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Becoming an Effective Change Leader

By Carol Rovello, SPHR

Poor planning and inconsistent execution of change initiatives can stop a company in its tracks.
Very often the HR leader becomes the change agent by default, with a reactive role in cleaning
up the backlash from employees and scrambling to pick up the pieces of a well-intentioned
initiative. But HR leaders can take a more proactive role, carefully planning and executing
change initiatives to minimize resistance and ensure a better chance of success. The HR leader
is in the best position to serve as the primary change agent, overseeing the key elements of
organization development from a strategic perspective.

When I help organizations through major change initiatives, I typically combine the following
three complementary models: organizational development (OD), appreciative inquiry (AI), and Invitational Workplace Strategy© (IWS) 

An integration of these approaches can help your organization to:
• establish common goals that better align with your strategic goals
• reduce stakeholder fear and resistance
• facilitate a collaborative approach to increase stakeholder ownership in the initiative
• build and maintain trust among employees at all levels
• stay focused on the desired outcomes
• create a climate of accountability

OD is a well-established change model. It is “an effort (1) planned, (2) organization-wide, and
(3) managed from the top, to (4) increase organization effectiveness and health through (5)
planned interventions in the organization’s processes, using behavioral-science knowledge.”2
Today, OD well known as a systems approach to change that helps you guide your organization
on a particular course of action to meet established goals. While it requires senior leadership
commitment, it should be more collaborative than authoritative (top down) in order to engage
your employees and better ensure their ownership of both the process and its outcomes.

OD stresses the development of clear goals/objectives followed by equal attention to process,
structure, and relationships. Process is essentially your approach, e.g. who will be involved,
what are the major phases, what are the benchmarks for completion. Structure provides your
tools for organization and accountability. Relationships are built and nurtured throughout the
OD process and communication is key. In fact, creating a preliminary communication plan
should be the first thing you do when you become aware of an impending change initiative.

When you utilize the tenets of AI, you follow goal setting with the identification of what is
already working well – what are we doing that is already leading us to this desired
result/outcome? AI suggests that building on strengths, figuring out how to expand on what is
already working, is a really good way to begin your planning after the goals/objectives have
been established.

The objective of IWS© is to create a workplace that cordially summons everyone associated
with it, employees and customers alike, to be successful. Its four core values of respect,
intentionality, trust, and optimism integrate well with OD’s focus on relationships (respect,
intentionality, and trust) and AI’s strategy to focus first on what is working (optimism).

The basic principles of OD are as follows:
• Engagement – getting employee attention and maintaining their interest
• Involvement – creating a viable means for input
• Empowerment – creating a sense of importance and encouraging independent thinking
• Relationships – facilitating interpersonal, intra and inter-group, within and across work
• Structure – planning & organizing in order to effectively lead

Having an intentional process that fosters good working relationships and utilizes sufficient
structure will help you guide your organization toward goal attainment. So, start with the end
in mind, communicate-communicate-communicate, and remember that you have two desired
outcomes – to achieve the established goals/objectives AND to have a meaningful process.
When you make the “process” as important as the “product,” you will not just achieve your
current organizational goals. You will also better position your company for successfully
executing future change initiatives.

If you would like sample OD questions to guide the development of your process, structure, and
relationship strategies for your organization’s upcoming change initiative, send your request via
email to:


IWS is adapted from the Invitational Education Model that serves as the basis for the InternationalAlliance for Invitational Education’s work. See website:
2 Richard Beckhard, Organization Development: Strategies and Models, 1969

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