Leading Organizational Change in Higher Education

Topic: Education System
Words: 3303 Pages: 12


The study exemplifies the leading organizational change in higher education. Managing change initiatives is a challenging process riddled with perils and challenges; nevertheless, it also provides crucial opportunities for progress. The study’s goal was to present a review of the literature on organizational change, an effective transition within institutions, leaders’ behaviors and techniques, and change models. Essentially, a leader’s transparency and collaboration during the transition process strengthen employee participation in the organizational transformation process. Change management is concerned with the link between leaders’ conduct and organizational change and its outcomes. According to the findings, leaders are both sense-givers and sense-makers, especially when implementing a change initiated by others. Thus, organizational change communication is a potent tool for successfully implementing organizational change. Institutions that use a shared leadership model gain from increased agility, innovative thinking, and collaboration.

Academic leaders acquire the trust of faculty, staff, and students by successfully communicating with all participants. Furthermore, they support campuses committed to the search for strategic options and alternative and sustainable solutions. Organizational change requires creating a set of steps to ensure shareholders have the help they require, such as awareness, leadership, and coaching. The study also addresses change models such as Lewin’s Three-Phase Process, Kotter’s Eight-Step Mode, Hiatt’s ADKAR Mode, and Judson’s Five Steps.

The discussion focuses on the universities’ dilemma of short-term solutions to organizational reform. Therefore, institutions actively contemplating and experimenting with considerable changes are highlighted. Developing change-related skills and competence focuses on the learning components of organizational change and can be related to both grasping the vision and implementing new practices. Change management at universities necessitates a roadmap that describes the beginning point, the path to be taken, and the goal. Institutions are primarily encouraged to engage in actual strategic planning that investigates inventive new models rather than slight modifications to the traditional system.


Organizational change is complicated and may take various forms, usually impacting more than one section of the organization and demanding resources and the capacity to adjust to uncertainties and complexities. Stadtländer (2021) states that leading and managing change implementations is a complex process fraught with dangers and obstacles; nonetheless, it also offers advancement opportunities. Hughes (2019) introduces his definition of organizational change: “the set of assumptions, tacit beliefs, conscious theories and implementation approaches that govern a change agent’s way of looking at the organizational world and the best approach to introducing change” (p. 18). The fundamental purpose of organizational change management is to support effective transitions within institutions (Smith et al., 2020). The degree to which organizational change happens has been classified as first- or second-order (Adserias et al., 2016). For instance, first-order change provides incremental upgrades and modifications that do not affect the system’s foundation and happen as the system matures and evolves naturally. Second-order change denotes a fundamental shift in an organization’s primary values, mission, culture, operational procedures, and structure.

Organizational transformation necessitates that members of a group alter their behavior in response to changes in the environment. Vlachopoulos (2021) argues that formulating a successful change plan is a critical success element for all leaders during this transition process. As it concerns substantive change, higher education is a paradox. It is an area in which innovative concepts, approaches, and methods emerge on a regular basis across several disciplines. Moreover, change is encouraged, and ideas are revised when study findings contradict preconceived views or paradigms. Professors and administrators in higher education, on the other hand, believe that changing practices and habits is tough (Vlachopoulos, 2021). Thus, the paper addresses the leading organizational change in higher education and emphasizes scholars’ opinions, leadership styles, and change models to enhance the transitional phase.

Leading Organizational Change

Change is critical for organizations continually developing and competing in today’s economy. Hussain et al. (2018) emphasized five vital leadership activities in the change process. For instance, motivating transformation, defining a strategy, obtaining political support, directing the change, and maintaining momentum are the fundamental actions. Motivating transformation and defining a strategy demonstrates how the organization’s current state is being considered for change. Additionally, directing the change exemplifies how the moving stage of change and maintaining momentum prove the implementation and refreezing state of the change. Two elements play a crucial role in the change process: employee resistance and willingness to change (Hussain et al., 2018). Hence, employees’ openness to change should be prioritized during the change process, while resistance to change will most likely negatively influence the change process.

