Boldly Go by Mastering the Elements of Change
Higher Education is an iconic part of society. For centuries we stood immovable as Plymouth Rock, preserving knowledge through traditions of scholarly transference elevating selective students to roles within a learned segment of citizenry. Our strength was reliability; reassuring amidst the turmoil of time and inevitable change. Higher Education leadership was focused on safeguarding campuses against change, and minimizing disruption.
Today’s Higher Education resembles the Starship Enterprise—its mission: to explore strange new funding models; to seek out new emphases on student success through integrated services, and new learning modalities relevant to today’s generation; boldly preparing students to go where no one has gone before. Today’s Higher Education leaders must be Masters of Change, not merely Preservers of the Past. To do this we must focus on six elements of CHANGE:
- Change requires Courage – visionary, innovative leaders are seldom popular on campus. To lead change you must move ahead to see beyond today’s horizon, but not too far that you disconnect from those leading alongside, or following.
- Change must be Holistic – never change for the sake of change. We must build upon the foundation of our campus’ mission, and strategic goals, for success and sustainability.
- Change involves Action – campuses love to talk. Enacting change takes strong leadership to get the campus community walking that talk towards the changes we seek.
- Change is Never-ending – it’s a process, not an event. Celebrate milestones along the way. Create times of rest to coast with our momentum, but never stop moving forward.
- Change engages Growth – Leading Change often means blazing trails that are untested, unfinished, and unrefined. Growing into change means being willing to risk making (and owning) mistakes, adjusting and correcting as we go.
- Change transforms Exponentially – we cannot compartmentalize change. By its nature change is systemic; therefore, we must think from a systems perspective to anticipate the far-reaching consequences of the changes we enact.
Change is inevitable for Higher Education in today’s fast-paced society. The longer we hesitate to embrace this culture of change, the further we fall behind; the more we risk becoming irrelevant. Leaders can learn to be positive change agents on campus; however, it’s a new role for a new paradigm in Higher Education which many still grapple with –and struggle to sustain.
Dr. Stephen Schoonmaker is a life-long learner and educator, who has led in colleges and universities for over 20 years and runs his own consulting firm, Cross Country Leadership Solutions, LLC.
5 Steps to a Culture of Change
Ivy Tech Community College of Indiana is one of the largest higher education institutes in the United States, with more than 175,000 undergraduate students. In 2014, Ivy Tech launched a comprehensive data analytics project on the Amazon Web Services cloud. From that process, here are five things we learned about managing your culture of change:
- Know what the goal is. Clearly understanding the goal is not as easy as it seems. Tactical goals can obfuscate or even conflict with strategic goals. Problems can mislead efforts from the true root cause. Deadlines, timelines, emotions and politics can all play a role in determining the goal of any change. It’s crucial that you and your team sift through all of the noise and understand the real goal of a change. Understanding what you’re trying to do is the first step to success.
- Understand how things work. This is where you ensure you’re not making things worse. You’ll need to get all your expert’s together and fully discuss how things work today and how a change will impact your operations. You’ll want the front line workers along with your best “world view” managers. If it’s a technical change, get your architects involved. If it’s a people process, make sure the most knowledgeable team members are there. Ask questions, poke holes, and beat things up.
- Plan, plan, plan. Discuss timelines, impacts, what-if’s and risks. But above all, communicate. Overt communication works better that convert communication. The more complex the change, the more communication and planning you’ll need.
- Collect feedback and data. Every engineer will tell you that a good system incorporates feedback. For example, if you’re adding a day care center to increase retention, you probably expect an increase in class attendance; or maybe more library patrons. Collect this data, get relevant feedback and see if your change is having the desired impact. If not, don’t be afraid to take that feedback and adjust your plan accordingly.
- Don’t be afraid to lead. Understanding your goal, having a solid, well thought-out plan, communicating that plan, executing it and then measuring your success will put you in the best possible position to achieve your goal. If things go sideways, figure out why and change the plan. Your team will respond positively a leader who is engaged and willing to respond thoughtfully.
After implementing a few changes, you’ll get better at it. If you’re not careful, you may end up with a culture where your team embraces change!
Lige Hensley has been the Chief Technology Officer at Ivy Tech since 2010. Previous to Ivy Tech, he has worked in IT in a variety of industries such as manufacturing, telematics, health care and information security consulting.
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