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I’ve come across a multitude of visuals that represent the challenges of managing complex change within an organization. Most are related to the corporate sector. I’ve modified some visuals for education. Rather than dictating the outcomes (far-right column) when certain key organizational elements are missing, neglected, and/or are done poorly (black boxes), I created the graphic below to allow you to think about current or potential outcomes for your organization. Further, I encourage you to modify any of the organizational elements (mission, skills/character, resources, PDCA) for your context. Also, some people don't like the term "change management" and prefer "change leadership." Choose whatever common language works best for your institution.

Mission: In K12 education, the mission is centered on student achievement. In higher education, the term typically used is student success. They’re different ways of describing essentially the same thing. In my facilitation work, when I’ve seen teams become lost in the minutia, I bring it back to the mission of the organization (or help them to create a project-specific purpose statement) to remind them why they do what they do. Without consistently communicating the mission (or project purpose statement), teams can get lost and strongly embrace the status quo.

Skills/Character: I fuse skills and character because I believe they’re inseparable when hiring, retaining, and leading talent. Unfortunately, it only takes a few people, especially those in leadership roles, with poor skills/character to create a toxic environment averse to change. (How these people got to positions of leadership is another question all together.)

Resources: Educators often have to manage a multitude of initiatives, some mandated, but sometimes it’s self-inflicted (e.g., comprehensive grants). Adequate resources, however defined—time, capacity, funding, etc.—are critical to managing change. Without resources, people become jaded, apathetic, and harbor resentments that contribute to an unhealthy culture that often is resistant to change.

Plan, Do, Check, Act: In the corporate sector, this element is often described as “Action Plan.” I took it a step further to incorporate a continuous improvement process, such as PDCA (another version is Plan-Do-Study-Act). There are different forms of continuous improvement models, but for the most part, they require some sort of plan, implementation, evaluation, and adjustments. Without this element, organizational inefficiencies, initiative fatigue, and many other problems fester.

The first step to managing change is to admit there’s a need for change. As visual creatures, a simple graphic may help explain to teams what happens when certain elements are missing, woefully neglected, and/or not executed well.


Contact me about customized trainings or ongoing coaching support to help your campus plan and implement grants, projects, or comprehensive efforts such as guided pathways and equity work.  Use the contact form on the right (bottom of the page for mobile users).


(A. Solano)

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