consulting and Organizational Development Blog

    Leadership Blog

    Supervision Blo

    Additional Library Resources in the Category of Organizational Change and

    Related Library Topics

    Recommended Books