Organizational Change Action Plan

Firm success and survival depends on their ability to adapt to change as well as being flexible and innovative.   In addition to change, resistance plays a major role with the actors of the organization as well as timed out phases of deployment and proper communication from leadership.  In this case study, the researcher will cover a change initiative that was not successful due to a variety of factors with one of this areas being resistance to change.  Additional factors will be covered in the ensuing study that caused the change intuitive to not be successful.

Overview of the Organization

The organization that I have selected is a University system in the for-profit sector and their mission is to provide career-orientated education by teaching applied, real world, industry-current programs in selected areas, serving the needs of students for employment and career advancement. 

This University, as stated prior, is part of an organizational system that is rooted in the northwest suburbs of Chicago, IL.  This university system offers degree programs ranging from associate degrees to doctoral degree programs.  In addition, they offer a wide range of disciplines of study from criminal justice to business administration to healthcare administration.  The department in this case study is the academic advising department that works strictly with undergraduate and master level students.  This department at the time of the change had about 65 employees, four managers, and eight team leaders and had an enrollment figure around 21,000 students.  The department strictly worked with student in the online space for the university though this particular university does have brick and mortar courses as well.  All employees within the department have received their bachelor’s degree from an accredited university but their disciplines are very different ranging from English to Engineering.   Leadership from the top consisted of a Director of Academic Advising and a VP of Student Experience.  The department was located in one central building and all but the VP of Student Experience worked out of the same location.

Overview of the Organizational Industry, Environment, and Competition

The industry is extremely competitive with new university systems popping up almost every month it seem like. According to Sav (2012) for-profit universities have gone from 12% of the total school population to 32% over the past two decades. Students have more choices than ever to attend a university online or on campus.  The competition within the market funded sector would include organizational systems like, EDMC, Apollo Group, CEC, DeVry, and Strayer just to name a few.  Every one of these university systems has their value and their own unique presence in the sector.  For example, DeVry ( has online engineering programs whereas, Career Education Corp (CEC) ( has Colorado Technical University and American Intercontinental University and cater strongly to military personal and have a strong criminal justice backing.  All of these systems cater to the working adult and offer virtual classroom or online learning.  In the last couple of years, during the economic downturn, the industry has fallen on tough times losing enrollment and some school systems like Corthinian Colleges, which is home to Everest University,  completely shutting their doors to student enrollment and closing campus’s nationwide on 4/27/2015 (   In addition to legislation like the gainful employment act, universities systems have been redesigning their offering to the student population.



Background of the Change Initiative

The change effort was within the university student advising department. According to Sanchez and Heene (1997), the need to have strategic change is necessary especially in uncertain futures.  This university was facing a downward shift in the market and needed to develop a new angle to reach potential students. The goal as defined by the director of student advising and the VP of student experience was to bring more of a personal touch to the student by making them coaches or life coaches for the students.  This in turn will provide value and sector bragging rights while prompting for more market share by adding that unique value proposition.  The change took place of a two year period with different implementations or phases based on department size and university enrollment.

The first phase was the delegation of students into cohort based models so that each advisor was responsible for a set amount of students.   

Prior to this delegation, no structure was provided within the student advising department which led to zero reporting or accountability by leadership.  The active structure was an open queue and random lists of students being deployed by management based on the campaign for the day.

The second phase was the appreciative advising training model based on the University of South Carolina deployed to all academic advisors and coaches.

The goal was to have every advisor certified as an appreciative advisor (AA) and to have the department begin to adopt the culture of AA.  Due to course offerings and budget constraints, this training ended up becoming an in-house training without the certification.  This phase was never completed.

The third phase was to deploy AA with all students and really spend the time to get to know them and become their friends by using the AA cycle of advising.  In addition, academic advisors are now called student success coaches.

This phase was deployed right out of the gate, after about a year into the change, and expectations were given to coaches without the training to provide AA advising to students.  During the onboarding process of new coaches, a 20 minutes AA training segment would be their only exposure to this type of advising.  In addition, recruiting efforts where made toward more of a counselor, psychologist, and teacher.  Since the market was down, the leadership thought it would be a great time to get some of these professionals from other disciplines engaged into the industry.  There were elementary school teachers, guidance counselors, psychologists, life coaches, and social workers just to name a few.

Leadership felt that holding students hand and providing them a full life coaching experience would better equip them for their studies at the University. In theory, the idea and objective where correct, the implementation of phases and the lack of time given by leadership was the down fall.  Based on the universities open-enrollment model, students did not need to have prior educational excellence to be admitted so the student demographic was altered to include those that have not been in school for a while or those that did not have an appreciation for how challenging college can be.   Leadership provided training and certification programs like Appreciative Advising through the University of South Carolina to prepare the academic advisors and to equip and assist with their population with whatever needs they might have had.  In addition, training on poverty stricken students were included in the advising onboarding process.


