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Navigating the Changing Tides: Leading Through Organizational Change

Uncover powerful strategies for leading through organizational change, including setting a clear vision, fostering inclusivity, and overcoming obstacles. Learn from successful companies like Netflix, LEGO, Walmart, and Sephora. Navigate the complexities of change with confidence and guide your organization to success in turbulent times.

Organizational change is an inevitable part of business, impacting companies of all sizes. However, it’s alarming that many of these changes fail or produce unsatisfactory results, leading to detrimental consequences.

As a senior leader or influential professional, you will encounter these dynamic transformations throughout your career. But the good news is that proven techniques and strategies can help you successfully navigate these ever-evolving circumstances.

This article will explore the art of leading through organizational change. You will gain practical insights and valuable guidance to empower you in effectively managing and leading your organization through transition periods. By implementing these strategies, you will be better equipped to steer your company toward success amidst change challenges.

What is Organizational Change? How Do We Define It?

People must first comprehend why they are changing to change. A company must look for ways to operate more effectively to prevent falling behind or staying ahead of competitors. Organizational change examines how a corporation or organization changes its operating methods, technology, organizational structure, overall structure, or strategies and the consequences of these changes. 

Typically, this can be reactionary, which means it’s driven by factors outside the company and guided by leaders with a clear vision for the most effective, efficient approach. Or it can also be proactive to recognize and capitalize on emerging opportunities. It ultimately comes down to examining and altering organizations, particularly management structures and business processes.

What Role Does Leadership Play in Organizational Change?

Leadership plays a crucial role in organizational change by guiding and facilitating the process. 

Here are some key aspects of leadership’s role in driving successful organizational change:

  1. Setting a clear vision: Leaders must articulate a compelling vision for change, providing a clear direction and purpose for the organization’s transformation.
  2. Establishing strategic objectives: Effective leaders define strategic objectives and techniques that align with the desired organizational change. They ensure that roles, responsibilities, authority, interfaces, and individual talents are considered during the organizational design process.
  3. Building a strong foundation: Respected and experienced leaders contribute to establishing a firm foundation for the organizational structure. Their involvement helps gain stakeholder acceptance and creates a sense of stability.
  4. Proactive leadership: Effective leadership is essential during crises and in times of stability. Leaders should be pre-existing in the organization rather than brought in as an afterthought to address key issues.
  5. Leadership development strategy: Organizations should have a well-implemented, recognized, and sustained leadership development strategy. It should go beyond mere documentation and focus on developing leadership skills and competencies.
  6. Overcoming obstacles: Leaders assess and address obstacles hindering the organization’s vision. They streamline operations to enhance overall effectiveness and facilitate a smooth transition.
  7. Setting short-term goals: Leaders establish short-term goals that leverage existing strengths and address weaknesses in the current system. These goals provide a roadmap for progress and help build momentum during the change process.
  8. Collaboration and inclusion: Leaders rely on the knowledge and opinions of peers, trustworthy advisors, and affected employees. They foster a collaborative environment where diverse perspectives are valued and integrated into decision-making.
  9. Communicating and supporting: Leaders play a vital role in facilitating internal communication regarding the transition plan and its outcomes. Their visible support helps employees understand the importance of the change and encourages cooperation.
  10. Experience and expertise: Having experienced leaders becomes essential in significant strategic changes. Their expertise and past experiences can guide the organization through complex transformations.

Strategies for Successful Organizational Change

Implementing successful organizational change requires a thoughtful approach and strategic planning. To navigate the complexities of change, leaders must employ effective strategies that address communication, inclusivity, overcoming obstacles, maintaining core values, upskilling the workforce, and employing a structured approach to implementation. Here are some key strategies to consider for achieving successful organizational change.

  • Create awareness: Communicate the reasons behind the change and establish a sense of urgency. Engage employees through surveys, focus groups, and feedback collection to ensure effective change management communication.
  • Foster inclusivity: Involve more voices in decision-making to make employees feel valued and encourage the generation of new ideas. Clear communication about the purpose and goals of the change helps align everyone involved.
  • Overcome obstacles: Identify and address resistance to change within the organization. Lead by example and embrace the change yourself to inspire others. Encourage a positive mindset and demonstrate the benefits of the transformation.
  • Maintain core values: While modifying operations, ensure that fundamental aspects of the business, such as values and purpose statements, remain consistent. Refer back to these principles during the execution of strategies to guide the change process.
  • Upskill the workforce: Recognize the need to enhance the workforce’s capabilities. Assess staff competency and select appropriate change management training programs and tools in collaboration with stakeholders. By investing in trophies, organizations can empower employees with the necessary skills and knowledge to adapt to and thrive in the changing landscape. This involves identifying skill gaps, providing targeted training programs, and leveraging tools that support continuous learning and development.
  • Embrace a multi-step approach: Managing organizational transformation requires a systematic and phased approach. Implementing these strategies helps facilitate enterprise-wide improvements and enables scalability.

Importance of Measuring the Success of Organizational Change

Instead of focusing on just one yardstick for success, why not embrace a more well-rounded view of organizational transformation? Here are a few questions to help you along the way:

  • Did the change produce the desired results?  
  • Were all of the planned phases timely implemented?  
  • Is there an optimal and a minimally acceptable benchmark for success?
  • Are the employees accepting or actioning the suggested change?

Once you’ve tracked whether you’ve met business objectives and, more crucially, how those outcomes affect the people in your organization, it’s critical to assist your team so that they can continue to help your external clients – one another and the organization.

Successful Organizational Change: Inspiring Examples


An excellent example of a corporation that entirely shifted its business strategy to compete with shifting trends is Netflix. Netflix embarked on its cloud journey 2008 after a critical database failure disrupted DVD shipments for three days. This incident led them to transition from vulnerable, single-point-of-failure systems to reliable, scalable cloud infrastructure provided by Amazon Web Services (AWS). 

After seven years of dedicated efforts, Netflix completed its cloud migration, resulting in significant growth with eight times more streaming members and a three-orders-of-magnitude increase in viewing over eight years.


LEGO, the popular toy manufacturer, experienced a significant decline unexpectedly in 2003, which was $800m in debt after over 60 years of generating consistent profits. The customer’s shift in interest caused this failure. The digital reinvention of Lego, rather than physical toys, rebuilt the firm. It began to focus on virtual, augmented reality and resurrected its success story.  

Walmart & Sephora

Other companies, such as Walmart, have embraced augmented reality and virtual reality technology to provide a realistic experience with services and technology. Sephora also employed cutting-edge facial recognition technology to deliver precise product recommendations. 

Written by Mike Szczesny.
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CEOWORLD magazine - Latest - CEO Debate - Navigating the Changing Tides: Leading Through Organizational Change
Mike Szczesny
Mike Szczesny is the owner and vice president of EDCO Awards & Specialties, a dedicated supplier of employee recognition products, branded merchandise, and glass awards. Szczesny takes pride in EDCO's ability to help companies go the extra mile in expressing gratitude and appreciation to their employees. He resides in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

Mike Szczesny is an opinion columnist for the CEOWORLD magazine. Connect with him through LinkedIn.