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6 ways to master change management in higher ed

As higher ed institutions evaluate goals for the coming academic year, now is an excellent time to map out change management strategies.
By Roger Boucher, Market Executive of Global Commercial Banking, Bank of America
September 16th, 2022

As higher education institutions evaluate goals for the coming academic year, now is an excellent time to map out strategies for essential changes

The world of higher education faces unique challenges when it comes to change. Given the large number of stakeholders involved in decision-making, higher education institutions must prepare extensively and act consistently to build consensus and achieve buy-in.

The road to success

Following are some best practices higher education institutions can implement to create efficiencies – in time and resources – for their organizations.

1. Be clear on the benefits of change. Leaders at higher education institutions adopt new initiatives for many reasons. These include reducing expenses, bolstering efficiency, increasing access to higher education, increasing enrollment and improving student outcomes. When developing your program, be clear on how the initiative will benefit the institution and its stakeholders. Then communicate the project’s benefits clearly and often.

2. Create a steering committee. A steering committee can convene representatives from multiple stakeholder groups and break down projects into clear, actionable deadlines. In addition, assembling the steering committee requires leadership to consider and call upon diverse representation for what will ultimately become a more inclusive outcome. Convening a steering committee can also help you better understand the institution’s culture and make you aware of issues that may provoke resistance if not handled appropriately.

3. Generate awareness and identify champions. Another crucial dimension of change management in higher education involves identifying champions for a project. Champions can work with the steering committee to generate greater awareness of and excitement for a project across multiple stakeholder groups and executives. As people champion the project, they will become invested in successful outcomes. In addition, they may offer valuable input and help the steering committee better understand how the initiative affects stakeholders throughout the process.

4. Prepare for setbacks. Set expectations upfront among leaders and stakeholders that there will be challenges along the way, just as there are with any worthwhile initiative. If leaders and employees anticipate challenges, they’ll be better able to respond positively in the face of adversity. Building the right mindset can help teams move past hurdles.

5. Scale back to ensure success. While you may have an overarching vision, creating smaller, tangible and “doable” projects is vital to help your team achieve early wins and build momentum. Incremental change is better than no change. Scaling back a project to a few defined components improves your chances for success and increases leadership buy-in.

6. Celebrate wins publicly. Celebrate every win and ensure the broader community and organization knows about the team’s progress and successes. Wins help leadership and stakeholders feel comfortable with the project and the changes you’re implementing.

To celebrate wins, you must define success, which means you’ll need to create measurable goals and intended outcomes. These include smaller goals and wins within each initiative. The more you can make goals quantifiable, the easier it will be to claim success.

Over the next couple of months, most higher education institutions will evaluate goals for the coming academic year. Now is an excellent time to map out strategies to help you and your teams make essential changes in the coming year.

About the Author:

Roger Boucher is Market Executive of Global Commercial Banking at Bank of America.

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