As colleges face disruptive market forces, shrinking enrollment and shifting attitudes, you need to rethink higher education and adopt a transitional mindset to effectively lead your teams from thought to action and innovation.
According to Harvard Business Review, it’s not a moment too soon: “Businesses must constantly evolve and adapt to meet a variety of challenges—from changes in technology, to the rise of new competitors, to a shift in laws, regulations, or underlying economic trends. Failure to do so could lead to stagnation or, worse, failure.”
50-70% of organizational change initiatives end in failure
Depending on which intimidating study you’re reading, approximately 50-70% of organizational change initiatives end in failure due to employee resistance or lack of management coordination. And higher education isn’t immune to those statistics.
“The higher-ed industry changed drastically, but institutional processes, policies, and strategies haven’t kept up. Many administrators struggle with reconciling that divide,” according to Wes Catlett-Miller, our Sr. Director of Student Lifecycle Strategy at Collegis Education.
We’ve helped many schools beat those odds by ensuring their strategic plans included change management principles that didn’t forget the real beating heart of higher ed institutions: the people who work there and the students they serve.
Applying Science of Change Management in Higher Ed
Change management is an interdisciplinary practice that facilitates lasting change for organizations. The scope can be narrow or wide, adaptive or transformational.
- Transformational changes are larger in scale and scope, often signifying a dramatic and, occasionally sudden, departure from the status quo. (Now’s the time for this in higher ed!)
- Adaptive changes are small, gradual, iterative changes that an organization undertakes to evolve its products, processes, workflows, and strategies over time.
Ready to change your organizational culture, internal processes, underlying technology and infrastructure or all of the above?
Whether the changes you’re contemplating for your school fall on the adaptive or transformational end of the spectrum, that change will need to be driven from the top down. And that means school leadership itself needs to be prepared to evangelize and influence change.
The Role of Leaders in Change Management
Your role is to influence, not mandate. “Change management often fails when leaders focus on the operational aspects of the idea or initiative and don’t spend enough time building stakeholder consensus to ensure it’s set up for success,” says Catlett-Miller.
Begin the process with design thinking, an all-encompassing discipline that takes a people-first approach to change management, balancing their needs and wants with the broader strategic goals and desired future state. Leaders invest focused time in engagement and dialog with stakeholders to refine any solution before moving on to the “how” of change implementation.
Even the best idea doesn’t stand a chance without stakeholder support. This is where the beauty of design thinking and human-centered design comes into play. Part of the methodology centers around building stakeholder consensus and gaining interdisciplinary alignment.Wes Catlett-Miller, Sr. Director of Student Lifecycle Strategy at Collegis Education.
Based on his experiences leading these sessions, Catlett-Miller acknowledges that there will always be skeptics, “but you can turn them into key advocates with the right approach. Even the best idea doesn’t stand a chance without stakeholder support. This is where the beauty of design thinking and human-centered design comes into play. Part of the methodology centers around building stakeholder consensus and gaining interdisciplinary alignment.”
Leaders should empower their teams to implement change as they see fit and support them by building capability and removing hurdles along the way, while encouraging teams to work across departments and eliminate silos. Having people feel engaged and taking ownership of the change will help ensure buy-in and successful implementation.
Building a Culture of Innovation
Higher education will look very different in 5–10 years, including how education is structured, consumed, financed and valued by society. It’s up to today’s leaders to decide whether that change leads to innovation or more school closures.
Not sure where to start?
Conduct an assessment or gap analysis to determine if you need to focus on transformational or adaptive changes or a combination. And don’t get discouraged. Championing innovation and leading teams through change is incredibly difficult, but you’re not alone.
We’ve led enablement sessions centered on this topic for both large public universities and smaller regional brands. It often helps to bring in an unbiased third party to help objectively assess the current state and rally teams and individuals under a common vision, one they played a part in helping create. The important thing is never stop advocating for finding a better way.
Stay tuned for some exciting developments in our facilitation services! We’re launching new change management resources to help you influence innovation, optimize the process and build enthusiasm for the future.