Moreover, leaders’ behavior is critical in leading organizational change. The concepts of leadership and organizational change have long been intertwined and regularly addressed together (Oreg & Berson, 2018). Hussain et al. (2018) suggest that the leader’s openness underlines and strengthens employee engagement in the organizational change process during the change process. Thus, the leader’s transparency allows workers to express their thoughts and create a stronger sense of control (Hussain et al., 2018). Leaders who exhibit supportive behavior and give assistance or recommendations during the change process will benefit from task dedication and accomplishment. The problem of organizational change in complicated circumstances necessitates considerably more in-depth theoretical investigation, such as exploring various combinations of individual and multiple viewpoints of organizational leadership (Canterino et al., 2018). Nonetheless, the literature continues to place emphasis on the individual driving the change rather than the diversity of individuals and their relationships.

Essentially, change management is related to the relationship between leaders’ behaviors and organizational change and its results. Furthermore, leadership is widely discussed in terms of its influence on organizations during times of transition, and the literature on organizational change regularly acknowledges the responsibilities that executives and change agents play as change leaders (Oreg & Berson, 2018; Smith et al., 2020). Besides, it is impossible to discuss organizational change without mentioning, at least indirectly, leadership behaviors and processes. Oreg and Berson (2018) mention that the majority of the focus in leadership and change study is on the impact that leaders have on their followers. For example, leaders are both sense-givers and sense makers, especially when implementing a change begun by others. Change receivers, on the other hand, are not only “sense makers but also sense-givers” (Oreg & Berson, 2018, p. 48). Therefore, even when the leader imposes change, bidirectional lines of impact exist between superiors and subordinates.

Managing organizational change nowadays could be problematic for leaders. Fernandez and Shaw (2020) outline three leadership best practices for dealing with unforeseen adaptive problems like the coronavirus pandemic. Firstly, academic leaders with emotional maturity and stability should prioritize the needs of others over their own by utilizing a kind of servant leadership that stresses empowerment, inclusion, and cooperation. Secondly, academic leaders should distribute leadership duties to a network of teams within the organization to enhance the quality of crisis intervention choices. Lastly, leaders should communicate effectively and regularly with all stakeholders using a range of communication methods (Fernandez & Shaw, 2020; Petrou et al., 2016). Organizational change communication is a powerful instrument for successfully executing organizational change.

When considering university campuses, changing from an authoritarian leader/follower leadership paradigm to a new shared leadership model will take time. Nonetheless, institutions that use a shared leadership model benefit from greater agility, innovative thinking, and cooperation. Hence, they have stronger support networks in times of crisis than institutions that use an outdated and resistant to change hierarchical management paradigm (Kezar & Holcombe, 2017). In response to a situation, supporting vertical or hierarchical leaders may develop a sort of dispersed leadership in which diverse employees at different levels of cross-organizational barriers to exercise creative influence in times of transition (Fernandez & Shaw, 2020). It is essential to note that academic leaders should use a new toolset of mental stimulation, inspirational motivation, and encouragement to assist the campus collective in changing the direction from traditional to remote learning. Fernandez and Shaw (2020) suggest that it is vital to focus on providing essential coaching, assistance, and resources to faculty suddenly immersed in online teaching. Although some faculty have swiftly produced good online course options due to their inherent propensity to experiment, academic administration should moderate faculty aspirations.

Leaders must grasp the complexity of the coronavirus pandemic, collect information as it becomes accessible, and explain these complexities to all stakeholders, perhaps in simpler words, while describing potential realistic remedies. By effectively communicating with all parties, academic leaders gain the trust of faculty, personnel, and students. Additionally, they encourage campuses dedicated to the pursuit of strategic possibilities and alternative and sustainable solutions; this capacity is known as sensemaking (Fernandez & Shaw, 2020). After establishing the significance of interacting with all stakeholders and creating mutual understanding, assigning leadership duties to situationally aware teams and communicating with clarity and consistency are critical for managing organizational transformation.

Hence, a profound transformation in an organization’s principles, philosophy, or practices is referred to as change. According to Canterino et al. (2018), the research stresses three significant management drivers pertaining to planned transitions from a managerial standpoint: communicating, mobilizing, and evaluating. First, communicating applies to leaders’ continual attempts to integrate organization members by describing their choices and actions, such as expressing their vision and desired outcomes and facilitating the need for change. Consequently, mobilizing involves actions performed by leaders to create social spaces that allow organizational members to participate in discourse to boost the adoption of innovative work methods. Ultimately, leaders use evaluating metrics to analyze the impact of their implementation and institutionalization initiatives.

