I have to be honest here, managing Trident Technical College’s iPASS grant project is my first time really managing a grant. My current job duties include teaching and advocating for students and faculty in science and math at Trident Technical College. This has been both an exciting and intimidating new task for me with a lot to keep track of and to learn along the way. When I arrived with my team at the EDUCAUSE Annual Conference in Indianapolis for the first convening of iPASS grant recipients, I knew I had a lot of work to do. However, the Kotter Change Management Training really helped drive home the important lessons and helped set my path once I returned to my home institution.
Lesson #1: Your team makes or breaks this process.
The process of selection and campus-wide adoption of new software is a team task. This is not an “Oh, this looks cool, let’s go with this software package” process. Representatives from all user groups (including student services, IT, and academics) need to be working together to create functional and technical requirements that will meet everyone’s needs and make the selection and purchasing process go more smoothly. Input generates excitement and that excitement will serve you well in the adoption phase of your software. In addition, there need to be multiple levels of employees at the table. For example, faculty have credibility with the students, deans and department heads have credibility with the faculty, and the vice presidents’ credibility can influence both the deans and the president of the institution. All of these folks need to be involved and enthusiastically on board to help you along the way.
Lesson #2: It is NEVER too early to start talking about and sharing your vision.
During our training in Indianapolis, my colleague turned to me and said, “No one knows about this grant and this vision except for the team at this table.” Assembling the team, talking to stakeholders, and getting student and faculty input should start immediately. I think that I was a little hesitant to begin talking to people because I did not have all the details worked out. I was worried I would look under-prepared if I could not answer every question. However, you do not need to have all the answers in place to get started. Once we returned to Charleston, I immediately asked to be put on the agenda at Staff Council, Faculty Council, and at Leadership Cabinet. We called it “taking our show on the road” here at TTC. In reality, sharing our vision early and being honest about our lack of detail actually helped me get really good information from the groups that I spoke with. People were excited to be part of the process; it has made this transformational change a less painful and more anticipated process.
Lesson #3: Don’t be afraid to fail.
This one is hard for me. Like I mentioned earlier, this is my first time really managing a grant and I want to do the best job anyone has EVER done. In this process there are certain tasks where there is very little room for error. For example, we are a state institution so we have to go through a RFP procurement process to purchase the software. It is extremely important not to make missteps here as it can set you back months. However, most other decisions come with a decent margin of error. When you are meeting with your team and making plans about items from dashboards to data don’t be afraid to think outside the box, be really creative, and suggest things that have never been done before. Don’t worry if you say something impossible or even silly at the moment. Albert Einstein says that “Creativity is intelligence having fun.” Involve other people and stretch for a solution that will transform your institution. Every idea might not be possible or practical but it certainly does not hurt to put it out there for discussion and exploration. It could be the spark that leads to the best possible solution for your institution.
Laurie Fladd is the associate dean of science and mathematics at Trident Technical College and is the project director for the iPASS Grant (STEM focus).