Never has the world experienced such rapid change, and the environment in which organizations operate necessitates increased change capability and organizational agility (Argyris, 1991). Strebel (1996) found success rates for change initiatives in Fortune 1000 companies ranged from a low of 20% to a high of 50%. Later studies would substantiate Strebel’s (1996) findings, claiming that, on average, failure rates of transformational change initiatives approach 70% (Beer & Nohria, 2000; Sirkin et al., 2005). Suppose this is so, and companies wish to thrive in such a dynamic environment. A fundamental understanding of why change efforts fail and how to drive more positive outcomes across organizations must be examined. With transformational leadership best practices well documented and time-tested change management models available to all, what then is missing?

Applying Snyder’s (2002) hope theory, this study explores how the narratives of hopeful leaders advance organizational change faster and with greater reliability than their lower-hope counterparts. Through narrative inquiry, stories of hopeful change leaders offered ways and means for developing hopeful thinking in themselves, other organizational change leaders, and followers participating in organizational change. The narratives also addressed dynamics inhibiting hopeful thinking, complementing and enhancing Lewin’s (1947a) three-step change management model. Fifteen narrative approaches aligned with unfreezing, changing, and refreezing an organization are surfaced. Most importantly, suggestions are made for how change leaders can operationalize the building blocks of hope throughout their organizations.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Organizational change; Leadership; Management

Date of Award


School Affiliation

Graduate School of Education and Psychology



Degree Type


Degree Name


Faculty Advisor

Laura Hyatt

Included in

Leadership Commons