Review of the Failed Change Effort

What actually happened was a full on stoppage of the implementation, budget cuts, and high turnover from dealing with students in a field that coaches were not accustomed too.  Advisors became social workers for the students, advocating for the student and really making the student dependent on the advisor. This was a culture change that was not communicated by leadership nor was expected by the academic advisors themselves.  What happened was students who were enrolling into school that had major issues or concerns where using the university resources as counseling, a psychologist, or just someone to talk to with no ambition of doing well in school.  In addition, the academic advisors became the scapegoats for these students that did not perform well blaming their advisors for everything from medical care to being homeless.   It must be noted that the university does not have a crisis hotline to assist these advisors with their student concerns and the advisors were left with this burden on their shoulders day in and day out.  Dolan and Garcia (2002) explored how culture can affect a change effort and without proper communication, a culture shift and change will be difficult to achieve.  In this instance, advisors were told that the communication style was going to change and that a new type of student would be coming into the school. For example, appreciative advising has the advisor work with the student concerning their inhabitations to attend the university by using disarm type of questions for students.  Next, the advisor would talk to the student about their desires and dreams to help map out an academic path and to build rapport with the student.  Though appreciative advising worked in a campus setting, many draws backs occurred when this process was translated to the online space.  The leadership was forced to develop, on the fly, adaptations to what might work in the online or virtual setting.  Based on the change initiative, this adaptation was not received well by coaches or students. This lack of communication and preparation for advising as well as leadership led to poor moral with academic advisors/coaches, which in turn led to student decline because they felt they were not getting the service promised.

To help counter the negative behavior of the coaches and advisors as well as assist the coaches and advisors with their volume of work, a level one call center was created.  The idea behind this was to take the burden of easily answered inbound calls off the coach so that they can concentrate on their cohort.  What this did was divided the department into two and left students scratching their heads as who to contact or who their point of contact would be.  In addition, it provided less communication with coaching and but more of a burden on other departments in relation to who and what is being handled, when and where.  There was no Standard Operating Procedure (SOP).

Potential Consequences if Effective Change is not Adopted

The change in culture and academic advising/coaching was called off with advisors and coaching suffering with cohort sizes of 600 plus students when the average student to coach ratio should have been 225:1.  Though the change process did not work the way that it was designed by the leadership, it did open up doors to what does work, what the students really wanted and how to give it to them.  If the change initiative never started, the university might not be around today as it have paved the way to bigger and better things.  Some potential outcomes of not conducting the change could have been, complete closure of the online university, hundreds without jobs, students stranded without degrees, financial aid issues, and the list could go on and on. In addition, if the change initiative came later on, that could have but the university behind an eight ball since the economy is rebounding and student enrollment is up due to a new model that leadership has deployed.  According to Nesterkin (2012), to change is to learn and it is necessary for innovation and adaptation.





Part 2 Organizational Development and Change

Providing empirical and scholarly information concerning organizational development and change is foundational when making assessments as a consultant.  For example, a consultant can come into an organization and make their recommendations based on XYZ but if their recommendations are grounded in theories and research, that makes the overall process more creditable if there is resistance from the leadership concerning those recommendations.  In addition, leadership having exposure to different ways of gathering information before proceeding with an organizational change is a major flag that needs to be addressed.  The goal of this section of the report is to provide some grounded information concerning change management and the decision making process that can be used by leaders, consultants, or managers that might be looking to implement a change project.  The research will cover academic and practitioner literature on change and development as well as system decision and analysis.  In addition to those methods evaluated, the report will also touch on organizational learning and knowledge management as a tool for change and decision making analysis.

Organizational Development and Change

Why do organizations need to change?  That is one of the main questions that are asked by Nehar (2013).  Indeed, organizations do need to change and how they or go about the process of changing is instrumental in its overall success.  Organizations are systems that need to have proper channels of communication open to align properly.  According to Nehar (2013) change management does not happen in a closet or in isolation but happens in front of the whole system and if the system is not onboard then there will be disruption within the system. Think about the system as being part of a human body, if one system in the human body fails to work, dire consequences are going to ensue such as a heart attack, stroke, and death.  By having all the systems work together in hemostasis, this allows the system to run efficiently.  There have been many models of change from Lewin’s freeze, unfreeze to Kotter’s 8 Step Model that provide guidelines on how the change process should be handled.  The issue is that organizational systems are not cookie cutter and cannot just apply a step by step guide to change management.

