The ACE/WKKF Project on Leadership and Institutional Transformation examines successful strategies for guiding change at higher education institutions. This study provides nine case studies and outlines key strategies that institutions can use to achieve successful institutional growth.
First, institutional leaders must understand the cultural norms of their institution. Changes must be compatible with those norms. Secondly, successful change leaders develop tactics to keep attention focused over time. Third, institutions must create a climate of goodwill among stakeholders. A climate of goodwill is one in which individuals believe that information is open and that others are acting in good faith.
Fourth, strategic growth plans can increase the efficiency and effectiveness of resources. These plans can help improve graduation rates, retention, and endowment income. For institutions that are dependent on tuition revenues, strategic growth plans can allow for increased revenue generation. In addition, these plans can provide economies of scale and reduce vulnerabilities to enrollment changes.
Fifth, leaders must be willing to work long enough to see a change initiative take hold. They must also be able to provide consistent leadership. These leaders should be able to engage the campus community in a way that inspires ownership. Finally, they should provide resources and support for the change effort.
Successful change initiatives require a range of resources and resources must be managed correctly. These resources include human, financial, and operational resources. To successfully implement a change strategy, an institution must have a strategic plan, a system for interpreting data, and a process for making adjustments. Furthermore, the implementation of change needs to be a collaborative endeavor, and it is important to identify key stakeholders and determine criteria for collaboration.
Another important aspect of successful change is the need to create incentives for change. There are many options for incentives, such as summer salaries, computer upgrades, conference travel money, public recognition, and more. Creating incentives encourages the right people to participate in the change process.
These incentives must also be aligned with the student success goals of the institution. If the institution has existing staff incentives that are not conducive to student-focused improvement, the organization may need to realign its administrative structures.
Finally, change initiatives need to be viewed in the context of the organization’s history and environment. The institution’s historical context plays an important role in determining the success of a change initiative. Higher education institutions are part of a broader ecosystem that includes funding agencies, other universities, alumni, local communities, and students. Understanding this ecosystem can help institutions become stronger.
Research into the strategies and experiences of public agencies in four countries indicates that institutions can succeed with significant and comprehensive change. By focusing on improving results, public agencies in these countries created support from external constituencies and were able to move forward with reforms. Those improvements were then sustained over time, resulting in improved performance.
The ACE/WKKF project demonstrates that public institutions can make progress and thrive in a wide variety of environments. While the experience of these organizations is unique, the strategies they used are universal.