Photo of professor Debra Orr with her book, Team for Change

On April 8, Roosevelt University professor Debra Orr published her first book, a practical handbook for working through the organizational change process.

In Team for Change: A Practitioner’s Guide to Implementing Change in the Modern Workplace, Orr writes about managing the unpredictable human aspects of change. The book lays out basic principles for making decisions about the change process. Orr also shares the stories of other industry experts as a roadmap for successful organization development.

Dr. Debra Orr is an associate professor of organizational leadership at Roosevelt. In her book, she wasn’t afraid to tackle the thorny, complex side of change that traditional methods sometimes avoid. Many books have laid out techniques for the change management process, but few address the human aspect, including how to manage the resistance that people often feel toward change.

In large organizations, Orr says, the essential work of getting one person on board requires significant effort.  However, in smaller companies, failing to get one person could sabotage the entire project.

“In reality, we're changing an organization one person at a time,” she said. “We're changing one person's thought process, one person's way of working, one person's way of interacting.”

Orr is an associate professor of organizational leadership and development at Roosevelt University. Orr is a scholar-practitioner and conducts research as a full-time professor while she continues to consult for companies. She’s served as an executive coach for entrepreneurs as well as Fortune 500 presidents, and she actively works in strategic planning and implementation..  

Orr believes in bringing real-world practices into the classroom and evidence-based research into the workplace. In the Roosevelt organizational leadership program, she teaches courses about organizational change and how to get people to work together productively.

The Roosevelt MA in organization development program, designed for working professionals, prepares students to improve workplace performance against the backdrop of a constantly changing world. The program helps graduates stand out in the job search and connect academic theories to what they’ll do in their careers. The program is aligned to the Global Competency Framework of the Organization Development Network, which is the largest association of OD practitioners in the world. 

“After one year in the program, I started reaping the benefits of my work sooner than I thought,” said Portia Daniels, a 2020 graduate of the program. “I also enjoyed building new relationships, from professors and students to executives in the field, that I wouldn’t have met otherwise.”

Orr also teaches in the BA in organizational leadership program, one of the first fully online programs of its kind.  The program is a bachelor’s degree for students who want to drive positive change, build teams and improve workplaces.  

Principles of successful change management

Orr lays out underlying principles of human interaction as the foundation for thinking about change as an evolving project. The book is a practical guide and pulls the relevant sections out of theories to tie into the realities of the workplace.

Orr interviewed many people who have gone through change, from outside consultants to reticent employees. The Roosevelt professor says that successful change management has clear goals and well-established metrics so people understand where they stand.

Getting people involved requires reinforcement and encouragement so that employees can feel that they’re contributing to a larger goal.

“People who resist change are protecting something,” Orr explained. “It could be job security, money, a knowledge base or a sense of control. They are doing a natural, important thing. The question is, how do we help them reframe their thinking toward what the organization is trying to accomplish?”

Orr argues that we need to step into resistance instead of avoiding it.  “Instead of trying to overpower people and force them to do things our way, we need to step in with compassion and listening,” she said.

Team for Change is available on Amazon.

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