Learning to lead from inside

Contact: Erin Flynn

Charlie Kautz is working at Spectrum Health after earning his master's degree in organizational change leadership.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich.—As businesses change to fit the growing needs of their consumers, company values are changing, too. And many corporations are enlisting the help of change management professionals to evaluate the impact of that evolution.

"I think it's the role of change management to help people and really focus on the human side of change," says Charlie Kautz, who is earning his master's degree in organizational change leadership. "That includes how employees interpret it, how they think about what's in it for them, and helping to drive buy-in and make those big transitions from the existing state to the future state as successful, efficient and meaningful as possible for people across the organization."

Kautz has worked for large companies like Adidas and TaylorMade, focusing on building cultures of innovation, but he knew he wanted to take his skills to the next level.

"I really wanted to get a more well-rounded perspective of organizational development and change management, and I thought one of the best avenues to do that would be to pursue higher education," says Kautz. "I felt like I sort of got thrown into the deep end so to speak in my first work experience, and I felt like if I didn't go and try to become more well-rounded and get an academic and historical perspective I would be limited to the lines in which my organizations were looking at it."

A geographical jump landed Kautz and his wife in the Midwest, and he found Western Michigan University's Organizational Change Leadership program a short time later.

"The program was highly specific and highly tailored in the way that I could really apply the lessons and learnings from what I saw from a program level."

Kautz says the program allows students to learn from and network with people who've been employed in the industry for several years.

"You get to work on real business scenarios with people who have jobs and experience. It's a pretty great learning opportunity to be able to do that in practice, in real time with people that are having similar experiences.

"Even at the graduate level, Western offers its students a high degree of intimacy with instructors and peers both in the classroom and online," Kautz says. "You are able to build dynamic, meaningful relationships with people in your network."

According to a recent survey of graduates, 100% of degree recipients from the Organizational Change Leadership program were either employed fulltime or continuing their education. Kautz recently accepted a job at Spectrum Health in Grand Rapids, where he will work on the organizational development team.

"I can say with certainty the Organizational Change Leadership program at WMU was a catalytic experience for me both personally and professionally," Kautz says. "It broadly enhanced my knowledge of the change management and organizational leadership fields and gave me a remarkable set of tools and capabilities to be applied in my career as a scholar and practitioner. I sincerely feel like I have a leg up on others in my field who don't have the same educational experience."

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