Change is Constant So Embrace It: Four Misconceptions Challenging Change in Higher EdJackie Anderson | Manager of Process Improvement, Illinois Institute of Technology
Change in higher education is an anomaly. Universities still do the same thing, the same way, as the last three centuries of administrators/educators before. The mere mention of changing existing processes or structure evokes many emotions from staff, including fear, confusion and stress. The majority of this resistance can be minimized if four misconceptions are addressed before change occurs.
Misconception 1: Change = No Job Security
More often than not, change scares people because of the fear of the unknown. People immediately believe change will result in loss of employment. The best way to debunk this misconception is transparency. Be upfront with staff and explain why internal efficiency is important. For example, using automation to reduce bottlenecks in processes frees up time for staff to focus on larger goals rather than doing data entry or processing paper. In the end, having a team approach that is outlined for staff makes the change implementation acceptable.
Misconception 2: Managers Know What’s Best
Managers are in positions to keep departments running, but this does not mean they know where inefficiencies exist. To identify real pain points, staff members who do the work must be engaged in the conversation. These staff members are the subject matter experts on these processes. They can document the full sequence of a process from beginning to end, identify what works or what doesn’t, and can offer suggestions to solve inefficiencies from the worker perspective. Engaging the staff during the problem identification process helps establish trust with the employees from the beginning of change implementation. When changes go live, the staff will feel like a critical part of the discussion, not an afterthought, and they will be more willing to embrace other changes moving forward.
Solution: Engage the doers
Misconception 3: It Has Always Been Done This Way
I have heard this statement time and time again when new projects are initiated. This statement dismisses innovation because it suppresses creativity. Operating “because it has always been done this way” pigeonholes universities into maintaining mediocrity.
To prevent this mindset from stalling new projects, specifically approach people who want to take risks, are not afraid to make mistakes, and get them on the project team. Use the doers to help understand the existing project, but make sure you engage change makers in the project who want to see things done better.
Solution: Take risks, make mistakes
Misconception 4: New Processes Mean More Work
When suggesting a new process to staff, frustration is an immediate reaction because of the prospect of adding more work to a full plate. Removing the element of comfort means the staff is abandoning a regular routine for a new one they need to learn. The best way to resolve this misconception is to provide data to the staff impacted by the change. Providing results makes a lasting impression on the staff doing the work because they can see what an impact the new process had on the department. Every time a new process is put in place, develop specific reports comparing it to the old process. This data is imperative to gaining staff confidence and trust, so when new projects are suggested they are embraced instead of resisted.
Solution: Capitalize the results of changes
Computer science pioneer Grace Hopper once said, “The most dangerous phrase in the language is we’ve always done it this way.”
Institutional leaders in universities have an opportunity to alter the experience for people working in higher education and make coming to work exciting. Worker satisfaction is only increased with transparency, attainable goals, and engagement. Change offers leaders a way involve the doers, to remove redundancy, move to lean operations, and increase the productivity of each department. Announcing change is a challenge, but change is a way to break the mold and build a new foundation for tomorrow’s higher education workplace.
Author Perspective: Administrator