by Susan Foster
[Today’s Tuesday Reading is from Susan Foster, IT Business Manager at Bowdoin College. She is a MOR program alum. Susan may be reached at email@example.com or via LinkedIn.]
One sunny afternoon, during an average week, while doing average daily business, I got a call from my chair asking me to come to her office right away. I knew something big must have happened. She had just returned from a meeting with the provost, where she was told that we had to move out of one of our buildings (we were in 3) in one year.
Hmm. So, doesn’t sound like that big of a deal, right? I mean, move out of older building into a brand new, state of the art building—sounds good!? But it could not have been worse. This was the biology department at my prior college. The faculty that had to move had been working in this space for many years and were in the middle of conducting important and complex research, had teaching responsibilities, were mentoring students and postdocs, had families, and had other plans. Typically designing and moving a laboratory takes at least a few years—but this request was not negotiable, had to happen, and happen fast.
The announcement, which we made to the faculty the next day, came as a shock, quickly followed by objection, outrage, fear and loathing. It was a politically charged decision and had an equally charged reaction. We understood and anticipated this—why do we have to move, put the new people in the new building, this is incredibly disruptive, this is unfair, this is frightening, this is the worst thing EVER. Having managed change for many years under various conditions and scenarios, I knew when I looked at their faces that this was, indeed, the worst thing they could imagine.
While this could be the recipe for a project that was a failure or didn’t complete on time or on budget, that didn’t happen here. The teams rose to the challenge. We successfully completed the move. So, how did we manage to make this happen—successfully, on time and with limited damage? Well, as the story goes, it took a village. Here are some of the methods we used:
For me, this was a particularly unique and unusual change management project. Unlike starting up a new graduate school or edgy research center, it was more complex because it was so dependent on cultural change to succeed. There is no easy way to help cultural change happen. It takes a deeply committed team and a soft touch that can sometimes be absent in higher education. It is important to remember: the people who take risks and think in leaps and bounds in their research and teaching always need to know they are on solid ground on the campus.
|This Week’s Survey
How do you generally feel about change?
|From Last Week
Last week we asked if you know what you want to be known for:
For the more than 2 out of every 5 of us who have an up-to-date vision of who we are and what we want to be known for, congratulations! Being intentional in this way is a strong guiding force to helping us achieve what we desire. For the roughly half of us who are in some stage of updating or figuring out what we want to be known for, January is often a time of resolutions and goal setting for the year. What a great foundation to refine what you want to be known for ahead of any goals or other resolutions. Relating to today’s reading, how might change and how might stability each factor into what you want to be known for? That balance is a question only you can answer.