Insiders and Outsiders Role in Leading Organizational Change

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In general, organizational change entails planning and executing change in order to realize effectiveness throughout an organization. To be successful, the top leadership in an organization must demonstrate a high level of commitment and attempts must be made to involve those who are likely to be affected by a proposed change (Gallos, 2006). During the planning stage, individuals responsible for managing the recommended change must undertake a thorough investigation of the current status of the organization so as to determine why the change is necessary. This may then be followed by the development of an implementation strategy and a well outlined plan for mobilizing resources. The main reason for having an implementation tactic is to avoid surprises during the change process.

While controlling change from above is necessary at times, it must be handled carefully as it may lead to resistance from individuals at the lower levels in an organization. As a result, it is necessary for leaders to ensure that the intention to change is widely communicated and every individual in the organization must be made aware of the anticipated change. In the absence of effective communication regarding the recommended change, those leading the change may encounter resistance that may interfere with the implementation process.

This paper provides a discussion on the role of insiders and outsiders as far as leading organizational change is concerned. While the term insiders is used in this paper to refer to internal change agents or consultants, outsiders refers to external change agents.

The Role of Various Groups in Organizational Change

Change is very important in ensuring that an organization can grow and compete successfully. Accordingly, organizations spend time and huge sums of money to implement changes deemed necessary for organizational development. Whereas some changes succeed, others fail miserably. Instead of improving efficiency, the implementation of a new technology in organization may, for example, make things worse. It is thus imperative for those leading change to spend enough time to plan and devise a reliable strategy before embarking on the implementation process. Any flaws in the change management process that are not addressed in good time may have serious repercussions for an organization including wastage of resources, discouragement, and loss of precious time.

Although consultants from outside an organization play a very critical role in leading change in organizations, insiders equally have an important role to play in ensuring that change is properly managed. According to Gallos (2006), internal change agents include leaders at the highest level in organizations, consultants charged with the responsibility of advising top leadership on different issues concerning the day-to-day operations in an organization. Internal change agents also include individuals who are motivated to support a desirable change.

While some employees may have personal reservations about a particular change, there are those who may be enthusiastic and willing to persuade their colleagues on behalf of top management, to support the change. The specific roles of insiders and outsiders in leading change within organizations are discussed in the following subsections.

The Role of Insiders in Leading Organizational Change

Many organizations have internal consultants responsible for the operations of different departments. They include human resource professionals, accountants, auditors, change managers, and training professionals among others. Besides working through internal consultants, organizations are led by committed individuals such as the Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Chief Financial Officer (CFO) and Chief Information Officer (CIO) who provide leadership at the highest level in an organization. In some organizations, the CFO and CIO are answerable to the CEO who in turn is answerable to the organization’s Board. Nevertheless, the main focus of insiders, just like outsiders, is to ensure that an organization can succeed in its endeavors to grow and compete effectively.

In the event that change has to take place in an organization, every individual associated with the organization in one way or another has a very important role to play. Apparently, many challenges are faced by internal change agents when it comes to implementing a proposed change. To a large extent, however, it is the responsibility of top leaders in any organization to ensure that change is successfully implemented. Arguably, lack of commitment from top leaders in any organization is responsible for failed implementations of change. It is also important for leaders to be knowledgeable about the intended change. Part of what is needed from top leaders in any organization is the ability to effectively manage a diverse group of subordinates (Gallos, 2006).

Although commitment from top leaders in an organization is essential for successful change to occur, it is not the only ingredient for effective change management. In some cases, those at the lowest level in an organization’s hierarchy may have a stronger conviction about a particular change than their supervisors or even top leaders in the organization. As a result, it is important for organizations to encourage leadership from all levels in the organization. Among other benefits, involving employees at different levels in an organization creates a sense of ownership and a high level of commitment from every single individual in the organization. Involving employees also ensures that leaders and subordinates are at the same level of reasoning regarding an anticipated change. As a consequence, the process of implementing change is simplified.

However, while it is essential for subordinates to influence their leaders from the bottom, leaders must equip them with skills to effectively engage with colleagues at different levels as well as those who are superior to them. Another important responsibility of top management in an organization is to create a common vision to guide all employees whenever a desired change has to take place. Ostensibly, absence of a common vision to control the change process is to blame for a number of failed change implementation processes. In general, a common vision provides the energy needed for effective change management.

Top leadership in organizations must also ensure that a number of important considerations are not ignored during the change management process. Leaders must work very closely with the training department to ensure that the training needs of the target group in an organization are fully met. While training employees on the use of new technology is vital and ensures that those targeted by a particular change are able to adjust well, it is important for leaders to ensure that they are consulted widely about the proposed change. The targeted individuals must also be involved as much as possible throughout the change process.

Failure to involve the affected employees may lead to resistance and this may seriously affect the change process. Leaders must therefore engage with internal change agents at every level in an organization and every person whose input is critical must be consulted.

The human resource consultants must be brought in to explain how the implementation of a change may affect the staffing needs in an organization. Oftentimes, employees are concerned about becoming useless because of changes such as mergers or the introduction of a new technology. It is the responsibility of the human resource consultants in an organization to create discussion forums where affected members of staff can freely express their fears. During such forums, human resource experts must explain to target employees what the proposed change means for them. In case alternative arrangements are to be made to ensure that employees are not laid off, this must be made crystal clear to the target group. Failure to do so may spark rebellion and the intended change may not take place.

Certainly, the conduct of top leaders is vital for effective change management. Apart from other important roles they have to play, leaders must be able to deal with any form of resistance to change. Ordinarily, the thought of changing creates a cold atmosphere and fear among employees in most organizations. Considering that employees are usually uncertain about what to expect from a change, attempts may be made to scuttle efforts to implement a suggested change. Consequently, top leaders as well as any other person responsible for implementing a suggested change in an organization must be well prepared to deal with any form of resistance.

