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Change Management

Tomorrow's Academy

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Change can be managed in a number of ways and is usually drive by an implicit or explicit model. This briefing suggests that an eight-stage model is a useful guide. The eight stages are (1) establishing a sense of urgency, (2) creating a guiding coalition, (3) developing a vision and strategy, (4) communicating the change vision, (5) empowering broad-based action, (6) generating short-term wins, (7) consolidating gains and producing more change, and (8) anchoring new approaches in the culture.


The posting below looks at applying a particular approach (Kotter's Model) to managing change in departments. It contains the executive summary and an excerpt on Ways to Manage Change , from Change Management by Daniel W. Wheeler in the monthly series Effective Practices for Academic Leaders. The series is available in an electronic publication that can be networked on a campus system to enable everyone on a campus to access the briefings at their desks when needed, for use both as guidance for administrators and as a development materials for faculty and others. The electronic license allows individual copying without need for permission, thus the individual briefings lend themselves to use in workshops ands seminars. For online subscription information go to: . Volume 1, Issue 8, August 2006 . Copyright © 2006, Stylus Publishing, LLC. Reprinted with permission.


Rick Reis

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Change Management

Executive Summary

Departmental chairs and their departments face a range of external and internal forces that challenge academic traditions and expectations. Critics suggest that departments are either unwilling or unable to respond. Chairs play a significant leadership role in initiating and facilitating change processes to make necessary changes.

External and internal forces for change in departments are described. Three types of changes are identified: (1) adaptations in which people make adjustments only to changes that are in place, (2) innovations or major changes in which new ideas and procedures are implemented, and (3) change creation in which organizations make priority changes to be on the cutting edge. The changes occur at the individual, group, and departmental level.

Change can be managed in a number of ways and is usually drive by an implicit or explicit model. This briefing suggests that an eight-stage model is a useful guide. The eight stages are (1) establishing a sense of urgency, (2) creating a guiding coalition, (3) developing a vision and strategy, (4) communicating the change vision, (5) empowering broad-based action, (6) generating short-term wins, (7) consolidating gains and producing more change, and (8) anchoring new approaches in the culture.

No matter what model is adopted, chairs are both managers and leaders of change. It is suggested that leadership is particularly crucial to change process, because it is driven by vision, motivation, and meaning-making. Chairs should also play the roles of gadfly and facilitator.

Resistance to change is part of the change process. Concerns should be surfaced and addressed so that people can move through the change process. Kinds of resistance identified are tradition, self-interest, lack of skills or competencies, change mandated from the top, flavor of the month, not invented here, complacency, and faculty nearing retirement.

A number of strategies to address resistance are suggested. They include demonstrating empathy and understanding for those in the change process; tying initiatives to the vision, mission, and values of the department; showing that the proposed change is consistent with the academic traditions and expectations; building on previous successes; and communicating often and in a variety of ways.

In this briefing I describe eleven effective practice principles to guide chairs in their change efforts: (1) respect the people and traditions, (2) make decisions and process transparent, (3) keep one eye on the present and one on the horizon, (4) value involvement in the life of the department, (5) involve faculty and staff in the what and how of decisions, (6) recognize that change management has a human side to it, (7) understand the difference between management and leadership, (8) have a short list of what is really important, (9) invest in having everyone be successful in the change process, (10) be sincere and authentic in whatever you do, and (11) make change management a priority.

Change management is critical to departmental success today and will be even more so in the future. Department chairs need to take the lead in this process.

Excerpt - Ways to Manage Change

Kotter's Eight-Stage Process

Most change management models or theories describe a series of steps or phases that leaders much implement to ensure successful change. A three-, five-, or eight-step model can be used depending on your tolerance for complexity and specificity. All of the models have some advantages and disadvantages.

Personally, I like the Kotter (1996) model, which provides the following eight-stage process:

1. Establishing a sense of urgency

2. Creating a guiding coalition

3. Developing a vision and strategy

4. Communicating the change vision

5. Empowering employees for broad-based action

6. Generating short-term wins

7. Consolidating gains and producing more change

8. Anchoring new approaches in the culture (p. 21)

As Kotter suggests, each of these stages requires careful attention and action. The model suggests that without a sense of urgency in the first three stages-a vision or picture of where the organization is going and the people to champion the effort-nothing is going to happen. A sense of urgency communicates that the change is high on peoples' agendas-not just something to address when time permits. If we are asking people to give up something in order to commit to a major new initiative, then they need a picture or direction that they can further develop by adding details and shaping their roles. Ideally, the whole group-senior faculty, junior faculty, staff, and students-should support and help each other to understand how they fit into this vision of the future. However, chairs should realize that many who want the change often think that change is not happening fast enough, and those against it may perceive it to be happening too fast. If the chair is hearing both of these viewpoints and he or she can see that steady progress is being made by moving toward the vision through small steps as well as occasional breakthroughs, then the change effort is probably on track.

