Using Reflective Thinking in Organisational Change

Having the capacity to think reflectively and to use the outcomes of this thinking in an intentional way is a core skill for change leaders to acquire. It keeps us in the moment of the change whilst allowing us to take a step back and analyse what is really going on in any given situation. That might be an unexpected reaction from a colleague; a less than successful outcome from a meeting or workshop; or a feeling that you are not being as effective as you would like as a change leader.

Of course, you are likely to seek the opinions of others about what might be happening, but in my experience great change leaders have good intuition: practising reflective thinking not only makes the most of this but also opens our senses to what we might be blind to. That means alive to nuance; it means having the ability to make tiny changes to style to be more effective; and it means that we become truly present in the change that we are leading.

Reflective thinking needs practice, but it can help to have a framework whilst you are acquiring the habit.  I use the 4R Model and share it here for you. Looking forward to your comments.


Note down what happened or what the incident or issue involved– use the facts only. Consider the relevance to what you are trying to achieve. Capture your observations and any questions that arise.


Make a connection between the incident or issue and your own skills, experience and expertise.

Have you seen this before?

Was the context the same or different?

Do you have the skills or knowledge to deal with this? Note down how you might do it or whom you might ask for help.


Note down in detail the significant factors that you believe are underlying the incident or issue. Ensure you include why you think that they are important to an understanding of the situation.

Consider different perspectives: how would a knowledgeable person perceive or handle this? What are the values involved?


Use your notes and analysis to reframe your future practice / approach.

How would you deal with this next time?

What might work and why?

Are there different options?

What might happen if…?