In addition to change models, system theory, and management, organizational learning can be used as the catalyst of organizational change. This method was selected due to it the theory of change versus the step by step guide to change. Wesner (2010) describe organizational learning in the 4 I process of: intuiting, interpreting, integrating, and institutionalizing in order to create a successful wide spread system change.  What is organizational learning (OL)?  According to Wesner (2010), a system of actions, actors, symbols, and processes that enable an organization to transform information into valued knowledge.  This takes us back to the original question, why do organizations need to change?   If organizations want to change, they need to learn.  Organizations need to use the 4 I model of interpretation and integrating to sustain successful change.  Moreover, time is of the essence within a change management initiative as the last process of institutionalizing is key to help make sure that the change is embedded into the culture and hardware of the organizational system.  Organizational development and change is based on learning, asking the deeper questions, and understanding the systems of the organization.   If organizations are placed into silos, OL and system thinking will be difficult to cultivate as the 4 I’s will be hard to deploy.  Communication of OL, knowledge management and effective leadership built on relationships and trust will help the process be successful.  It does not guarantee the process to be successful but it does help.

Looking at organizational development and change from a practitioner point of view can be a lot of fun as best practices of models and tools can be found and placed into consultants toolbox. In this sector of the report, non-profit organizations will be reviewed within the lens of Organizational Development and Change (ODC).  Fox (2013) explored this notion of ODC in non-profits and found that ODC is much more of a luxury then a need as many organizations are struggling just to survive, let alone, looking to overhaul for an organizational change project.  Indeed, according to Fox (2013) ODC and human services share many of the same philosophies which allow for ODC to take a foot hold in this field if needed.  Moreover, human services are in need to three keys for survival that ODC can provide: organizational dynamics and structure, leadership structure, and accountability. From this researcher own experience, conducting consulting work with non-profits these three keys for survival hold true as many non-profits are focused on their vision and not on the organization itself.  If more attention was paid to the business to be run like a business, non-profits would have the opportunity to run smoothly.  ODC consults can be the business mind that helps shapes the non-profit and provides structure so that leadership can concentrate on the vision of the non-profit.

In another example of an ODC practitioner international case study can be found by, Bhatnagar, Budhwar, Srivastava, and Saini (2010).  The authors explored how ODC is viewed in India and what constitutes good consultancy among ODC.  In India, according to the authors, ODC and consultancy is handled by those from Asia and are cultural biased.  For ODC to be taken seriously among leaders and managers, an understanding of the culture and socio-economic backgrounds must be taken into consideration.  This takes into account the hierarchical structure and style of leadership that is found in India but not necessarily found in Asia or in the West.  While ODC might have its common theories and models, not all cultures can adapt to that type of structure.  For example, utilizing a world café or an appreciative inquiry summit would be frowned upon because this would give equal voice in a top-down heavy organization.  The Asian ODC believe in collaboration and teamwork while in India, the tops says how to high to jump and everyone asks when?  It is understood that leadership does indeed need to be an active role in change management but finding relevant case studies, according to Bhatnager et al. (2010), is hard to come by as events are rarely documented.

Decision Making and Analysis

Knowledge Management

In looking at decision making and analysis, it is important to understand the lens from the perspective this will be coming from.  Within the practitioner literature founded by this researcher for this report, the lens of knowledge management systems (KMS) will be explored.  What constitutes knowledge management and how is it defined?  Mohsen, Ali, and Jalal (2011) views knowledge management as a strategic effort that is used to capture and define the organizations information, experiences and customer experiences so that all within the organization can be shared and learned from.  In essence, it is the act of capturing, storing, and distributing knowledge.  In addition, knowledge management systems can be used in the decision making processes in many organizations as well as problem solving, providing more innovation, higher profits etc. Indeed, Mohsen, Ali, and Jalal (2011) states that KMS is being used in the financial sector to help financial managers make decisions.  Though the majority of this article is based on KMS and how it can assist with the organizational needs, it is also a great tool to use when managers need to address decision making and analysis.   How can this effect an organization? KMS can be used in the communication process across organizational levels to help with the decision making processes by filling the gaps of knowledge from meetings, learning materials, communications etc.  The challenge is to get the organization to use this type of tool in the decision making process.

Big Data and Analytics

The next lens, from an academic point of view, that will be utilized for the purpose of the report will be through the eyes of big data and analytics. Big data and business analytics are used in today’s world of decision making and analysis.  Shara, Mithas, Kankanhalli (2014) states that big data and business analytics can provide value for today’s organization, more research by bridging the informational gap with performance metrics, information about underlying processes to help the organization make better decisions.  It is no secret that big data has been used in the decision making process.  For example, data mining or data warehousing might be some of the same names readers are familiar with.  The goal of this study was to argue that more attention needs to be given to this type of decision making and can have an impact of organizational performance. What was found was that the path to use business analytics in organizational performance decision making was difficult to obtain.

As can be seen in this summary report on organizational development and change as well as decision making and analysis, there are a lot of different pathways to choose from depending on the organizational need.  By using ODC in a way that can help produce results and by utilizing a decision making process, organizations will be setting themselves up for success with whatever endeavor they will encounter.  It is the knowledge that these steps are needed that sets the successful change processes and failures apart.  This is one of the many values of using a consulting firm when planning a change project of this magnitude.  Consulting firms will be able to provide an unbiased solution to an issue or information that has been collected.

