Change Requires Collaboration

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Change isn’t easy. And, there are many leaders who correctly see the need for change in the institutions they lead. The harder question is how to make change not only happen but also have what I call stickiness — change that will last. Sticky change, until new changes are needed, is key.

A recent article on the implementation of ACEs within traumatized communities pointed out the need for staff input. This would mean that change was from both the top down and the bottom up. A leader cannot do it alone. And staff skepticism will weaken implementation and effectiveness.

In educational change, I agree that we need change buy-in not just from the top (leadership) but also from the teachers/staff who work within the institution. I also think we benefit from children’s and families’ input — before change happens. These affected individuals will manage change way better if they contributed to it and understand it. In higher education, adult students can often provide important insights too, making change even better.

The point is not just to make short-term change that goes away when leadership changes. The point is to make changes that will endure.

There is another point here. With colleges in distress, changes from the top that are dictated down are suboptimal; why not ask faculty, staff and students what can be done to enable an institution to thrive? Indeed, many in the midst of a problem within an institution can see changes that would make a difference. And, importantly, whatever happens, it will not be sprung on them. If you understand change that may not be of your choosing, you can live with it better if you understand it rather than are ordered to “do it.”

Here’s the point emphasized in this article: give people within an organization an opportunity to engage in its change. It will make a difference.

Yes, there is a risk that change will be at a slower pace and if the pace is too slow, all change will be lost. So, it is a balance of inclusion with forward movement in a reasonable time period.

That seems doable if we put our minds to it.

Written by

Author, Educator & Commentator; Former President, Southern Vermont College; Former Senior Policy Advisor, US Dept. of Education; Former Law Professor

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