Before Implementing, Discover

Organizations that experience change often need to move at the pace of trust, but it should start with the work. In academia, sitting around having unproductive discussions about the merits of change, new frameworks, etc., often lead to nowhere. For the sake of students, start doing the work and figure it out from there. The work to create clarity, coherence, and consensus begins with "Discover."

(Visit here to learn about the Integrated Planning Model)

The Discover phase is essentially the brainstorming stage. Consider these two real-life examples of how to start with Discover.

Example 1: The college created a structure with teams but needed more clarity in terms of what each team is doing, how to integrate, how to avoid duplication of efforts, and to ensure equity questions are addressed. I had them follow these steps as they "Discovered" how to be even more productive this new academic year.

1. Using student momentum points: Connection --> Entry --> Progress --> Completion --> Transition (you can also use Guided Pathways clarify the path, enter the path, stay on the path, and learn on the path), have each team write the activities they will work on for the new year for each of the student momentum points. Have stations with each momentum point for team members to write their activities.

2. Each team rotates at each station to view all of the planned activities for the momentum points and answers the following questions:
a. Where are there opportunities for integration and collaboration? (This question also helps to answer where there are duplication of efforts);
b. Where can I serve as a resource? (This question helps teams not to work in silos. Members from all teams should serve as a resource for one another).

3. Using the Community College Research Center scale of adoption, each team works on how their activities will address the equity questions.

Capture all activities on an online shared platform (e.g., Google Drive) so everyone can have a meta-view of the work, report on the status of the work, and see where to collaborate to transition from Discover to Develop.

Example 2: The college created their Academic & Career Pathways (i.e., meta-majors) and wanted to consider how to develop a cross-functional Success Team (aka, Completion Team) for each Academic & Career Pathway.

1) Campus stakeholders receive a brief overview of success teams and read: Operationalizing Guided Pathways: Completion Teams or Not? (*Special Note)

2) Participants join an Academic & Career Pathway (i.e., meta-major) station and brainstorm how to configure a homegrown cross-functional success team model.

3) Participants from each table share out to the entire group. Facilitator helps to navigate discussions and search for common themes.

Use the early fall to transition back and forth between Discover and Develop to eventually create a plan to implement

*Note: Cuyamaca College counselors went through their own Discover phase prior to the session by investigating success team models at other institutions. They presented their findings to participants and provided them with handouts to help inform how to configure their success teams.

I can't emphasize enough how important it is to constantly remind educators when they're in the Discover phase. As educators, we tend to jump directly to Implement. Residing in Discover allows us to share new and bold ideas. These ideas may not be eventually implemented but they could help inform the work.

As I stated, campuses need to move at the pace of trust, but it must start with the work. What do I mean by doing the work?

For example, at many campuses some educators assumed that Guided Pathways meta-majors meant their programs would be deleted and/or that students wouldn't be allowed to explore. This fear resulted in wasted precious months (sometimes years) of talk. They never allowed the conversation to get to Discover. When I gave them the tools to conduct meta-major sorting activities--with student input--and helped to facilitate conversations, educators understood that meta-majors wouldn't discontinue their programs after all. In many cases, they learned how to expand and enrich their programs and how to collaborate with other programs. They also learned that structured exploration benefits students. As a result, they were ready to move from Discover to Develop. They wouldn't have had this self-realization without doing the work. The government isn't mandating a prescribed set of meta-majors. Guided Pathways is a flexible framework that allows campuses to mold it to fit their context. Trust develops as people collaborate to do the work!

It's a pleasure to serve as a coach to campuses that embrace ongoing external support and meaningful feedback to ensure a steady momentum that ultimately results in student success. If it wasn't for the opportunities to coach, train, and facilitate I would probably focus my writing on theory instead of practical applications that get results.



Also visit:

Planning & Implementation: Creating Common Language

Doing the Ordinary Extraordinarily Well

5 Questions to Answer Before Launching Initiatives

Guided Pathways: Is Your Campus Stuck?

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.  Use the contact form on the right (bottom of the page for mobile users).


Dr. Al's collaborative and inclusive leadership style is highly effective. His facilitation of our 3-day Guided Pathways summit was highly engaging. It propelled our work and his continued coaching support has ensured that we maintain a steady momentum. Marie Vicario-Fisher, Southwestern College Faculty, Health Science & Environmental Technology, Former Acting Special Assistant to the President, Guided Pathways

We continue to renew Dr. Al's services because we appreciate his value. He understands and genuinely appreciates shared governance and the critical roll faculty play in shaping Guided Pathways. He brings an array of tools, resources, and coaching skills that are tremendously valuable to our work. We engage with him extensively and he makes himself available at a moment's notice. The level of communication is unparalleled. Dr. Martha McDonald, Citrus College Vice-President, Student Services

Dr. Al helped secure two NSF grants that support our STEM meta-major. He listens to our needs and is an effective communicator and consensus builder. Dr. Par Mohammadian, Los Angeles Mission College Faculty, Life Science Vice Chair/Allied Health Director/NSF PI

Dr. Al provided us with exceptionally well-received customized trainings based on our needs. Our "why, what, how" of Guided Pathways session helped us create the planning structure that best suited us to move forward. In addition, he helped plan and conduct a student panel that helped to give additional meaning to the subsequent meta-major sorting activity with faculty and staff that he facilitated. We appreciate his approach of planning and executing with us instead of to us. Dr. Mary-Jo Apigo, West Los Angeles College, Dean of Teaching & Learning

We were recently awarded a 2.7M Title V STEM grant and have experienced a smooth transition from proposal to implementation. Dr. Al took us through a highly collaborative process to ensure all voices were heard. I highly recommend him for any project. He knows how to help campuses build clarity, coherence, and consensus.
Dr. Erik Bender, Orange Coast College Faculty, Geology & Title V Project Director

Our campus participated in a regional integrated planning workshop that Dr. Al led. We were so impressed with the session that we invited him to Diablo Valley College to assist us with integrated planning and Guided Pathways trainings. He didn't disappoint! Don't expect a "sit and get" session with him. He'll facilitate groups to do productive and meaningful work. It says a lot about his abilities when he can keep a group motivated and engaged from morning until the end of the day! Dr. Mark Akiyama, Diablo Valley College Faculty, Psychology & Chair, Student Equity Committee

(A. Solano)

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