Based on the ODC example in the beginning of the report about a for-profit University, can this researcher honestly say that no thought went into the process of the new alignment?  No, he cannot but based on knowledge management and looking at the data with a big picture in mind, there should have been many red flags that surfaced that could have stopped the ODC initiative.  It comes down to exposure to these concepts and lack of leadership skills that can allow these change processes to move forward.  In addition, lack of patience on the side of higher ups to produce can cause leaders to side step data and implement a process and hope for the best.  If the leadership had used a consulting firm in this situation, they would have been provided with the data that could have showed the impacts that would affect the change process.  This in no way guarantee’s that the leadership would have stopped the project but they would have had better information in their hands.  One this is for certain, market share is king in this type of for-profit or market funded industry along with innovation and if gold is struck, it can only benefit and pave the way to future growth at the expense of their employees and stakeholders.

Organizational Learning

In an effort to continue building a scholarly infrastructure for this system change report, the next area of review will be organizational learning.  In this review, practitioner literature and academic literature will be address as well as an analysis of system’s theory.  As a consultant, bringing in a system view helps the organization understand the holistic picture as opposed to simple sub-systems.  What was found interesting is that not just the west was using system theory as it has already been in place for many generations in the east.  If a seed can be sown, system fruit might be grown.

Practitioner Literature

In looking at the practitioner literature of organizational learning, a theme that consistently becomes evident is the theory of systems learning and Peter Senge.  Elkin, Zhang, and Cone (2011) explored this notion of organizational learning and the fifth discipline, systems thinking,  in an international setting based in China.  The other components of the organization learning system are shared vision, whole team learning, changed mental models, and continuous individual learning.   What the authors found in their research of five privately owned expertise’s and with interviewing 37 managers, learning organizations was widespread and already in use on the eastern part of the world.  This concept was introduced in 1990 by Peter Senge to western civilization but has already been in practice in the eastern part of the world for decades if not centuries.

Learning organizations, according to Elkin, Zhang, and Cone (2011) must exhibit the five learning methods and disciplines of shared vision, whole team learning, change mental models, continuous individual learning, and systems thinking.  Even though an organization might use all five disciplines, Elkin, Zhang, and Cone (2011) states that the creation of a learning organization can be difficult to achieve but we have evidence that from this research that they can be created and sustained.  Systems need to be continuously updated and the systems need to be cognizant of any changes that might occur.

In reviewing a more micro-aspect of the learning organization within an organization based/ practitioner review, Lopez, Peon, and Ordas (2005) stated that learning within organizations is needed more than ever to stay competitive and to provide that competitive advantage.  In today’s organizational marketplace, knowledge management and employee knowledge are drivers to organizational success.  In addition, senior leadership in many organizations are finding the need to make sure that their workforce is learning and understanding the relationship between learning and their business performance.   With the changing environment, Lopez, Peon, and Ordas (2005) proclaim that learning to stay competitive is a must with the need of customers, new competition in the market place, technology and suppliers.   Indeed, Lopez, Peon, and Ordas (2005) propose a definition of the learning organization, as a process whose goal is to improve the development of the organization by being innovative through technology, and human systems.   With having organizational learning as a main component with business development, organizational will be setting themselves up for success while recognizing the human knowledge component within the system..

Academic Literature

Academic Literature on the model of organizational learning has been growing over the last 30 years.  An area of interest is whether or not organizational learning is worth the investment capital to be spent and whether or not managers and the workforce are benefiting from organizational learning.  Campbell and Armstrong (2013) conducted a longitudinal study to answer this very question and to see whether or not organization learning affects mangers in a positive way.   What was found from this study was that managers did increase their understanding which led to positive benefits within the organization such as unified action.  In addition to these findings, negative findings also revealed group organizational learning can be a much slower process then individual learning.   Indeed, Campbell and Armstrong (2013) state that there is strong theoretical evidence to show that organizational learning is needed within an organization and care must be taken to look at the full picture of the system when implementing organizational learning.

In the next academic review of literature, evaluating the training and development within organizational learning from an internal organizational system would be an excellent choice.   Kim and Callahan (2013) explored training and development in their research to enhance organizational performance.  Learning is often forgotten quickly in training and the learning transfer of knowledge needs to be assessed in order to help the organization capitalize on their investment.  In essence, Kim and Callahan (2013) state that learning organizations and learning transfer of knowledge should be used together to increase organizational performance.   The authors stated that a learning organization is a process of error detection and correction.  Kim and Callahan (2013) cite Argyris and Schon, and their single loop and double loop learning models as a basis of learning and asking the right questions to invoke learning.  Single loop learning is asking what or why, and double loop learning is asking the why and how come?  Double loop learning is where a deeper understanding of the material will be learned.  For example, in a training program most learners will go through the motion and they might participate all the while understanding the point of the learning experience.  In double loop learning, the learner will ask why they need to know this information and how to apply it within their given situation.   According to Kim and Callahan (2013) a learning transfer is a progression of events from pertaining experiences to the acquisition of the knowledge and skills in order to be applied to a job related task.  Based on these two definitions of organizational learning and learning transfer, it can be noted that they do work together in definition.



