ERIC Identifier: ED457763
Publication Date: 2001-00-00
Author: Kezar, Adrianna
Source: George Washington Univ. Washington DC. Graduate School of Education and Human Development., ERIC Clearinghouse on Higher Education Washington DC.
Understanding and Facilitating Change in Higher Education in the 21st Century. ERIC Digest.
A critical synthesis of research literature on the process of organizational change at the institutional level is needed because higher education is being asked to be responsive to an ever-changing environment. This work focuses on providing the reader several key insights into the change process by (1) presenting a common language for organizational change; (2) describing the multidisciplinary research base on change; (3) highlighting the distinct characteristics of higher education institutions and how this might influence the change process; (4) reviewing models/concepts of organizational change derived within higher education, comparing and contrasting different approaches; and (5) providing principles for change based on a synthesis of the research within higher education.
PROVIDING A LANGUAGE FOR UNDERSTANDING ORGANIZATIONAL CHANGE
Some generic definitions of organizational change have been offered by theorists. For example, Burnes noted that organizational change refers to understanding alterations within organizations at the broadest level among individuals, groups, and at the collective level across the entire organization (1996). Another definition is that change is the observation of difference over time in one or more dimensions of an entity (Van de Ven and Poole, 1995). But these definitions fail to capture the assumptions inherent in different models or theories of change. For example, cultural and social-cognition theories of change would replace the word observation with the word perception in the second definition above. Theorists exploring change through a cultural or social-cognition perspective would examine not dimensions (typically organizational structural characteristics such as size), but values or organizational participants' mental maps. Because the language relating to change differs, a common language is difficult to find. However, certain concepts are common across various models, such as forces or sources of change and first-order or second-order change. These common concepts are noted within key sources of change literature such as Burnes, 1996; Goodman, 1982; Levy and Merry, 1986; and Rajagopalan and Spreitzer, 1996. As these scholars studied change, these concepts became critical points of concern in their analyses. Forces and sources examine the why of change. First and second/second order, scale, foci, timing, and degree all refer to the what of change. Adaptive/generative, proactive/reactive, active/static, and planned/unplanned refer to the how of change. Last, the target of change refers to the outcomes. As a campus begins to engage in a change process, members of the organization need to first examine why they are about to embark on the process, the degree of change needed, and what is the best approach to adopt.
THEORIES OF CHANGE
UNDERSTANDING THE NATURE OF HIGHER EDUCATION ORGANIZATIONS: KEY TO SUCCESSFUL ORGANIZATIONAL CHANGE
In light of these distinctive organizational features, higher education institutions would seem to be best interpreted through cultural, social-cognition, and political models. The need for cultural models seems clear from the embeddedness of members who create and reproduce the history and values, the stable nature of employment, the strong organizational identification of members, the emphasis on values, and the multiple organizational cultures. Because there are no bottom-line measures for examining performance in higher education, image and identification are extremely important in understanding if change is occurring and how it occurs. The relationships of image and identification to change seem to indicate that social cognition is important to understand. Furthermore, the loosely coupled structure, anarchical decision-making, and ambiguous goals make meaning unclear, and social-cognition models' emphasis on multiple interpretations may be important to consider when examining and facilitating change. The shared governance system, organized anarchy, conflicting administrative and professional values, and ambiguous, competing goals also point to a need for the interpretive power of political models. Evolutionary models are important for understanding the impact of environmental factors on change, such as accreditation, foundations, and legislatures in an interdependent system, especially since these factors are growing in magnitude and influence. However, even though a higher education institution is an open system, it may have internal consistency and logic that can be damaged by the intrusion of external environmental forces.
HIGHER EDUCATION MODELS OF CHANGE: EXAMINATION THROUGH THE TYPOLOGY OF SIX MODELS
RESEARCH-BASED PRINCIPLES OF CHANGE
* Promote organizational self-discovery
* Be aware of how institutional culture affects change
* Realize that change in higher education is often political
* Lay groundwork for change
* Focus on adaptability
* Construct opportunities for interaction to develop new mental models
* Strive to create homeostasis and balance external, forces with internal environment
* Combine traditional teleological tools such as establishing vision, planning, or strategy with social-cognition, cultural, and political strategies
* Be open to a disorderly process
* Facilitate shared governance and collective decision-making
* Articulate core characteristics
* Focus on image
* Connect the change process to individual and institutional identity
* Create a culture of risk and help people in changing belief systems
* Be aware that various levels or aspects of the organization will need different change models
* Realize that strategies for change vary by change initiative
* Consider combining models or approaches, as is demonstrated within the multiple models These will help you to develop a systematic and systemic process of change that works with individuals, acknowledges change as a human process, is sensitive to the distinctive characteristics of higher education, is context- based, achieves balance of internal and external forces, and is open to creativity and leveraging change through chance occurrences.
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