How Leaders Can Lighten the Load

How Leaders Can Lighten the Load

Rose HollisterMSLOC instructor Rose Hollister

Initiative overload. It’s a condition many employees experience when senior leaders launch too many major projects. Rose Hollister, an instructor in the Master of Science in Learning and Organizational Change (MSLOC) program, is on a mission to help address this growing problem in the workforce.

Her recent Harvard Business Review article, co-authored by Michael Watkins, tipped those efforts into high gear. Since then, there’s been a podcast, a Facebook Live broadcast, and increasing interest in learning how to deal with resolving the issue.

“Companies are doing more and more, and committed employees and leaders want to deliver excellent results,” said Hollister, who currently teaches how to lead global change at MSLOC. “But it becomes difficult when initiatives and projects keep growing and resources become more limited.”

The problem often stems from senior leaders who are simply unaware of the sheer number and cumulative impact of major projects they have initiated, Hollister said. Moreover, managers in one part of the organization may not have good visibility into the initiatives of other senior leaders. The ongoing projects quickly multiply.

Hollister and Watkins cite a Fortune 500 retailer whose store managers were overwhelmed by the product launches, training, customer service, IT and other initiatives coming at them from throughout the company.

They suggest encouraging senior leaders to work together to establish a more integrated approach to funding and starting new initiatives.

“We wrote the article to give voice to our clients and to help organizations hold a mirror up to themselves,” Hollister said. “The tools in the article give readers a quick way to assess their own organization and their own situation.”

MSLOC students may experience initiative overload as employees or inadvertently create it as leaders. But they possess key characteristics that may help them recognize and deal with it, Hollister said.

“Having the courage to ask tough questions and to be willing to surface issues is crucially important,” said Hollister, who has a long history with MSLOC as both instructor and a member of its advisory board. 

What would Hollister expect of a group of MSLOC students asked to tackle initiative overload at an organization?

"I would hope that they diagnose the issues and ask the hard questions about priorities, resources and support. I hope they use the tools from the program to map the cultural, leadership and change implications.”


By Jeff Merrell
Last Modified: 1/24/19