Overview of the Literature- Systems Theory

From a consulting point of view, it is extremely important to have all facts straight and in place before implementing any organizational design and change.  Organizational learning is no different in that a full systems approach is recommended as opposed to a simple departmental change or subsystem.  For this review, a systems theory approach will be evaluated based on Peter Senge’s model of organizational learning or The Fifth Discipline.  In a brief of a historical review dating back to the mid 1990’s, Sun and Scott (2003) organizational learning began its own stream within the organizational development world that dealt with how organizations learn and how processes affect the organization versus how individuals learn.  This makes this field relatively new by comparison, leadership theory.  These new processes of organizational learning opened the doors to theorist like Peter Senge as well as help solidfy theories of Chris Ayrgis from 1957 moving forward.  In addition, this information, process, and model has helped spawn the learning organization system as well as a new platform of knowledge management.  Seminal literature can date back to Fredrick Taylor’s scientific management and the pillars associated with the four great underlying principles of management.  These pillars, according to Kemp (2013) and Taylor (1911) include, with particular attention paid too thee and four:

  1. The development of a true science (innovation and post modernism)
  2. The scientific selection of the workman (complexity adaptive leadership)
  3. Scientific education and development (organizational learning)
  4. Intimate friendly co-operation between the management and the men (transformational leadership, social constructionism theory, and relational leadership theory)

Systems Theory

Systems theory, according to Senge (2006) is comprised of five principles or disciplines.  These disciplines are:

  • Personal Mastery
  • Mental Models
  • Building Shared Vision
  • Team Learning
  • System Thinking

For this review, systems thinking will be explored.  Think about how a system works?  Senge (2006) gives many examples of how systems work in relation to business, supply and demand, and a water faucet but how about the human body?  Our body is made of many sub systems that work together to enhance the large system, much like an organization is.  Instead of having heart, lungs, and blood, the marketing department, customer service department, and the accounting department are utilized.  Though these subsystems all work and have their own rules and laws that are governed by, at the end of the day if one of the sub systems goes down, the system could shut down.  Think about having a marketing firm where there is not marketing department or an accounting department without any CPA’s.  All of the systems resources and sub systems all work together as a single network to help provide for the overall objective. In another example of system thinking, Senge (2006) discusses the structure of the system and how the structure of a circle or circular rotation is critical.  The more organizational subsystems that want their own say in the system can drastically slow down the overall effectiveness of the system.  For example, a generic circular structure for a new product would be product creationR&Dmarketing- and release.  Now what if a condition sets in that causes the product to change its course through another subsystem of compliance- manufacturing issues- channel distribution concerns.  All these other subsystems need to have their stamp on the product now, there might be a delay in the product due to a lack of sales force or workforce, and has added additional time and release to the product would have increased though the time of the product might have been time sensitive, i.e. seasonal.  The next thing that is known, all subsystems have their hands in the product development and the system process has completely stopped or is hung up somewhere.  This deviation could be caused by just addressing a symptom of the problem without addressing the full system for the answer.  From this generic example, anything can be added like sales force orders, additional workforce. The relevance of system thinking to the problem presented in this case is monumental as system thinking was not deployed and if it had been, a different outcome might have surfaced.

In summary, organizational learning is a new structure for organizations to help gain competitive advantage both internally with employees and agents as well as externally by innovation and product development.   By taking the vantage point of systems theory, a consultant can pin point what systems need to be addressed, how to align the systems and provide a holistic plan for engagement.  In addition, internal and external consultants can provide training and development for the organization to help with learning and knowledge management with its agents.  While organizational learning is a nearer concept to systems thinking, it is a needed avenue to be traveled for organizations to be successful in this day of constant change.






Part 3: Development of an Organizational Change Action Plan

            System Dynamics       


System dynamics model has been around since 1961 and was developed by Jay Forrester according to Olson, Dimitriva, Stoykov (2005).   Skraba, Klijajic, Mirjana (2007) explored system dynamics as a model for strategy development and found that this model is an integral part of the decision making process and can assist with the possibility of dynamic analysis of different scenarios or problems.  For example, with the potential implementation of a new system, one can decide and test different scenarios or problems before they arise in a real world setting.  Problems that might exist include, operating business structures, production systems, or cash flow systems.

