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Strategies for Organizational Change

Updated: Oct 10, 2023

This post comes from Sam Richardson, a Major in our Air Force. Prior to his current position, Sam was the Operations Flight Commander, Air Force Reserve Officers Training Corps, Detachment 330, University of Maryland, College Park, Maryland. Sam is currently the Secretary of the General Staff, Joint Forces HQ, District of Columbia National Guard, Washington D.C. In this piece he speaks to important strategies needed for one of the toughest jobs of an organizational leader – crafting change.

Organizational leaders must effectively analyze the behaviors of their personnel in order to successfully bring change to their organization. Even the best planned and managed change implementation will not succeed if you cannot convince people to adopt what you are embedding in the organization simply because people are an essential factor in successful change (Hirsch, 2018). Grenny et al. (2013) discuss four strategies to help leaders succeed. These strategies are noticing the obvious, looking for crucial moments, learning from positive deviants, and spotting culture busters.

Obvious Behaviors Many leaders may fail to reinforce the simplest things behaviors of personnel in order to change the direction of their organization. My time spent at the University of Maryland as an Air Force ROTC instructor has given me a lot of examples I find relevant to this course. Many cadets were struggling to grasp the concepts that was taught in the Leadership Lab. The Leadership Lab is where we do a lot of hands on training with battlefield tactics and marching. Obvious behavior for the cadets would be to practice marching and tactics outside of Leadership Lab with other cadets. They should also read the assigned material prior coming to the Leadership Lab. I used to be the head cadre in charge of the Leadership Lab and asked a lot of cadet what they were doing to prepare and a majority were not preparing or practicing before attending. They were coming to Leadership Lab to learn the material and continued to struggle, while others who properly prepared were ready and excelled. I needed cadets to do the basics and go beyond that to be innovative students and future Air Force leaders. Organizations increasingly depend on employee efforts to innovate (Schuh et al., 2018).

Crucial Moments Leaders have to be able to recognize crucial moments that occur in their organization to create positive change. Crucial moments are particular activities that take place which cause negative impacts to the organization. In Air Force ROTC, cadets train other cadets to get them ready to be leaders in the Air Force. Cadets were bringing to my attention during semester counseling they felt that the quality of training was decreasing. I did an investigation with the junior and senior cadets to determine where we could improve. I discovered that cadets in charge of training were STEM students and were in their hardest classes. We adjusted who would do training, so cadets with more free time could develop better training for the lower level cadets. The next semester the quality of training during Leadership Lab drastically increased. Leadership development feedback helps to encourage employees to actively seek feedback information, help employees to correct their behaviors and make decisions at work, and promote employee performance (Zhang & Zhu, 2019).

Positive Deviants Leaders have to identify the individuals that are able to figure out methods to overcome challenges most personnel face during organizational change. Positive deviance is an endogenous source of organizational creativity that has been shown to be powerful tool for learning and change (Mertens & Recker, 2017). Air Force ROTC organizations faced a new challenge of converting the administrative process from paper to electronic. It was a struggle for our organization to do it effectively in the given amount of time. Some schools were able to do it without any issues. We went to them and received the necessary training so we could be more effective in our Air Force ROTC program. Organizations need diverse and creative personnel to think outside to the box to get tasks accomplished.

Culture Busters Cultural norms in organizations have a major impact on the success rate of change occurring. Organizational culture can significantly influence the performance and effectiveness of a company; the morale and productivity of its employees; and its ability to attract, motivate, and retain talented people (Warrick, 2017). It is important to have a diverse workforce to ensure organizations stay stagnant with cultural norms that limit advancement. The Air Force ROTC cadre at the University of Maryland were very diverse and we all brought various insight on improving the organization. One of the cadre members always used the devil’s advocate approach when we were having group discussions on how to move forward on a process or issue. He ensured we did continue with cultural norms and kept us from falling into groupthink.

Conclusion Leaders must have a plan of action to motivate personnel to change when change is required for the organization. The four strategies discussed in the discussion post are excellent starting points for leaders to utilize. I would suggest that leaders gain input from their employees on how to improve behavior. Employee involvement exists in organizations that intentionally establish work cultures, systems, and processes to encourage and make use of employee input and feedback (Kokemuller, 2019).


Grenny, J., Patterson, K., Maxfield, D., McMillan, R., & Switzler, A. (2013). Influencer: The new science of leading change. (2nd ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill Education. ISBN: 9780071808866.

Hirsch, W. (2018). How to support individual change as part of your organizational change management plan. Retrieved from

Kokemuller, N. (2019). Advantages & disadvantages of employee involvement. Retrieved from

Mertens, W., & Recker, J. (2017, January). Positive deviance and leadership: An exploratory field study. In 2017 50th Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences (pp. 214-223). Retrieved from :

Schuh, S. C., Zhang, X. A., Morgeson, F. P., Tian, P., & van Dick, R. (2018). Are you really doing good things in your boss’s eyes? Interactive effects of employee innovative work behavior and leader–member exchange on supervisory performance ratings. Human Resource Management, 57(1), 397-409. doi:10.1002/hrm.21851

Zhang, K., & Zhu, X. (2019, December). Supervisor Developmental Feedback and Employee Job Performance: Chain Mediation of Emotional Intelligence and Feedback Seeking. In 2019 3rd International Conference on Education, Economics and Management Research (ICEEMR 2019) (pp. 93-96). Atlantis Press.

Warrick, D. D. (2017). What leaders need to know about organizational culture. Business Horizons, 60(3), 395-404. Retrieved from

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