Faculty Spotlight

Think Like a Change Agent: Professor Cynthia Ingols Breaks Down the Latest Edition of her Toolkit

Cynthia Ingols, Professor of Practice and Director of the Undergraduate Program, published the fourth edition of her book, Organizational Change: An Action-Oriented Toolkit, in Fall 2019. The book covers organizational change on the micro and macro level.

“We want students to consider, ‘how should I think as a change leader about what I need to do to bring about change in an organization?’ ” said Ingols. “And on the macro level, ‘how do I think about changing structures, systems, processes and politics often involved in organizational change? How do I lead as a change agent, and what are the skills that I need?”

And those skills are vital, given the rapidity of changes in the current marketplace, and in society. “Social media has altered the whole field of marketing,” Ingols remarks. “Businesses have to weather accelerated change in the external environment. You have to find a way to lead the change and be adaptable. We also integrate the use of data into changing organizations.”

As an example of how quickly things can change, Ingols cites a story included in the last edition of the book: “Boeing had realigned all of their suppliers, it had become a global process and at the time it was very successful.”

This story required an update in light of the crashes of Boeing aircraft in October 2018 and March 2019, which revealed severe problems within the company. “Four years ago the story for Boeing sounded really good, but now we have to reassess that viewpoint.”

This edition of the book also includes short cases thematically tied to each chapter, allowing students to apply the theory to an actual situation. Contributors of these case studies include Assistant Professor Paul Myers, Professor Stacy Blake-Beard, Adjunct Professor Erin Sullivan, and former students Jessica Coppla ’13, ’18MBA and Lisa Brem ’97MBA.

“The case that I co-wrote with Lisa Brem is about a consulting company that didn’t have roles assigned," says Ingols. "When they hit about 50 employees, they needed to bring some structure into the working of the organization.”

The chapter preceding focused on formal organizational structures, and the case offered an example of a lack of structure, to show the ambiguity that can result. “We asked students, ‘how would you structure this organization?’ These are disguised cases so students can’t look up the actual result, they need to come up with their own solutions and recommendations.” 

As for working with former students, Ingols has an eye for potential collaborations. Jess Coppla’s excellent writing skills caught her attention. “She wrote an excellent paper about a company she was working for at the time, so I asked if she would write a case about it.”

Ingols sees the book as a how-to manual. “We try to make it a very practical guide to how you lead change.”

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