In essence, system dynamics according to Olson, Dimitriva, Stoykov (2005), involves the process of identifying influences, estimating the potential effects, creating a feedback loop that can validate the information and predict eventual outcomes.   In other words, this model could be coined, the what-if tool to predict the impact and help evaluate decision making support.

In this report concerning the failed change effort, a systems dynamic model could have been used to help support the deployment of the effort prior to the investment and time spent.  For example, a pilot group could have been used to track the needed data and to provide the data point necessary to make the decision for rollout.  Since this was not used and a full roll out was executed before any data was given, the data that was received was live and needed to be dealt with in real time.  If system dynamics model had been used, time and money could have been saved was well as data collected to be used as predictive behaviors moving forward within the demographic.


Academic and Practitioner Literature- System Dynamics

In taking a holistic view of the organization that is being used in this study, it is important to understand that there are many subsystems that are used.   In using the term, subsystems, the researcher is referring to departments or other parts of the system structure.  To discuss how the system works together, we must again look to Peter Senge and his Systems Theory model.   According to Senge (1999), a system is an organism that has many working parts that work together to service the full system.  In comparison of the university that is being explored for this study, the system does not interact well as many of the sub-systems are in silos and are run by their own leadership and are defined by their own expectations.  For example, sub system A works on interface (1) while subsystem B works on interface (2) all the while trying to communicate the same outcomes.  This has led to some challenging moments within the organizational structure.  By running a systems dynamic model, many failures and flaws could be found out.  In addition to the understanding of the next issue, knowledge management will be explored and how it relates to system dynamics.

Another area that needs to be discussed is the concept of knowledge management.  Within the organization that is being researched, the same models, theories, and processes are repeated over and over again by new personal that for some reason expect different results.   Huber (2001) explored the notion of knowledge management in organizational systems as a way to continue training employees and help with the innovation of organization.   Based on the presenting concerning with this University, there is no knowledge management process as this type of dynamic and organizational structure change has been attempted two other times by two other management groups and both those times, they ended in failure.  Had there been a record of those attempts as opposed to just hear-say from tenured employees the system might have found another way to align.  Still, the biggest areas of opportunity are the alignment of the system and get all the subsystems on the same page.  If the right hand does not know what the left hand is doing then issues will most certainly arise.

Creation of an Action Plan

Systems thinking workshop principles

According to Flood (2010) systems thinking emerged from the fundamental underpinnings of reductionism, which helps generates knowledge and understanding of phenomena by separating out the different parts and studying them for cause and effect.  In addition, system thinking is the belief that the world is systemic.  So, how does this work on behavior?

A workshop that can assist with this type of system behavior is a World Café.  Within the World Café, participating from all over an organization are brought in to share ideas and to communicate as a whole unit and not divided horizontally by structure.

It is the belief of this consultant that the policy resistance be dealt with as a real concern and all parties should have an open floor to express their concerns during this workshop.  Everyone has ideas that can help shape and change an organizational setting and structure as well as the strategic focus.  What if the majority is wrong and the group does not offer a listening ear to the rationale of the resistance?  Within the World Café, the World Café Community Foundation provides seven principles to adhere too within the workshop (  They are:

  1. Set the Context
  2. Create Hospitable Space
  3. Explore Questions that Matter
  4. Encourage Everyone’s Participation
  5. Connect Diverse Perspectives
  6. Listen Together for Patterns and Insights
  7. Share Collective Discoveries

Particular attending can be paid too principles four and five as they relate to listening and having an open mind concerning issues within the organization.

Small changes can lead to large changes down the road.  By conducting a workshop like a World Café, the ideas start flowing and it allows for mind mapping and strategic planning.  One small idea could have a snowball effect or avalanche effect on an organization that could change the direction leveraging the results.  Without conducting this workshop, these ideas would never come to up and would be a lost opportunity for the organization to grow.

Personal mastery workshop principles

The role of personal mastery is approached as a quest for finding meaning, and fulfillment as well as personal and professional growth.  In essence, according to Dhiman (2011) personal mastery allows for the creative energies to thrive that might have lied dormant.  The workshop that would be great for this type of exploration would be a World Café as it allows the ability to be creative without error or judgment.  In addition, a shared vision might be found.  For example, this consultant completed a World Café workshop and many of the same visions where depicted by the participants.  From this shared vision, a more in-depth exploration can be conducted.

Creative tension can foster the discovery of new ideas, according to Autio (2005) whereas emotional tension can lead to articulated behavior that can cause decisions to be make on emotion rather than on facts.

The subconscious holds many ideas and shared links with others within the organization.  By setting the right mood and the right kind of workshop with proper open-ended questions, the subconscious will begin to flow with ideas that normally would be locked away.  This consultant likes to set the mood with music and provide candy to help with the atmosphere of the workshop.  When participates start thinking about questions and putting ideas on paper, this might spark an idea and can be explored in more detail.  From personal experience, it is like opening Pandora box that is chalked full of ideas that normally would not have made their way to paper without the stimulation of the workshop and the participation of its members.

