Step 1: Rethink How to Get Stuff Done
Most importantly, leaders can rethink how stuff gets done for effective change management. What one views as a crisis is an opportunity for another. Therefore, look at sharing services across departments and institutions. Deans and other college staff can build collaborative partnerships. Savvy administrations are reaching out to both global and local community partners. Now is the time to explore merging with other institutions. Leaders need to review proven change management tools that get the job done. Student pathways, online courses, hybrid offerings – put it all on the table. Evaluate the current offerings and act.
Step 2: To Manage Change, Decide to Act
Therefore, college leaders cannot risk a return to the old ways of doing business. Leadership teams that do return to the old ways of running institutions risk creating a formula for failure. Some changes coming out of a crisis are good. Now is the time to put them in place for the long haul. Likewise, if the course development process took three times as long before the crisis, figure out why teams were able to do it faster. To maintain what works, leaders must identify what and why it worked. Also, leaders must decide to actively drive change through the organization. Besides that, now may be the time to throw out norms such as consensus. Maybe consent and no objections are good enough for the change management plan. Now is the time to execute.
Step 3: Use Change Management to Fund innovation and Focus on Retention
Besides that, college leaders can focus on investing in innovation. Change management does not just happen. Moreover, faculty and staff will follow the money. Innovation happens when its leaders deem it a priority and allocate resources to it. Specifically, focus on funding innovation to retain and attract students. Online learning happened, in some instances awkwardly. Now is the time to assess and understand how to grow programs and increase student enrollment. What were the hang-ups? What obstacles can be removed? How can we make it easy to attract nontraditional learners? How can we serve our community? What programs can be offered to help businesses?
Step 4: To Manage Change, Get Comfortable with Ambiguity
Still, unprecedented times can present many difficulties. The market is always changing. Experts are flummoxed on what to expect. After all, no one is sure what new jobs will be needed. What new skills will workers need, or what research will bear out? College leaders need to get comfortable with making decisions without all the facts. Also, leaders will have to model this comfort level of ambiguity with staff and faculty.
In sum, the biggest driver of change management is leaders actively championing it for faculty and staff. Administrators who reflect on what worked in a crisis or a challenging time are effective. They understand what steps can be recreated. Likewise, when leaders innovate and make new methods a priority, faculty, and staff will follow. Still, administrators must model being comfortable with ambiguity to manage the change through unknown and potentially turbulent times. Now is the time for institutional leaders to take advantage of future opportunities.