The Hidden Treasures Found with Change Leadership Training

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Little did I know, or even imagine, what we would witness and how much we would learn when we set out to deliver the Kotter Change Essentials Workshop for iPASS grant recipients.

We deliberately started the second round of iPASS grants with an emphasis on, and support for, building a foundation of change leadership. It is clear to me that in order to truly achieve the transformation we are striving for in support of student success, institutions need to address much more than just implementing a technology—they need to change how they do business.

This change needs to "stick around" and transform how institutions support their students. This change needs to be embraced and become part of the way a college or university supports students in pursuit of their goals.

The iPASS partners—EDUCAUSE, Achieving the Dream, and the Gates Foundation— knew this kind of deep, "sticky" change required involving more than just advisors and faculty in the work of iPASS. Therefore we recommended that campuses bring a diverse group of people together for their Kotter workshop: a mix of faculty, advisors, IT, IR, Registrar, campus leadership, and other student support areas. We encouraged a mix of hierarchical positions so the institutions could have meaningful discussions at all levels.

I have been doing this kind of work for some time—and believe me this has been special, in ways that for the most part we take for granted. So what have I learned? What have I observed? What has surprised me the most?

  1. Breaking silos: In each and every campus we facilitated building "new partnerships" among people and departments that will benefit from working together. I know this was deliberate, based on the mix of positions we requested. But it is still amazing to see the bridges being built and watch folks sharing advice in areas they would have possibly never gotten involved in.
  2. Elevating known challenges to be discussed and addressed in order to move the initiative forward.
  3. Acknowledging and sharing "wins:" The workshops became a time to celebrate what campuses are doing well, successes that often are not shared let alone celebrated.
  4. Uncovering barriers: Both personal and group barriers needed to be addressed in order to build “true urgency” and real change.
  5. The unbelievable power of bringing different people together to work on something they are passionate about.
  6. Adults can have fun learning!
  7. An enthusiasm and rekindled commitment to iPASS.

I am curious to see how the campuses keep the sense of URGENCY for transformation alive after the workshop. I am positive that we left each campus with a new "guiding coalition" that can continue the message of urgency and communicate why the change is needed in a way that makes people want to help and be part of it.

"…the core of the matter is always about changing the behavior of people, and behavior change happens in highly successful situations mostly by speaking to people's feelings."

– John Kotter and Dan Cohen, The Heart of Change

I look forward to witnessing what happens next as the iPASS grantees lead their campuses through the institutional changes needed to transform advising and increase student success.

Ana Borray is the director of iPASS implementation services at EDUCAUSE. Follow her on Twitter @ABorray.