Change. It’s hard. People don’t like it. It causes disruption. It’s hard. It causes conflict. It takes too much time. It’s hard….Okay, now that we have that out of the way….
Assessment is one way to inspire change. Results from a survey, focus group, observation, or cost/benefit analysis, may tell you that you need to do something different. It could be something big or small, short term or long term. How do you go about creating sustainable, meaningful change, especially when you are leading a group of people who need to buy into the change? For big changes, you need a process or framework to help you sustain that change.
I like John Kotter’s (2014) eight-step model of change (https://www.kotterinc.com/8-steps-process-for-leading-change/) as a way to frame and organize a successful process. The first step is to create a sense of urgency. What will motivate people to see the need for immediate action? Human nature causes us to deprioritize things that are not of immediate need. Basically, you need to provide the vision with a deadline.
The second step is to build a guiding coalition. In Student Affairs, I think we do that a fair amount. Who are the right people to guide the change and communicate to others? Who is in the unit affected by the change that is passionate about the change? Bring that core group of people together to coordinate your efforts.
Step 3 involves building a strategic vision and initiatives. What is the “Big Opportunity” statement that can spur people to volunteer to be part of the change? This builds ownership as a part of the process. People want to be part of something successful, and they need to see what the better future looks like.
The fourth step is to enlist a volunteer army. How do you get a large number of people engaged in the change? Granted, your assessment results and/or staff size may not indicate an “army” needs to be involved, but be sure that you are asking yourself if there are people who should be involved that are not.
Step 5 enables action by removing barriers. What/who are the perceived roadblocks? How can you remove silos and build collaboration? This serves as an opportunity to rethink processes and systems currently in place. You assessment results may clearly support some sort of system change to make thing more efficient and effective.
Step 6 is to generate short-term wins. Be sure to keep track and share your milestones, so everyone can see the progress. Don’t wait for the final bell to release the results. Keep people informed and engaged.
The seventh step is to sustain acceleration. Build momentum for each success from Step 6 as you get closer to you goal. Because change can take a while, you need to keep up the energy along the way, so the change doesn’t get abandoned when the next urgent thing comes along.
The eighth, and final, step is to institute the change. It’s really important to tie the new change to success, so old habits don’t sneak back into the work. It’s hard to change a habit, so you have to be sure the behavior/process/system sticks and becomes the fabric of what you do until you determine you need another change.
I hope that helps you think about the change process in a new light. If you need help, Student Life Studies is here for you.