Notably, communication is regarded as crucial to the start of the change process and the building of a new culture. Canterino et al. (2018) inform that employees perceive the emphasis on communication in organizations as a vital component. Furthermore, the necessity of responsibility and shifting the focus of assessment to performance indicators such as quality and reliability metrics and budget planning should be emphasized (Canterino et al., 2018). Particular consideration should be dedicated to building new common values and forms of behavior to unite individuals across the organization (Smith et al., 2020). Besides, there is solid evidence that there are powerful drivers for change in higher education. Two significant forces define and challenge the contemporary environment: quickly increasing technology and a profoundly altered financial paradigm (Pincus et al., 2017). Understanding the dynamics of change is critical for encouraging strategic and operational changes at the institutional, thematic, and individual levels.

Significantly, several variables indicate a high likelihood of an effective organizational change of higher education paradigms and curricula. Organizational transformation entails developing a series of actions to guarantee that shareholders have the assistance they require, such as awareness, leadership, and coaching (Smith et al., 2020). According to Pincus et al. (2017), as technology advances, there are solid economic signs that knowledge and skills will continue to be critical to successful professions; the demand for continuous learning will grow. Secondly, academic and external stakeholders thought leaders had made remarkably consistent recommendations about how higher education should change, including a greater emphasis on skills and competencies, more integrative learning, greater transparency and reliability through evaluation, and a focus on life-long learning (Pincus et al., 2017). Thirdly, there are persistent statements from certifying agencies and associated stakeholders about how research should develop, including a greater emphasis on research findings. Finally, in response to the calls for reform, external stakeholders have demonstrated a readiness to engage with academic institutions; thus, effective communication among various parties is critical.

Literature Review

Several prior pieces of research looked into the link between work satisfaction and attitudes toward organizational change. Yousef (2016) acknowledges that the findings revealed that emotional commitment moderates the effects of job satisfaction, income, supervision, and security on affective and behavioral propensity attitudes toward change. Furthermore, organizational commitment moderates the relationship between the perceived efficacy of organizational change procedures and job satisfaction (Yousef, 2016; Petrou et al., 2016). As a result, work satisfaction immediately impacts attitudes toward organizational change (Yousef, 2016). Improving work satisfaction by, for instance, developing efficient and reliable reward programs and job descriptions will increase employees’ dedication to their present departments, and they will be more respectful and supportive of change as a consequence.

Technological advances, diversifying personnel, competitive dynamics, and globalization are just several reasons that drive organizations and their employees to participate and execute change initiatives. Finding strategies to implement significant and long-term planned change is difficult. The literature on change management is filled with prescriptive models, most of which are aimed at top managers and executives, counseling them on how to effectively implement planned organizational change (Stouten et al., 2018). Generally, these models outline a series of phases considered relevant across a wide range of organizational change interventions.

Consequently, Lewin’s Three-Phase Process, Kotter’s Eight-Step Mode, Hiatt’s ADKAR Mode, and Judson’s Five Steps should be discussed. Lewin’s Three-Phase Process is a three-phase transformation process that is widely used in practice: “(1) unfreezing, (2) transitioning to a new stage, and (3) refreezing” (Stouten et al., 2018, p. 753). Unfreezing entails building a change vision and a change plan. Therefore, the organization is better prepared to transition to new systems, processes, or practices. This transition includes implementing the change and adapting current systems to accommodate the change. The integration of the change to coincide with other organizational structures and processes is referred to as refreezing. As a result, the change gets incorporated into the organization rather than staying a distinct entity.

Moreover, Kotter’s Eight-Step Mode is another prominent change model. According to Stouten et al. (2018), the change process begins with (1) creating a solid call to action in which personnel is made aware of the change’s importance. (2) A steering committee is created, which (3) leads to the development of the transformation vision. (4) This vision is shared with personnel, and (5) the coalition, together with employees participates in the change process by establishing change plans. (6) The following phase encourages short-term gains to strengthen planned change. (7) Next, the consolidation stage strengthens and continues the change by implementing further modifications that have not yet been completed but must be addressed since the organization’s procedures would not be positioned correctly with the initial change vision. (8) The last stage formalizes the change by incorporating it into the organization’s structures and processes.

Essentially, ADKAR places a high priority on systems that enable workers to act as change advocates. Hiatt’s ADKAR Mode is an acronym for awareness, desire, knowledge, ability, and reinforcement (Stouten et al., 2018). ‘Awareness’ entails instilling in employees the notion that change is required. It entails developing and presenting a transformation vision. The ‘desire’ stage comprises putting the change vision into action and focusing on enabling workers to be active participants in the transformation. Hence, the knowledge and skills are enhanced to enable employees to participate in the transformation. Finally, during the reinforcement stage, the changes are enhanced and incorporated into the systems and practices of the organizations.

