STAKEHOLDER ENGAGEMENT STARTS AT THE TOP

The implementation of any large scale transformation requires engagement and support from multiple stakeholders throughout your institution. As the vision is cast for institutional change, a case must be made by executive leadership and stakeholders on how it’s done. This case must systematically address the work that’s underway. 

Throughout this process, there is the inevitable “human-side” of transformation and change, where people are uncertain about what this means for them and their role within an institution. Approaching this strategically – with a firm understanding of processes, systems and data – will ensure that the work is done objectively and collaboratively. 

A calculated approach including leadership, stakeholder and user engagement should be applied, and consistently tracked against project timelines and goals. Although directly working with those impacted by the future changes can be challenging, incorporating stakeholder engagement strategies from the onset will ensure a firm foundation for the upcoming transformative work in your institution.

During this three-part blog series, we will share key components to change management as well as the systematic framework approaches to building the foundation for transformational redesign. 

ALIGNING COLLEGE LEADERSHIP

Change can be scary for all levels of an organization. When the transformation of processes and people take place, all levels turn to the executive branch of an institution to “gut check” how serious this work is. If the executive cabinet isn’t aligned in their projected outcome, the importance of the project, or the execution of the approach, then the work is at an extreme risk to fail. 

Although college leadership often works closely together on a regular basis, there can frequently be competing priorities and perceptions as it relates to the departments they oversee. It’s imperative for leaders to have an in-depth understanding of the day-to-day processes that may be affected by a potential organizational change, at every level within the institution. Bringing executives together to understand the perception versus reality of their processes and systems can effectively align the purpose, case, and approach to the work that is ahead. 

EXECUTING AN EXECUTIVE SESSION

Morgan State University is undergoing transformative change to redefine their student experience by reviewing their people, processes, and systems to ensure that the student experience aligns with their values. Through our work of deploying secret students and conducting student focus groups, we have worked with each department individually to identify ways to enhance the entire student onboarding experience. 

As with many of our other partner schools, we knew that a critical next step is for the executive leadership to come together and confer – cross-departmentally and technologically. In our experience, the best way to allow for collaborative conversations without departmental barriers is to facilitate an off-site retreat, away from the daily functions that demand attention. This allows the participants to truly focus on the collaborative work that lies ahead.

Swim structured the day by dividing the retreat into three sessions. Each session delved into a different phase of the re-engineered process with the larger group separated into rotating sub-groups. This allowed peers to receive fresh perspectives on their department processes and insight on potential improvements. Stakeholders explored the impact each proposed change would have on the day-to-day processes and staff responsibilities, as well as the student experience, cross-departmentally in a synergetic discussion. 

After reviewing each part of the re-engineered process, the sub-groups came together to discuss their ideas and suggestions. Ultimately, the exercise enhanced collaboration between the departments and created solutions that could be implemented immediately, as well as defined long-term goals. 

This type of engagement is critical in building a foundation of transparency and collaboration, and the next step is to continue to build that foundation. Following an executive session, it is important to quickly determine action items and how to build on the insight and recommendations to move the initiative forward. Often the next step is engaging the larger college community in a series of workshops, or gathering information through surveys or focus groups. Both will allow the organization to build on the work done by the executive team and move the initiative or project forward.