Stages four and five require constant reiteration and interpretation, collectively and individually, of the vision and encouragement that people need to decide their pathways and of the motivation to accomplish what is needed. Too often administrators believe that if they describe the vision once to faculty members ("they are smart people"), that will be sufficient.

Stages six and seven suggest that, given the ambiguity and anxiety often experienced with change, successes should be highlighted and the next benchmarks identified. Without this feedback, people can become lost in their own change process and believe that no progress is being made. The more progress is tracked and celebrated in the organization, the more powerful the effect.

Stage eight is about imbedding the change in the culture: the values, habits, and ways that things are done. This is an important step in institutionalizing the change.

Developing a Shared Vision

An example of developing a shared vision may be instructive.


The dean of a public university faced with implementing greater student outcome accountability decided that the only way to obtain commitment was to lay out the problem and have faculty members decide how to solve it. Even though the dean knew what had to happen, he encouraged the faculty members to help determine their vision of accountability and to be champions for the vision. This was accomplished through a faculty committee, composed of leaders in the college, that developed a comprehensive plan with an underlying philosophy of assessment, a perspective on what data are to be collected, examples of collection methods, a determination of who will see the data, and a decision on how data will be used for improvement and reporting. Because collective data were to be reported and individual data provided to faculty for improvement of teaching and learning, faculty members believed that their needs were considered within the vision framework.

Additionally, the dean and the faculty committee identified short-term gains, such as published cases or success and their use in promotion and tenure materials. The more the other faculty members observed these successes and saw their applicability to their lives, the easier it was to make the needed change. It is clear that the dean understood that it was important to identify a guiding vision in association with faculty leaders. The work had a sense of urgency but the faculty members saw that they could strongly influence what happened. They were pushed but they also had the time and insight to figure out how to make assessment work for them and the institution. The example of those who became champions for the effort encouraged others to become involved.


This example suggests that change management is not a single event, but a process linked to how people have experienced change, to the confidence that they sense in their ability to make changes, and to their trust in the system. Many faculty members and staff understand that changes have to be made, but how change is accomplished is important. I have sometimes heard administrators say that the reason they did not consult with people is that it would not have changed the decision. However, efforts to achieve change are most successful when those who are impacted by the change share ownership of the process, when they are treated with respect and courtesy by being involved, and when they can share their insights and concerns. Department chairs should also realize that some of their own hesitancy in involving others may reflect their desire to avoid what can be emotionally painful conversations. People often become angry and emotional because they care about whatever it is that will be changed, and their first reaction may be that the change has the potential to upset their patterns. However, successful change managers understand that meeting resistance is often part of the process of involving others in decision making and that their role is to mitigate that resistance as they convince others to join the change effort.

Politics of Change

The politics of change often does not get enough attention. All change occurs in a context in which various players are affected by institutional and departmental history, relationship with others, and alignment of forces to achieve successful change. The effective chair has done the political groundwork with higher administrators and faculty leadership to accomplish important changes. Chairs use a variety of means to ensure that significant players understand their goals and how those goals fit with the institution's mission and goals. They use written as well as face-to-face opportunities to reinforce their direction and goals. The larger and more complex the institution, the more work the chair has to do to inform and influence these various constituencies. For a more in-depth discussion of the "push" and "pull" factors, see chapter 3 in Seagren, Creswell, and Wheeler (1993).

Leadership Influence Strategies

Chairs may wish to become familiar with the following leadership influence strategies:

1. Consultation

2. Rational persuasion

3. Inspirational apparatus

4. Ingratiation

5. Coalition

6. Pressure

7. Personal appeals

8. Upward appeals

9. Exchange tactics

10. Legitimating

11. Collaboration

In higher-education situations, tactics such as consultation, rational persuasion, and collaboration are most frequently used. Leadership research suggests that almost all of the eleven tactics are more effective with subordinates and peers than with upper-level individuals. Rational persuasion is the only tactic that has been demonstrated to work consistently with upper-level leaders. Another finding that chairs should consider is that the "soft" tactics (inspirational appeals, personal appeals, consultations, ingratiation, upward appeals, persuasion, and collaboration) are usually more effective than "hard" tactics (e.g., reduced resources for travel and professional development, smaller salary increases, increased workload, and other disincentives). The hard tactics can and sometimes must be used, but they often have undesirable consequences, leading to demoralized faculty members who either become committed to further resistance or simply tune out the department completely.

