How Colleges Can Manage Change for the Future

change management

The pandemic crisis spun many colleges into a frenzy. Before that, university leaders watched difficult trends on the horizon. Significant headwinds such as declining enrollment were on stakeholders’ radars. Still, administrators have the basic change management tools they need to drive future goals.


Reflect on What Worked for Change Management 

Yes, the past two years have been brutal for many schools. Still, colleges proved how resilient higher ed is in the face of the unknown. Now, savvy leaders dive into recognizing what levers they pulled to achieve that success. Besides that, identifying how departments pulled together to reframe course delivery means the process can be duplicated.


Take a S.W.O.T. at it to Manage Change 

Likewise, leaders now have the time to reach into their toolkit. Dust off the S.W.O.T. analysis tools. Identifying strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats is a great way to change reflection into planning. Most importantly, sitting down with stakeholders to carry out the task is a great way to kick off future planning sessions. 


Communicate, Communicate, and Communicate 

Still, clear, consistent messages need to dominate all the channels. To manage change, leaders should ensure all messages line up with the school’s academic mission. Administrators set the tone for staff and faculty. Similarly, leaders benefit from taking extra time to calm nerves and suspicious minds. Therefore, nothing stirs imaginative gossip as much as closed doors and virtual meetings without transparency. Leaders, like deans who can promote a unified message through department chatter, will drive change. 


Focus on Student and Staff Requirements to Manage Change 

Likewise, give staff and faculty what they need. Open doors and training time will grease the wheel of implementation. Most importantly, the gears of innovation will engage to move the school forward despite challenges. Still, giving faculty and staff needed time and resources to try a new teaching style moves the organization forward. Give faculty and staff a place that is safe for them to try ideas and fail. Let faculty and staff tell administration and stakeholders what works and what can be dropped. 


Know When to Shift Direction for Change Management 

Still, colleges are facing strong headwinds. Shifting demographic trends and declining enrollment were on the horizon before the pandemic. Also, the pandemic speeded up these troubling trends. Now, spotting what offerings and processes are complete versus necessity is ripe for review. Still, knowing what courses, programs, and services can be cut will lead to new opportunities. 


Plan to Adapt to Manage Change  

In addition, schools that planned how to adapt to a fast-changing market before the pandemic won after the crisis. These colleges came out of the pandemic stronger and more resilient. Besides that, colleges with a plan were able to do so within their budget. Yes, the unplanned expenses of virtual learning hit everyone. Still, those schools that planned to adapt were able to respond with agility. Therefore, they effectively used change management.


Leaders Need to be Agile Problem Solvers 

Yes, colleges need to solve big problems without sacrificing core functions. Additionally, leaders were asked to recognize teams that run lean. Therefore, the climate continues to change for students and faculty. Schools with agile problem-solvers, who managed change, transformed themselves in an unprecedented manner. Now, it’s up to everyone to learn how to solve problems. Moreover, universities must learn to balance solving today’s problems with working toward tomorrow’s goals. 


In sum, college leaders have what it takes for change management. Administrators and deans can use familiar analysis tools to drive change. Clear, concise communication must dominate all available channels as well as align to the academic mission. Likewise, leaders who prioritized student and staff needs spurred unexpected opportunities. 


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