Episode image for Organisational Development and Managing Change
Episode 28 Buy Episode

Organisational Development and Managing Change

Law as stated: 19 October 2020 What is this? This episode was published and is accurate as at this date.
In this episode, Melina Milojevic explains the importance of organisational development and the impact it has on both employee engagement, motivation, managing change and leadership.
Practice Management and Business Skills Practice Management and Business Skills
Milena Milojevic
1 hour = 1 CPD point
How does it work?
What topic does this episode consider?Organisation development, career development, training, coaching, innovation, leadership development, talent management, change management, leadership styles
Why is this topic relevant?‘Organisational development’ is an umbrella term that refers to different aspects of managing change and performance to support organisational growth. Effective organisational development can empower leaders and employees, create a positive culture, increase employee engagement and encourage honesty and transparency in feedback. But despite these benefits, many people (lawyers included) are not aware of the importance and advantages of a thoughtful and considered organisational development strategy. This episode explores the benefits of organisational development, providing recommendations and strategies that are relevant for law firms, lawyers and organisations more generally.
What models, case studies or concepts are references in this episode?


  • Zappos: why the successful footwear company pays new employees to quit
  • Pulse surveys: a survey sent to employees on a regular basis to gather feedback about employee satisfaction, communication and the work environment
  • Kotter’s 8 step change model
  • Adkar’s 5 step change model
What are the main points?What is organisational development?

  • A planned holistic approach to aligning systems, structures and strategies to support organisations to be more effective.
  • There are five stages to organisational development: birth, growth, maturity, decline and revival.
  • Focus on why – why does the organisation exist?  What is its purpose?  Create a business and operating strategy that focuses on the ‘why’.
  • Organisational development is important for lawyers in all different types of organisations from Big law firms, to New law firms, to in-house roles at private companies to legal roles within public sector organisations. For lawyers working in-house or in the public sector, there can be some complexity because those people usually exist within a legal team with defined goals and objectives, but that person and the team they are in also have to align with the broader goals and objectives of the organisation.
  • Ensure growth aligns with the organisation’s strategy. If an organisation pursues growth that doesn’t align with its strategy or it’s ‘why’ it can steer off course.

Organisational development is fluid and will evolve overtime

  • Organisations at the maturity or decline stage of the organisational development cycle are less likely to innovate and take risks.  The idea of change, even minor change like pivoting, can be paralysing.
  • Agility is key; without diversification and constant change to exist in our ever changing environment, organisations will start to die.
  • It can take 1-3 years to effectively implement and embed organisational change and up to 10 years in effect cultural change.
  • Growth will often lead to change which usually results in friction that is best managed through a thoughtful and considered change management strategy.

What is change management?

  • Change management focuses on how to prepare, support and help people through any organisational transition. It focuses on the change that needs to happen and communications with stakeholders, in particular employees.
  • It can take 1-3 years to effectively implement and embed organisational change and up to 10 years in effect cultural change.

How is change implemented?

  • Kotter’s 8 step model to effect organisational change:

Step 1: create a sense of urgency or what’s often referred to as a burning platform around the need for change.

Step 2: build a core collation usually amongst leadership to help lead and act as champions for change.

Step 3: focus on developing a strategic vision.

Step 4: focus on communication of that vision and emphasises the need to communicate it frequently and powerfully and to embed it within the organisation.

Step 5: focus on removing obstacles – identifying any processes or structures that are standing in the way of change.

Step 6: focus on short term wins, giving people within the organisation a sense of accomplishment and victory early in the change process to increase motivation.

Step 7: focus on building on momentum and making improvements.

Step 8: focus on anchoring the changes into the corporate culture so it becomes part of the DNA of that organisation.

  • Jeff Hiatt’s ADKAR model focuses on 5 outcomes needed to achieve lasting change:

1. Awareness: of the need for change

2. Desire: to support the change

3. Knowledge: of how to change

4. Ability: to demonstrate skills and behaviour

5. Reinforcement: to make change stick

What is the role of leadership?

  • Leadership is integral to effective organisational development and managing change. Leaderships styles range from autocratic, authoritative, pacesetting, democratic, coaching, affiliative and laissez-faire.
What are the practical takeaways?
  • The management of people and culture is critical to effective organisational development. Ensure there is clear career progression that aligns with the organisation’s plans for growth.
  • It is recommended to have a clearly defined plan for an employee’s life cycle from onboarding to induction to developing and mentoring. A performance management system is integral to ensuring motivation, engagement and retention.
  • Distinguish between personal goals and organisational goals so that talent is being supported and trained to learn the skills needed to support the organisation.
  • Lawyers are not trained to be leaders. In their undergraduate studies and when starting practice as a lawyer the focus is on technical skills. Research has shown that the legal profession attracts a large number of individuals with the ambition to lead, but the focus of legal education and the reward structure of legal practice undervalue the interpersonal skills necessary for successful leadership.
  • Leadership styles can change over time. It’s important to recognise the benefits and detriments of each style. The most effective leaders must learn and understand how to flex their style to suit different situations.
  • A lot of emphasis is placed on being a ‘visionary leader’; there are leaders who are skilled at describing the ‘promised land’ or the destination – but not how to get there. They often afford people free reign to innovate, experiment and take calculated risks to reach the destination. However, this style can leave people confused about detail, priorities and expectations. The most effective way for leaders with a sole visionary style is to surround themselves with leaders and champions who favour democratic, coaching and pacesetting styles.
Show notesSinek, Simon, Start With Why, (Penguin UK, 2011)

Sinek, Simon, TED Talk: How great leaders inspire action

Rhode, Deborah, Lawyers as Leaders, (Oxford University Press, 2013)

Thompson, Anthony, Dangerous Leaders How & Why Lawyers Must Be Taught To Lead, (Stanford University Press, 2018)