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College President Finds Leverage For Change

One year into her new position, the president of a multi-campus community college serving ~8,000 students in a large Western state remained stuck in first gear. Initially welcomed as an agent of change, the president felt she had not been able to galvanize sufficient traction for the organizational changes she felt were essential to the college’s success, and therefore lacked confidence the changes would succeed.

CS-1-1“Typically, we help institutions make changes that are tied to technology, but the same concepts apply to managing organizational change,” says Jim Ritchey, President and Co- Founder, Delta Initiative, Inc. “This level of change is difficult for higher education institutions and we encouraged both sides to enter into the project with a high level of trust.”

Although a member of the college’s Board for the better part of a decade, the president’s corporate background made her a de facto outsider in the world of higher education. Still, she knew the changes she wanted to implement – including a move toward high performance teams and continuous improvement across the college – and felt her appointment gave her a mandate to quickly do so.

“She was not quite sure if she wanted a workshop, or an executive coach, or another solution,” says Ritchey. “But she knew she didn’t want a long, drawn-out process.”

Questions were sharpened to a fine point during several meetings with the president and a small group of executives. Having already conducted “360-degree” interviews and received input from across the college, the group was asked to consider the layers of upcoming actions and communications issues.

CS-1-2“People’s jobs were at stake, and there would be pain to absorb before the college would be ready to move forward,” says Ritchey. “We needed them to consider the most important changes and the guiding principles for making those changes. We also wanted to assure the changes aligned with community needs and would deliver a consistent message about it all.”

As work started with the executives, Delta Initiative helped them focus on and address the strategic business questions. This method helped the group crystallize their thoughts and move forward. The executives were able to think more clearly about which changes were necessary up front and which changes could occur later.

Within a few weeks of the college’s meetings with Delta Initiative, changes were made. The leadership team was reorganized, including difficult but necessary changes in personnel. The president finally had taken a significant step toward creating empowered leadership teams – streamlining the organizational structure while achieving generous support throughout the college. Officers implemented a detailed communications plan designed to engage key audiences. Negative response was minimized. Honesty bred trust.

As education’s role continues to shift due to changes in the global economy, many universities and community colleges will be making changes – in some cases difficult ones – that ultimately must be viewed as beneficial to the community. People need confidence that what they are doing moves in the right direction.

“To change the status quo, you need to change your approach,” says Ritchey. “Mapping the interconnectivity between your business objectives and your technology can help.”

About Delta Initiative

An independent management consulting company servicing institutions of higher learning and businesses, Delta Initiative’s executive-level consultants use their extensive knowledge and experience to empower and actualize clients’ strategies for greater success. Delta Initiative is committed to helping leaders generate measureable strategic change by focusing your organization on a culture of delivery enabled by technology.