Change Management in Higher Education

October 15, 2013

Speaker:  Jim Russell, City University of New York

Topic:  Change Management in Higher Education


DISCLAIMER:  this session is not about revision control, it’s more about how we handle new products, services, hardware, etc.  Sometimes it’s called “adoption and learning.”  Assumption is that some of the attendees are not beginners…going to talk about the constructs that they found useful at City University.



  • Fomalizing
  • Commitment
  • “Breaking through”
  • Change capacity (“heat map”)
  • Communication
  • Buy-in


Structure of Seminar:

  • Theory:  Change Models
  • Practice:  change plans, player, and potholes
  • Practice:  measuring change readiness


We went around the room and asked “who’s doing change management?”  People gave some “elevator speeches” about how you “sell” change management to campus constituents.  With any upgrade or change, ROI cannot be realized unless we manage the people component of the equation.  We then looked at Prosci’s 5 tenets of change management:

  1. We change for a reason
  2. Organizational change requires individual change
  3. Organizational outcomes are the collective result of individual change
  4. Change management is an enabling framework for managing the people side of change
  5. We apply change management to realize the benefits and desired outcomes of change


Awareness, Desire, Knowledge, Ability, Reinforcement

Based on two premises, which are sometimes overlooked:  it is people who change, not organizations.  Successful change occurs when individual change matches the stages of organizational change.

There is a problem with ADKAR though:  how do you define “Desire” in higher ed?  This is one of the most difficult to develop because change comes from the outside, or change is “not part of my job.”  In higher education, we have a problem not with leadership, but “followship.”  How do we get past this problem of followship?

Connect to your people on the cognitive and emotional levels.  Connect to the heart via the student experience.  Understand what matters to people, including their fears, hopes and anxieties.  Focus groups and meetings before and after help a lot.  Allow time for feedback and venting, acknowledge the change and difficulty.  Lead consistently toward desired objectives.  Be sure to leverage opinion leaders and use feedback loops; respond to concerns to ensure people are heard and valued.  Reach out to faculty members who complain the most (“the loyal opposition”).  When communicating, use specifics!  Also appeal to the entire brain with story-telling, imagery, personal accounts, real world analogies.  Avoid numbers, charts and graphs.  Keep in mind change saturation.


Kotter’s 8 Steps of Leading Change

  1. Establish a Sense of Urgency
  2. Creating the Guiding Vision
  3. Developing a Change Vision
  4. Communicating the Vision for Buy-in
  5. Empowering Broad-based Action
  6. Generating Short-term Wins
  7. Never Letting Up
  8. Incorporating Changes into the Culture


Basic Steps of Change Plans

  1. Identify Business Process Owner and Governance
  2. Ensure the Future State is Clearly Defined
  3. Identify Stakeholders / Identify Key Changes
  4. Assess the Requirements to Support the Changes
  5. Establish Action Plan, Communicaiton Plan and Training Plan
  6. Execute those Plans
  7. Monitor and be willing to change
  8. Shift to Continuous Process Improvement


Group work was a case study on a policy change related to social media.  What elements should be in a change plan for a campus social media policy?

Engagement needs to occur earlier, using shared governance groups to get the word out.  What is the objective in developing such a policy?  That’s often a missing piece in such discussions.  What about enforcement of such policies?  Need to have a better idea of how this stuff works in higher education.  What’s missing in the conversations that need to happen to make these things happen?



Loose federation of colleges

  • While leadership could be assessed, “followship” had a mixed history
  • Diversity of mission led to diversity of procedures
  • Some colleges believe that their processes are integral to their unique identities

Each unit needs to be guided toward “ownership” through engagement

CUNY adopted model of “change liaisons” to work with resistors:

  • Recruit influential leaders with local followings
  • Don’t be afraid of the loyal opposition- you’ll need them eventually anyway
  • Don’t be afraid to reject liasons
  • Have a dev plan for the liaisons


Communication Assessment in Higher Ed

Assess your history on large-scale projects and communication

  • Who is the audience?
  • how do you get to them?
  • What do you want to say?
  • When?
  • How can students help?


The Group Voted to Discuss this:  Assessment of Change Readiness

By Paul Schantz

CSUN Director of Web & Technology Services, Student Affairs. husband, father, gamer, part time aviator, fitness enthusiast, Apple fan, and iguana wrangler.

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