The five steps of Judson’s Five Steps are as follows. First, it is crucial to analyze and plan the change (Stouten et al., 2018). Secondly, shareholders should communicate about it and thirdly, gain acceptance for the changes necessary, especially in behavior. Next, an institution makes the initial transition from the current system to the new environment. Ultimately, leaders and employees consolidate the new terms and continue following up to legitimize the change.

Change models acknowledge that vision should be disseminated through a variety of channels, such as periodicals, blogs, multimedia, social networks, or conferences. Leaders who act as role models are a significant type of vision communication (Stouten et al., 2018). Thereby, corporate and academic leaders communicate their support for the change, convert words into actions, and highlight the significance of upcoming changes (Siemens et al., 2018). Additionally, they should listen to authentic voices inside the community, discern broad trends, and challenge present beliefs and projections (Stouten et al., 2018). Personnel should be enabled to behave in ways that are compatible with the vision, generating new ideas and methods of working that stem from their knowledge of the change (Stouten et al., 2018). Thus, empowerment can assume the form of mentoring and assisting employees in issue-solving and removing barriers to change.


Essentially, universities are typically concentrating on short-term remedies regarding the organizational change. Nevertheless, several institutions, such as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Harvard Business School, Stanford University, and Bellevue College, are actively considering and experimenting with significant modifications (Pincus et al., 2017). The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) initiated an Institute-Wide Task Force on the Future of MIT Education to solicit feedback from academics, students, employees, businesses, and alumni advisory organizations, as well as the broader public. The HBX program at Harvard Business School features a proprietary online platform designed to efficiently provide a case study program or other engaging seminars while remaining at the upper end of tuition but with different components. According to Pincus et al. (2017), Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business (GSB) started offering an online executive education certificate program using virtual reality technology in May 2015. Moreover, the program included personalized avatars for students who participate in classes in a virtual space to emulate the GSB university classroom environments.

Learning new skills and information is usually required for effective change. Stouten et al. (2018) argue that developing skills and expertise connected to the change focuses on the learning components of organizational change and can be related to both comprehending the vision and how implementing new practices motivated by the change. Models generally agree on the need to maintain focus on change management (Stouten et al., 2018). According to Siemens et al. (2018), educational leaders should make sense of broad-ranging changes and the critical need to plan for and deliver systemic solutions. The change requires continuing to spend resources in the change process to convince individuals of the importance of the transition and keep the pace progressing.


To conclude, change management at universities requires a roadmap that outlines the starting point, the path to be taken, and the goal. This map will incorporate the plan’s assets, scope or objectives, and expenses. The appropriate model, such as Lewin’s Three-Phase Process, Kotter’s Eight-Step Mode, Hiatt’s ADKAR Mode, or Judson’s Five Steps, should be selected to ensure proper change management. It is critical to give a multistep approach to leading organizational change rather than abrupt and unexpected fundamental adjustments. Adequate preparation ensures that the university community understands the change and its importance to all teams and departments; collaboration is a critical element of successful change management. Thus, acceptance of the change will be smoother, and communication about the process will be more precise and transparent.

In the face of tremendous pressures for change, institutions should put what they proclaim into practice. Primarily, institutions are recommended to participate in genuine strategic planning that explores innovative new models instead of minor modifications to existing models. Leaders should communicate effectively and often with all stakeholders and encourage the participation of all parties. As a result, organizational change communication and openness are essential tools for successfully implementing organizational change in higher education.

Executive coaching will assist university leaders in gaining better transparency in their professional careers, increasing their degree of self-consciousness, enhancing their level of expertise, and reaching their maximum potential. Ongoing mentoring assistance might be the difference between only learning and accomplishing. The absence of a clear strategy or plan held by academic leaders, a lack of leadership, future leader development programs, and transparency in the decision-making process are the key barriers to more efficient and inclusive change management. When considering Kotter’s Eight-Step Mode, it is simple to understand how these obstacles prevent any eight phases from being implemented. More precisely, the lack of a strategy prevents a sense of urgency and makes influencing other academic actors more difficult because a vision cannot be expressed without a plan. Therefore, academic leaders should be sensitive to external influences and promote organizational change in higher education by focusing on clear objectives, communication, transparency, and information sharing.


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