Skip to main content

Organizational Change

The following shares a methodology, tools, and common language for leading change. This framework was developed to assist you, no matter who you are, in leading change in your team, unit, and across teams and units within the colleges, divisions, and departments.

Leading Change

The methodology relies on a solid foundation of change leadership, including the ability to:

  1. lead the change,
  2. communicate why the change is being made,
  3. focus on outcomes and measures of success,
  4. create transparency,
  5. develop a strategy to lead change, and
  6. develop a communication plan to communicate information and milestones.

University Methodology to Lead Change

The elements of the change leadership process include:

  • Strategic Planning,
  • Goal Alignment,
  • Process Improvement, and
  • Implementation and Continuous Improvement.

The following process and tools are available as unit leaders lead change in their units. Please note: this methodology is designed to be flexible. A unit may enter at any point of the continuum based on that unit’s place in the change process. To determine your unit’s first steps, review:

University Mission and Strategic Plan

A first step to leading change in your unit is to assure alignment of unit and employee goals to the Cornell University Mission and Strategic Plan. The Strategic Planning website highlights Cornell's strategic planning activities and includes a draft of the Strategic Plan. The Strategic Plan will be finalized in May and will identify goals, objectives, tactics and metrics that define the Cornell of the future.

Leading Change: Diagnostic Tool

Use the Diagnostic Tool (doc) tool to determine the stage of change with which your unit is engaged.

Understanding Change and Common Personal Responses to It

When we experience change, it can bring up all kinds of emotions. Caught in the Storm of Change (pdf) shares our responses to change, help us better understand change and our reactions to it.

Best Practices in Change Leadership

Use this Best Practices in Change Leadership (pdf) tool to develop an understanding of things you will want to consider as you lead change.

Goal Alignment

Objective: Identify and prioritize work - assure goals and work are aligned with each other. To see an overview of the university methodologies to lead change see: University Methodologies (ppt) presentation.  More +



Understand key decision-makers’ goals and objectives to meet them (Board of Trustees, president, provost, deans, vice presidents)

Adapted Kotter Model (pdf) for Leading Change

Develop communication plan (revisit often throughout the change process)

Communication Best Practices Checklist (pdf)

Determine measurable goals

Strategic Alignment of Goals to Work Processes (xls) - Must Do’s, Should Do’s, Nice to Do’s and Won’t Do’s Worksheet

Goal Alignment Tool (xls) for those who wish to “weight” work

See sample Unit Goal (doc)

Determine measurable objectives that align to goals, based on work moving forward

See sample Work Plan Template (doc)

Process Improvement

Objective: Identify major work processes that align to the goals, improvements needed, and resources required. Develop a process map. Align work.



Process map major processes, analyze for improvements, cost savings, efficiency, quality, timeliness

See sample process maps Flowcharting Guidelines (pdf). See sample Training Process Flowcharts (pdf).

Determine resources needed to accomplish goals and objectives

Use all the data you have gathered to align work and responsibilities – may result in restructuring work or the roles within the unit

Align roles and responsibilities into the appropriate “buckets” of work

Work Design and Re-design

Explain each area of work within the department or work group

Indicate task per bucket of work assigning time frame, frequency and complexity per position

Indicate task, education, skills, experience and estimated time per task

List positions, band, market mid-point, benefits cost and estimated annual compensation costs per department to identify whether costs align with department's budget

Checklist used to assess motivational factors of a position

Position Diagnostic Checklist (xls)

Implementation and Continuous Improvement

Objective: Implement the change through all levels of the organization  More +



Aligning managers and employees with the change

Caught in the Storm of Change (pdf)

Create an action plan with measurable deliverables and timeframes

Unit Goal (doc) and Work Plan Template (doc)

Review communication plan and revise as needed

Communication Best Practices Checklist (pdf)

Align position descriptions to unit goals

Measurable employee goals aligned to position description

Implementation Deliverables: High-level description of work

Understanding of change metrics

Clearly defined position descriptions aligned with university/unit goals and goals of individuals

Action plan for on-going assessment and continuous improvement

Common Definition of Terms

With the creation of the university’s Strategic Plan, Cornell’s senior leaders have agreed to a common language. The same language has been adopted within the University Methodology to Lead Change. 

  • Goal: An end-state.
  • Objective: An end-state that is more specific and subsumed within the goal. Objectives translate the goals into something that is more manageable.
  • Action Plan/Tactic: Actions or tactics are the particular means used to achieve objectives.

How to Begin

When you are ready to engage your unit in using the methodology, processes, and tools outlined on these web pages, please contact one of the following individuals. They will work in partnership with you, your HR representative, and a representative you appoint from your unit throughout the change process.