Mental model workshop principles

Understanding mental models and the espoused theory and theory-in-use can be confusing.  First, the definition of mental models according to Evans and Baker (2012) is the shared structure and process strategies between workers within the organization.

Espoused Theory is how people describe their own behavior.

Theory-in-use is the model that people actually use.


Espoused Theory

In comparing and contrasting Al-Kazemi and Zajac (2010) states that the actual behavior that is found within the organization might not be the espoused theory yet many organizations but forth a big front on how they would describe their own behavior but in essence they are using their theory-in-use which is how the organization operates.  In essence, espoused theory represents the moral ideal and the theory-in-use represents the reality of the organization.


Theory-in-use can have direct effects on the organizational culture if the moral face for the organization stands for one ideal and the organization works within another ideal behind the scenes.  This can cause motivational issues and employee commitment concerns as well as retention of employees and social reputation.

            As a consultant, it is extremely important that strategy and communication work together and that there are no hidden agendas.  This is the essence of a system that works holistically together.  If leaders within the organization work together under the mission statement, the espoused theory should be the theory-in-use.  If there is any disconnect, that is when a consultant can be called in to help the organization realign for optimal success.  This can be completed through many different types of workshops and seminars, like World Café, Appreciative Advising Summit, or a Search Conference.



Building Shared Vision Workshop Principles

Mueller (2014) explored the notion that pyramids have served a vision for organizational development and structure for well over 4500 years.  This would be considered a hologram of shared vision, the stance that a pyramid can mean organizational development.  During workshops, shared visions can be placed into different hologram structures that mean the same thing but just are set up differently.  In essence, the same system structure, different layout.  For example, Mueller (2014) provides an organizational example of Scandinavian Airlines that took the pyramid hologram structure and turned it upside down and placed customers on top and employees on the bottom.  This shared vision and change dynamically changed the organization from being in the red to black within one year.

What are organizations after, commitment or compliance?  According to Curran (2002), it takes true commitment to change and to produce creativity, drive, courage, and persistence.  In addition, Curran (2002) also explored compliance as a directive that comes from the change of command.  In order to realize true change, leaders need to create a climate of openness, critical thinking and accountability that allow for growth of employees.  By conducting workshops with leadership and front line employees, the organization is showing their commitment to their employees by giving them a voice versus just telling and making one do because it is their job.

Caucuses to Develop New Change Initiative

The definition of a caucus is a group of people with a shared concern.  How does this effect engagement?  By bringing together the system as a whole, ideas and processes can be discussed.  As a consultant, this is the best type of engagement, by getting everyone involved.  This gives the front line employees a sense that they are involved in the organization and that their ideas do matter.  In addition, it shows that leadership understands and values their employees instead of just having the top five percent make the decisions and the remaining be worker bees.  A great workshop for this type of engagement would be a Search Conference that would be held off sight.

Workshop Outline

In keeping the best interest of the University in mind, this consultant would recommend a World Café be completed in three phases with three different workshops all with the same focus.  The goal of the workshop will be to develop a shared vision among the department on how to best work with the student population.  This type of workshop would have provided excellent information for the leadership team before they made the decision to change through appreciative advising.  Below is an outline of the workshop that this consultant would perform with twenty advisors per session.  The workshop will last about 4 hours in length and the deliverable will be a vision statement for the department.  After all three workshops have been completed; the leadership team will evaluate the information and see if their strategy fits the three defined vision statements created by the advisors, managers and leaders of the department.

World Café Agenda Outline- SAMPLE- 4 Hour Workshop

9-920 Arrival of participates; sit around the tables- 4 to a table

920-930 Delegate a table led amongst those you are sitting with.

930-10 Explain the workshop and go over the principle rules of World Café

10-1030 Question 1- using pictures, words or symbols answer the question posed.

1030-11 Question 2- using only pictures- answer the question posed

11-1130 Question 3- using only sticky notes- answer the question posed.

1130-1150 Gallery Walk- develop three common themes.

1150-1210 Discuss themes found in gallery walk- write on white board.

1210-1230 While working at your table- develop a group vision statement based on the themes presented.

1230-1 Discuss in detail the visions that have been created and answer questions with the group.

From this workshop the generation of many ideas will be presented.  It is up to the leadership to use this information to the best interest of the department and organization.   More than likely, a shared vision and mental models will be present during the reveal in all three groups that conduct the workshop.

Review of New Change Initiative

Based on the aftermath of the world café workshop, this consultant finds it important to provide a framework for implementation.   First step in the implementation of the World Café information is to have a review session with the leadership uncover themes and goals.  Based on these goals, priority needs to be presented.  According to Burke and Sheldon (2010) an action plan can also be created with the results from the workshop.  For the sake of illustration, let’s provide an example of what can be expected from leadership.

