Leading Change: 5 Ways an Online MBA Can Help

A confident online MBA graduate, and advocate for change, leans against his desk.
A confident online MBA graduate, and advocate for change, leans against his desk.

Organizations of all types survive and thrive based on their ability to adapt in a changing marketplace. From boardroom diversity to social responsibility, companies need change agents who are ready to lead new initiatives. A change agent is a professional who “has the skill and power to stimulate, facilitate, and coordinate the change effort.”

Anyone can be a change agent with the right blend of skills and drive. Suffolk University’s MBA Online program achieves this mixture through experiential learning and deep connections to Boston’s diverse business community. This MBA Online program treats change management as a skill that can be proactively managed and is iterated through continuous learning. As one of the only national programs with this focus, Suffolk reinforces the following ways to advocate for change while building in-demand leadership skills.

Plan for Effective Change Management

Effective leaders identify changes that need to be made and establish clear plans. We can use diversity and inclusion efforts as examples of how long-term planning can lead to meaningful change. Becoming an advocate for diversity inclusion at work is easier when you understand the multitude of positive impacts.

McKinsey found that the most gender-diverse businesses outperformed the least gender-diverse businesses by 48%. This trend is similar to the 36% profitability difference held by ethnically diverse businesses. Diversity and inclusion increase performance through improved workplace environments and talent acquisition.

This return on investment is only possible when leaders use change management practices. Deloitte found that 90% of respondents supported the concept of continuous change in their personal and professional lives. This buy-in is essential to carrying out a change management process that includes:

  • Project Vision and Strategy

  • Communications

  • Corporate Cultural Change

  • Change Readiness Assessment

Suffolk University’s MBA Online program is brought to life by full-time faculty who are experts in change management. Faculty members draw on decades spent in the academic and professional worlds to foster innovation in the business world. MBA candidates learn that change occurs through constant motion rather than standing still.

Program Director Jodi Detjen exemplifies this expertise in her recent book, “The Next Smart Step: How to Overcome Gender Stereotypes and Build a Stronger Organization.” Detjen shows how gender equity in the workplace can be achieved through mutual respect, open communication, and flexibility. Change is presented not only as the right thing to do but an invaluable asset for the future of business.

A business professional works on her tablet, taking notes

Develop Metrics for Impact Assessments

Organizational change is a continuous evolution rather than a one-time event. Today’s well-drawn plan may not work in a year or a decade. Leaders need robust metrics for understanding ways to advocate for change in the future.

Every employee and department involved in a change campaign should establish SMART goals. This acronym refers to five criteria for effective goal setting that include:

  • Specific

  • Measurable

  • Achievable

  • Relevant

  • Time-Bound

The Time-Bound component means there is a built-in evaluation stage for every SMART goal. Evaluations allow the employee or team to work with business leaders on recalibrating their efforts. They also build ample data on individual steps toward change through metrics like:

  • Adherence to a project plan

  • Return on investment

  • Speed of implementation

Suffolk University’s MBA Online program promotes effective goal setting through its non-traditional curriculum. Students work with experienced faculty and Boston’s business leaders to establish benchmarks as they solve real-world challenges. These experiences allow MBA Online program graduates to spur change from their first day on the job.

Empower Stakeholders to Implement Change

Achieving ongoing changes in any organization can be difficult without a collaborative environment. Gartner’s Changing Change Management shows the divide between business leaders and employees during change campaigns. The report concludes that:

  1. 80% of businesses dictate change from executives;

  2. 63% of employees are skilled enough to carry out change campaigns;

  3. 74% of employees support change in the workplace.

The modern business leader needs to share in advocating for change rather than passing policy down as a finished product. Gartner offers the following tips for engaging stakeholders, including employees, in change campaigns:

  • Talk with - don’t tell - employees about what changes are necessary 

  • Co-design new strategy with relevant stakeholders

  • Allow employees to develop methods for implementation based on their experiences

Flexibility is Key to Achieving Lasting Change

Change agents need to remain flexible on how to achieve change based on what they hear from colleagues and direct reports. Robert Half notes that an ever-changing world means:

“...to manage change effectively, you need to be prepared to take detours at times so that ultimately, your team can stay on course and reach the intended destination.”

Suffolk University’s MBA Online program has been revolutionizing online business education since 1999. The final course in the MBA curriculum, called Leading and Implementing Change, guides students through a simulation. Emphasizing practical problem-solving, this course is a culmination of previous lessons that encourages change agents to evaluate how their efforts impact society. 

Maintain Accountability for Ongoing Change Campaigns

Leaders and employees engaged in organizational changes need to hold each other accountable for success. The metrics mentioned above are useful for identifying the factual impacts of change campaigns. Gallup includes some additional tips for accountability that include:

  • Clearly define who owns what process or element of change

  • Calibrate long-term goals to learning and development opportunities

  • Highlight progress and success as it happens 

These steps show that ways to advocate for change are also opportunities for personal and professional growth. Employees become more comfortable talking about challenges and creating solutions. Leaders are attuned to areas for future changes based on their conversations with employees.

MBA Online program candidates at Suffolk University learn about accountability from the Boston business community. Courses and workshops with executives reveal how business theories are being realized in the corporate world. This unconventional approach to graduate education trains MBA candidates to ensure accountability after graduation. 

Group of online MBA graduates, now business professionals, pictured during informal meeting

Demonstrate How to Advocate for Change to Others

Advocating for change is not only important for improving the workplace environment and productivity. Consumers increasingly expect brands and organizations to be socially responsible. Clutch’s survey of 420 consumers revealed that:

  • 75% started buying from a company that took a stand on an issue they agree with;

  • 71% believe it is important for companies to take stances on social issues;

  • 68% view social responsibility as the most important attribute for a brand.

Increasing staff diversity, developing underrepresented talent sources, and reducing environmental impacts are attractive to consumers. They root businesses in local, regional, and global communities by showing concerns for how people live. Change agents also open opportunities for collaboration and partnerships by doing what is best for society.

Suffolk University connects MBA Online program students around the country to a diverse business community in Boston. MBA candidates are presented with new and innovative ideas that extend change beyond offices to storefronts and virtual stores. These methods can be immediately integrated into any organization open to change.

Learning How to Advocate for Change at Suffolk University

Business and organizational leaders act as change agents when they stay focused on what’s ahead. Listening to employees and remaining familiar with social trends are as valuable as understanding bottom lines. Suffolk University’s MBA Online program prepares graduates to anticipate change instead of falling behind.

MBA candidates will be enrolled in core courses such as World-Class Strategies and Leading and Implementing Change. Electives may be taken from a variety of topics or students may select from the following concentrations that allow for more in-depth industry specialization:

  • Accounting Principles

  • Business Intelligence

  • Finance

  • Health Sector Management

Future change agents want to learn from the best as they take the next steps in their careers. Suffolk University is among a select group of business schools accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB). U.S. News & World Report ranked Suffolk No. 31 in Regional Universities North and No. 60 in Best Value Schools.

Suffolk’s MBA Online program was the first of its type in New England when it opened in 1999. Faculty members with business experience use real-world situations to produce job-ready graduates. This degree strays from the conventions of traditional MBA programs while drawing lessons from success stories among Boston businesses.

Develop new ways to advocate for change in the workplace with Suffolk’s MBA Online program.


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