'Changes are often controversial'
Woody van Olffen took up his post as professor of Organizational Change and Development at TIAS School for Business and Society on April 1, 2013. He is also Academic Director of the Executive Master of Management and Organization (MMO).
What research are you going to carry our at TIAS?
"I recently published a paper in the publication Organization Science together with Omar Solinger from the Vrije Universiteit. The paper was about the development of the commitment of new employees during their initial period with a new employer. To measure this commitment we developed an online tool that asks the employee three short questions. These three key questions were defined using the literature. Eighty new employees answered the questions every week. And it appeared that twenty-five weeks were sufficient for identifying a change in their level of commitment.
We are going to further develop this application; a game developer is going to turn it into an app. Moreover I am going to focus on applying the tool in complex organizational changes. We can now measure how people's attitude or behavior changes, for example when a company reorganizes."
How new is your research?
"There have often been premises related to employee commitment. For example that it increases over time. But no scientific research had been performed because there was a lack of any related literature. Scenarios had not yet been tested and we had to dig deep to find any relevant literature. And - extremely important - there was no tool for mapping development: we had to devise it and build it ourselves.
It is sexy but dangerous research. Before we started we didn't know if it would lead anywhere. Fortunately it worked out well."
What do you find so interesting about research into organizational change?
"Firstly it is so widespread. It is research that involves or affects a lot of people. Change is often controversial and everyone has an opinion on it. The second reason is more personal. I sometimes say it: ‘I love change because I hate it’. I often feel that change is dangerous. It has an element of excitement. By trying to understand it, I think I am getting to grips with it. But no! But it then feels a little less scary."
What do you want to pass on to your MMO students?
"The master of Management and Organization (MMO) trains professionals to be good general managers. It is a great target group and highly diverse. This provides an extraordinary dynamic during the lectures. I want to help them to be an effective dialog partner in many areas. And teach them how to identify links between all the different areas. That is the manager of the future."