Example 1- University Innovation

This is an example of themes and concepts that could have been deducted from a World Café workshop.  Please note that this is a sample of information and not real information produced from a World Café workshop.

Theme uncovered by the group:

  1. Better Culture
  2. More autonomy with student population
  3. Better Training and Development for Student needs
  4. More leadership engagement
  5. Passionate workers that care

From these examples of themes, an infinity chart could be used to correctly place the ideas from the group.  For example for better cultures but could be conducted for each of the themes presented.  This will provide clear ideas for leadership.

  1. Better Culture

a .      Tension in the workplace

  1. All about the money
  2. More emphasis on student and not on retention
  3. Employee engagement
  4. Employee satisfaction and commitment

As a consultant, it is our job to lead the facilitation and to provide the proper framework of the workshop.  As far as what is deemed important, that is completely up to the organizational leadership.  In this example, a better culture was a theme identified.  Now, my recommendation to leadership for next stages would be to prioritize the themes into what they feel should be accomplished first based on their vision and strategic plan moving forward.  In this fictional example, leadership might deem that Better Training for Students needs is a major priority.  The leadership team would develop an action plan and to work with the consultant on a framework for deployment of the change.  Utilizing the World Café has allowed for the discovery of these areas of opportunity and according to Pasmore (2015) discovery is the first phase of change implementation followed by decide, doing, and discerning.  In addition to the discovery phase, this example provides implementation of the deciding and doing aspects of the change process as well which provides a holistic vision from a practitioners point of view.

Implementation of New Change Initiative

In looking at the University change progress to date, many different areas of opportunity have been identified and are currently being deployed by priority.   As a consultant, it is extremely important that these priorities are mapped out and prioritized for maximum impact.   Within framework presented, providing the organization with a pathway of understanding and duplication moving forward will be their biggest asset.  To recap the organizational change and the philosophical underpinnings deployed.

  1. Social Constructionismas a fundamental theory of communication and rapport building.  Build based on this philosophy and theory.
  2. Organizational Development and Changeas the seminal roots for change and the foundations.
  3. Organizational Learning and Knowledge Management Theory
  4. World Caféas a means of accessing the information from the organization
  5. The prioritizingof the ideas and processes presented by the world café.

The next steps will allow the organization to continue to process change.  Since the University has begun the change process and the results of the next steps have been identified and exploration into the leadership theory might open the doors to more out of the box thinking.  For example, Uhl-Bien (2006) discusses the role of leader from a systematic view point versus the vertical top-down.  By making the leadership more level less resistance to change and greater employee motivation by incur.

Internal changes include:

–          More horizontal leadership and less silos

–          Cultural assessment- develop a sense of pride

–          Quarterly evaluation of new target with department goals implemented

–          Continued work within the system to reduce duplicates and provide valuable data

Based on the progress that has been made to date, the leadership has developed a new strategic focus that will be geared toward the student population that will work to the strengths of the department.  They will not deploy some fad program that might or might not work based on external data.  The data that was received during this consulting exercise is one hundred percent home grown data from the minds and hearts of those within the organization and those that have the most knowledge and experience with the product and clients.  In addition to the excellent data that has been provided, leadership and taken a step back and revaluated their organizational structure to help provide the best design to assist the student population at the university.












Proposed Time Line and Budget

So why hire a consultant?  A consultant according to Chitakornkijsil (2011) is needed when an organization has a lack of available staff to deal with a problem.  In this particular project, a consultant is brought in to help with strategic framework on a process moving forward and also to help align the department and system.  In addition, the consultant must have the proper tools at their disposal.  In the time line proposal, the consultant makes numerous tool announcements to be used during that particular phase.  According to Heiskanen (2011) these tools can be used during the consulting process and are universal in nature.  For example, the consultant might use a strategic planning tool to help explore the business needs or opportunities.  It is all dependent on the needs of the client and the system organization.

In taking a closer look at the timeline proposal, this change project is projected out for about 1.5 years depending on the need of the organization.  When working with the leadership group, the consultant was able to prioritize what needed to change first and what will have the most impact on the system.    The implementation phase will continue until the needed changes have been completed.  In addition, the tools utilized might change has these are just general tools for a specific method.


Change is not a static entity.  In some cases like the case presented concerning the University, change will fail.  The information that has been provided laid the ground work for future consultants and a framework for change.  It provides points of emphasis as well as a workshop format.  The key take-away is that the consultant needs to listen to their client, understand their needs prior to deployment and make sure that there is adequate buy-in from the system.  In addition, change is continuous and cannot be completed in a three month period.  There needs to be continuous feedback and reevaluation of systems and processes in order to meet market depend and provide that competitive advantage.  Lastly, change does not have to be a horrible experience.  With proper planning, listening, and communication change can be successful.



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