As part of a larger education-focused body of work, a global foundation worked with Kotter to drive capability building efforts in a cohort of post-secondary institutions. This initiative sought to help these institutions better leverage technology to reform advising and student support services, particularly to at-risk student populations. To be successful in doing so, they would need to drive behavior change through leadership capability building across 26 organizations – no small feat.
The core components of this leadership capability building effort were:
- Bringing key stakeholders from IT, Finance, Advising, faculty, and students together to work in new ways.
- Engaging leaders to become change agents and coaching them on how to model the behaviors sought across the cohort.
- Delivering large scale workshops to build skills across a broader range of personnel, in turn equipping those individuals to lead change at their respective home institutions.
Previous cohorts had identified that technology alone was not the “silver bullet” solution to achieving the initiative’s objectives. Individuals – and their daily behaviors – are at the heart of change. Our approach addressed both truths: the technology needs to work and people need to want to use it. Kotter collaborated with non-profit organizations specializing in technology implementation in higher education, research and evaluation experts from the Community College Research Center, and an organization specializing in measuring ROI for educational initiatives. Equally important to success was a multi-fold change effort that included regular coaching for a core team of leaders involved in scaling the effort, large-scale workshops to enhance capability building across the entire cohort, and a train-the-trainer model to support the broad roll-out of our foundational leadership development program designed to weave this capability building deeper into each institution’s culture.
Focus groups with participating institutions highlighted that our work helped them understand the criticality of the “people side” of change: creating a shared language for the change, understanding the role that urgency plays, and knowing how to build it. In reflecting on the impact of our leadership development programs, the Senior Program Officer leading the initiatives remarked, “I was blown away at the transformation of the group from the beginning of the day to the end. I was so impressed by the strength of their shared vision, by how tightly aligned they became.”