Applying Kotter's Model to Address the Human Side of Change Techniques

No matter what model or process is used, leading change is more than a technical or engineering process. There is a human component that is messy and sometimes emotional, because people are invested in what they are presently doing. A goal of having people commit to, not just comply with, change is also necessary for success. Acting out of fear or a mandate will gain only compliance. Commitment will require authentic involvement and a sense of ownership from those affected. Let us look at an example of a department that has garnered a reputation for being insular, for seeing itself as responsible only to itself, and for resenting anything it perceives as outside interference.


A new dean is hired and challenges the department to create interdisciplinary curriculum and scholarship and to become more visible contributors to the university at large. The following set of practice steps that the chair can use to achieve the desirable change is based on Kotter's model:

1. Establishing a sense of urgency. The chair needs to convey the seriousness of the situation in a way that the faculty understands the need for action instead of simply being defensive about its "culture." He or she needs to indicate what opportunities have been lost by the department's current mind-set and what might be gained by the change. The dean could be invited into a department meeting to discuss how the department is perceived by the university and why it needs to change, what is at stake if it continues down its present path, and what new opportunities may be available to the department if it embraces the dean's challenge. The chair could also invite to a department meeting representatives from other departments who have achieved the connections and visibility that the dean seeks, to discuss what their departments have accomplished and how these accomplishments have benefited them.

2. Creating a guiding coalition. The chair could begin with a retreat or a session to discuss the situation, perhaps breaking the faculty into small groups to consider possibilities. Additionally, the chair could lead a discussion of how to create working groups to develop some plans.

3. Developing a vision and strategy. Plans need to be developed from a vision, and the chair needs to work with the department to provide that vision. A vision statement could say something to the effect that the department will seek coalitions and opportunities to form alliances with other departments and disciplines, will seek opportunities for interdisciplinary teaching and research, and will become known for its achievements and its contributions to the college and university at large. One strategy could be to establish interdisciplinary foci for research, with particular suggestions for where they might be by considering department strengths and the human resources in other departments. Another strategy could be to seek grant support for the vision's specific ideas with specific suggestions as to where to look and what ideas might be funded. Perhaps ideas concerning team teaching involving other disciplines could be developed. A faculty member or a committee could be assigned to develop packets and nominations for faculty members for university teaching and research awards so that their achievements will become better known. Perhaps a department newsletter could be developed. Additional visibility can be achieved by a commitment to have department faculty members serve on college and university committees, or run for the faculty senate.

4. Communicating the change vision. To become more visible the department needs to seek as many ways as it can to make its efforts and achievements known. Suggestions could include, in addition to the aforementioned newsletter, an e-mail listserv, visits to other departments, communications with alumni, and discussions with the research office staff and other higher administrators who can encourage and support the new connections and activities.

5. Empowering employees for broad-based action. The chair should identify resources to support faculty engaged in activities to implement the vision strategies. The more the strategies can be supported by wider university structures, the more faculty members will become engaged and their efforts will become known. Moreover, the department's new priorities must be reflected in the department's reward structure.

6. Generating short-term wins. An important question is, What initiatives can be achieved in the short term or be measured by early progress, so that the department feels progress is being made and stays with the program? Strategies for conveying progress might include support by new partners and clientele, the use of project management charts and other tools, celebrations of faculty achievements that fit the new vision, and rewards that suggest the importance of progress made.

7. Consolidating gains to produce more change. Each step forward should pave the way for the next step forward. For example, groups that successfully develop an interdisciplinary curriculum can naturally move toward collaborative research and publication, and their successes in either area would put them in position to make a case for hiring possibilities that could bring in new faculty who would help to consolidate and increase their gains.

8. Anchoring new approaches in the culture. Once the new approaches are developed, the department chair should show that they are not changed being imposed from the outside that undermine department culture but, rather, are natural extensions of the department's developing culture and how it wants to see itself in the future.


Kotter, J.P. (1996). Leading change. Boston, MA: Harvard Business Press.

Seagren, A.T., Creswell, J.W., & Wheeler, D.W. (1993). The department chair: New roles, responsibilities and challenges (ASHE-ERIC Higher Education Report, #1). Washington, DC: George Washington University.