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Managing Change: Strategies For Navigating in Unchartered Water

Liz Kistner - Monday, October 27, 2014

In 1492 Christopher Columbus discovered that he would not sail over the edge of the earth; the world was indeed round.  He was not afraid of the unknown, rather took courage from the realization that he was taking something of the known with him. The  waters in which he was sailing were unchartered, uncertain, unknown. Due to rapid changes in the marketplace, work environment, and job requirements institutions are venturing into unknown waters where they have to manage and adapt- a world in which the status quo no longer exists.  Sink or swim.

Who said change was easy.  Change that will characterize higher education in the next decade include:  specialized, more demanding students who will want flexible teaching patterns to enhance their career prospects, fewer institutions, more efficient management, greater competition for funds and students, closer integration at regional and local levels while networking internationally, demographic changes in student body, institutional leadership (generational gap), federal regulations, globalization, resource limitations, increasing competitiveness online.

In order to stay on charted course universities have to change rapidly; a major shift will not come easily.  Change through:

Leadership:  The ability to guide institutions in a rapidly changing environment will be paramount for growth and survival. Rapid change brings future challenges.  How do you prepare for change? What will the political, economic, organizations situations be within the next few years? What will the implications be due to shifting of public/societal resources, shifting of curriculum, governance, faculty, students?   Create leadership models that focus on strategy (thinking, planning, decision making), fulfilling your mission and vision through the use of processes and empowering others to accomplish the goals, missions, objectives of your university.  Set priorities that are relevant, desirable, and feasible.  Government and businesses have been successes in preparing for future challenges.  Set benchmarks:  look outside as well as within in seeking new ideas and favorable outcomes. 

Competitive Analysis Plan:  Set priorities for making changes that are relevant, desirable, and feasible by understating your competition.  A competitive analysis (strengths, weakness, opportunities, threats) will help you understand what needs to changes as well as how to change it to keep up with the ever increasing competition.  It's an online world.  What type of online marketing analysis have you done to understand where your competition is ranked through search optimization, are you in the dark while your competition is doing virtual open houses that include video's with professors and alumni; live chats with admission, PDF's of student testimonial's, course materials; mini-course assessing leadership style.  Does your competition's social media sites take advantage of apps and tabs (events, contests) that enhances their Facebook experience and therefore keep prospects on the page longer; are they cross linking to other platforms within their school?  Are they using hashtag searches to find individuals who could be prospects and activate active follow/post tactics?  How does this compare to what you are doing? 

New Innovations:  Create new ways to make money by building a presence in your community through human capital.  Building community or social capital for community and economic development requires no paid labor, no natural resources.  Join together with your community to address mutual needs and preserve community interests.  Reach out to civil societies to create synergistic partnerships:  grassroots community leaders, neighborhood associations, local government officials.  Students doing fieldwork and internships with community based groups and other non-profit organizations engaged in social capital building both in the workplace and community will help set the standards, the pace, and the vision of your university.  Building social capital will position your university for longevity and adaptability in the coming century.