An Introduction to Change: Leadership, Organizational Development (OD), and Change Management - Yiely Ho
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An Introduction to Change: Leadership, Organizational Development (OD), and Change Management

An Introduction to Change: Leadership, Organizational Development (OD), and Change Management

During the past 10 years I’ve helped countless people with navigating change. From non-profit organizations to professional services to entrepreneurs to health authorities and public institutions. I’ve even been privileged to support clients who are senior managers, executives and board members.

When I first started in the field of change and process work, I didn’t have the tools or emotional depth to go where clients needed me. Over the years I honed my curiosity and skills in negotiating the middle ground – that messy area between here and there.

If you’ve heard the terms “leadership” or “organizational development” or “change management” and wondered what it’s about, you’re not alone.


Here’s a quick rundown.


Leadership: “The concept of leadership [is] slippery and complex. So we have invented an endless proliferation of terms to deal with it, and still the concept its not sufficiently defined” (1). Leadership is subtle, nuanced and always personal.


Organizational Development (OD): This field of study applies theories from psychology, organizational behaviour, systems thinking, and business management. OD uses a set of actions to improve employee wellness and organizational effectiveness (2).


Change management: Whereas OD is the field of study, change management is how we get it done. Three distinct phases are identified to manage change: the present state, the future state, and the transition state (3).


This is what it might look like at work:


Leadership: When leadership works well, the collective group feels inspired, motivated and has a clear sense of purpose. There are many expressions of what makes an effective leader. The word leadership is used both as a noun (referring to a person or a title) and verb (describing a way of being, an action, or style).

While all leaders are usually good managers, not all managers are good leaders.


Organizational Development (O.D.): A consultant or intrapreneur diagnoses the current state of the organization and designs a course of action. This action plan is based on the organization’s needs and shortcomings (4). Innovation could be related to people, structure, politics, and symbolic change (5).

As the organization undergoes the transition, there is ongoing communication across all levels about the end game, why it’s important, and how we’ll all get there. We might hear words like goal or vision, purpose, and strategic plan. I have also seen the opposite of this, which is no plan and utter chaos.


Change management: Both the context and content are clear. To illustrate this, imagine a ski instructor reading the conditions on the mountain. She has a group of students of varying abilities. The instructor perceives the environmental changes, what needs to be taught that day, and how to best guide the group of students toward their goal.

When change management is done well, updates and changes are shared. Everyone who needs to know, knows. We are aware of the context of change, why we are all there, what’s happening in the environment, what’s happening within the group, and how it affects each of us personally. Change management requires awareness of the content and context of change.


Remember, this is a brief glimpse into leadership, organizational development (OD), and change management. While I used core literature from the 1980s – when these ideas were introduced in business – an abundance of work has since emerged.

My hope with this overview is to introduce ideas that can help us manage our complex workplaces.

Learning how to navigate the messy area between “here” and waaaaay over “there” took time. Nonetheless, there are ways to navigate the unknown and even find safe passage through unchartered territory.


***My goal is to share that latest research in a meaningful, easy-to-read way. To learn more about the work that informed this post, check out:
(1) Bennis, W.G., & Nanus, B. (1985). Leaders: The strategies for taking charge. New York: Harper & Row.
(2 & 4) Beer, M., & Walton, A. (1987). Organization change and development. In Burke, W., Lake, D, and Paine, J (Eds.), Organization Change. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
(3) Beckhard, R. (1987). The change process. In Burke, W., Lake, D, and Paine, J (Eds.), Organization Change. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
(5) Boleman, L., & Deal, T. (2013). Reframing organizations: Artistry, choice and leadership, 5th ed. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Want more growth in your business and personal life? Come get in touch.

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