Generally, resistance to change may be addressed through trainings, effective communication, and counseling. Although initiating change from the highest level in the organization is helpful, it must be minimized as much as possible. Oftentimes, resistance to change in most organizations is linked to the fact that change is initiated by leaders without considering the input of subordinates. While an idea may appear feasible to leaders at the very top of an organization, it may be difficult to get other employees to buy into the idea. Subsequently, those responsible for implementing change may encounter violent resistance from other employees in an organization.

There are eight important steps that have been suggested by Harvard Business Review for successful change implementation (Harvard Business Review, 2011). The first important step is to create an urgent need for change. Normally, urgency comes from examining the operating environment and identifying possible predicaments and any existing opportunities. Certainly, this enables organizations to know important things to focus on. Secondly, an organization must form a team that will be charged with the responsibility of leading the change process to a logical conclusion. Among other benefits, having a strong team in place to guide the change process ensures that it moves on well and eliminates any form of confusion. Third, a vision must be created to ensure that all those who are involved in the change are reading from the same script and moving in the same direction. In the event that a person digresses, he or she may be brought back to the right track by the vision.

Fourth, the vision of the change must be effectively communicated to every individual in an organization and especially those directly affected by the proposed change. This plays an important role in dealing with resistance to change. Apparently, failure to effectively communicate a vision to followers is a recipe for failure (Harvard Business Review, 2011). Generally, resistance occurs when subordinates are isolated and made to feel out of place. While leaders may get their way with such an approach, the outcome can not be sustainable and those who feel left out may begin to grumble. The fifth step involves empowering the leaders of the suggested change.

This step is mainly concerned with the elimination of change barriers and ensuring that structures that might turn out to be stumbling blocks are removed. It is quite obvious that ignoring this step will expose the team in-charge of a change to unexpected resistance from employees. The sixth step entails the creation of short-term gains. This helps in understanding what the possible gains are and how they may be realized. Other members of the organization also get an opportunity to be enlightened about the benefits of the proposed change to the organization. The seventh step focuses on improvements to the change strategy. Among other things, this step involves realigning all the change activities with the vision for the recommended. Activities that appear to be out of place may be replaced with those that seem to be in line with the change vision.

Finally, the eighth step ensures that the new approaches are linked to the success of an organization. This is very important considering that every change must be designed to support organizational growth.

The Role of Outsiders in Leading Organizational Change

Generally, both insiders and outsiders are concerned about helping organizations determine and implement changes that lead to improved performance. This notwithstanding, there are obvious differences between the two groups of change agents (Scott & Hascall, 2013). As has already been explained, insiders have a stronger bond with the organization unlike outsiders and enjoy some specific advantages. On the other hand, outsiders are considered to be professionals of high integrity and vast experience in their specific areas of interest. Since outsiders do not have any close ties with organizations, they are likely to be more independent than insiders in leading a change process.

While insiders may compromise in certain areas, outsiders may not have such intentions and generally tend to focus on what is best for the organization. Despite the fact that insiders may be well experienced professionals, the way they are viewed by leaders in organizations may be totally different from how outsiders are regarded. Being independent and experienced individuals, most outsiders are highly respected and may have a greater influence on the top leadership in organizations.

As experts in their respective fields, outsiders are well versed on various matters and always strive to stay abreast with new developments in their sectors (Scott & Hascall, 2013). Consequently, they are considered to be more knowledgeable and hence better advisors than insiders. With their vast experience, outsiders can provide benchmarks to guide their clients regarding effective change management. Because of the experience earned over time, outsiders can offer organizations greater insights regarding effective change management.

Outsiders may, however, be limited in their knowledge of an organization and this may greatly hamper their effectiveness. While insiders can use their in-depth knowledge of an organization to get their way around, outsiders may waste so much time trying to figure out the best approach for engaging with different people within the organization. Difficulty in accessing critical information may also affect progress by outsiders during the process of implementing a suggested change.

To a large extent therefore, outsiders focus on making the work of leaders easy in the event that a change has to be implemented. They spend time educating employees about a proposed change and ensuring that organizations are able to realize their development goals. Considering that outsiders may not be familiar with various operations in an organization, they have to listen carefully to the client and only offer their input after understanding what the customer is interested with. Without a proper understanding of an organization and its operations, outsiders are bound to make numerous mistakes and may fail to realize organizational goals such as getting customers satisfied, implementing a new technology, or achieving the desired growth.


Both insiders and outsiders have a role to play in leading organizational change. However, the biggest responsibility lies with internal change agents. Unlike, outsiders, insiders understand the structure of an organization well and are often in a better position to know the right people to target in order to have a successful change management process. It is also the duty of top leaders in any organization to deal with any form of resistance to a proposed change.

Although insiders play a very critical role in ensuring successful change, leaders must have a clear strategy of engaging them. It is important for top executives in organizations to encourage leadership at all levels. Unfortunately, most leaders fail to realize the critical role of insiders in leading organizational change. Ostensibly, this causes organizations to engage the services of poorly skilled individuals at the expense of organizational growth.

As explained in this paper, it is critical for those responsible for implementing a particular change to have a clear vision to guide the entire process. In the absence of a well articulated vision, confusion may arise leading to a failed implementation. However, leaders must effectively communicate the vision to all employees especially those who are directly affected.


Gallos, J. V. (2006). Organization Development: A Jossey-Bass Reader. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass. Web.

Harvard Business Review. (2011). HBR’s 10 Must Reads on Change Management. Boston: Harvard Business Review Press. Web.

Scott, B. & Hascall, J. (2013). Inside or Outside: Internal and External Consultants. Web.

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