Have you ever encountered resistance to a new idea on your campus? Tried to get people in your department or other campus departments to cooperate and coordinate with each other? Pushed for a change that goes against the classic “that’s the way we’ve always done it” logic?
Given the way campuses operate, these are practically rhetorical questions. Of course you have run into resistance to change and new ideas. I’ve worked in higher education on campus and as a consultant for more than 20 years. Getting colleagues to take a risk on a new idea or trying to change an organization as big and diverse as a college can be very difficult.
At the same time, change is essential for colleges and universities, especially in light of the changes that are sweeping higher education. So how can you overcome resistance to change so that your institution can adapt and better serve your students?
I’d like to suggest the following five strategies that can help any planner or campus agent overcome resistance on campus. I’ve not only seen them work with the campuses I consult with, but I also used them when I served on campus as well.
Use data and communicate effectively about it
In a previous blog, I argued for the presentation of data within a narrative framework. The embedded concepts in that blog are two of the keys to overcoming resistance on campus: use data to justify your proposals and new programs, and communicate effectively about it. Data and communication are essential. During the preparation stage of every Strategic Enrollment Planning project I launch with a campus, we identify who is going to be responsible for data collection and who is going to be responsible for internal communications. Then we build a communications plan so that we know how we are going to keep the campus informed and engaged in the process. Communication cannot be an afterthought. Effective planners use open forums, email, and the web. They insert their messages into annual or semi-annual presentations by the president. They visit faculty and staff meetings and present the process; they are open to questions and they respond promptly and honestly.