At what point in an organizational change initiative should learning executives be involved? What can they do to keep employees informed and engaged during the transition period? How can they sustain and add value to the change effort? These were just a few of the questions tackled in “Leading Change: Learning’s Role in Strategic Initiatives,” a panel discussion that took place Tuesday at Chief Learning Officer Magazine’s Spring 2008 Symposium in Orlando.

The session, which was moderated by MasterCard Senior Vice President of Global Learning and Organizational Development Rebecca Ray, covered the ways learning could contribute throughout the entire change life cycle, from ideation to adoption. Panel members included Fred Harburg, CLO magazine columnist and managing partner of Harburg Consulting; Wes Bull, president and managing director of Integrate HR LLC; Jeff Mitchell, executive vice president and general manager of H.O. Penn Machinery Co.; and Tim Clark, author of Epic Change: How to Lead Change in the Global Age.

Among the many highlights from the presentation were Harburg’s comments illustrating how learning can impact the emotional aspects of change and Mitchell’s explanation of how informal employee communication networks within organizations can undermine transformational initiatives and how workforce development can protect the workforce from their negative influence.

Additionally, Bull argued that learning can play a strategic role in change by taking a comprehensive view of the enterprise and identifying possible problems and solutions in advance. Clark also pointed out that organizational change programs can fail at the starting blocks or the finish line, and maintained that “energy management” was crucial throughout these processes.

Along with the insights provided by these experts, attendees provided anecdotes, analogies and advice regarding the role of learning in change. Watch a quick video recap of their insights at

The audience members and panelists started a discussion that CLO magazine will continue in its online discussion forum. Readers with thoughts about how learning can and should play a part in change efforts can contribute to the conversation at


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