Should we “systems-think” about academic change?

Wisdom on academic change seems founded on seeing your desired shift from varying perspectives. For example, Bolman and Deal’s “Four frames,” which we use in our MACH workshops — that’s seeing a change from Political, Symbolic, Human Resource and Structural dimensions. Stopping to consider each of these points of view can generate ideas about how one’s hoped-for change will impact your organization, and ideas about what approaches are likely to be successful.

Categorizing DimensionsLeft — Participants at the 2015 MACH Workshop categorize their problems in different dimensions. What perspective will turn out to be the most productive, in guiding change?So, you may be thinking, for the most sweeping changes, perhaps the broadest possible perspectives can be useful? Well, what are those?

It turns out we have already wrestled with that question in engineering — especially on large, multi-disciplinary projects which could affect people or things that aren’t in our direct line of sight. The field of “systems engineering” is the generic name for this area of work. Systems engineers love wicked, open-ended problems which seem almost impossible to solve, and they have developed ideas and methods to deal with these. They try to see these conundrums and their alternative solutions over time, via different angles, and from the eyes of many people.
Continue reading “Should we “systems-think” about academic change?”

The Power of Practice

The Power of Practice

No one likes to get caught without a response in a challenging situation. Change agents know challenging situations are coming. One strategy for managing these scenarios is to practice ahead of known events. Practicing is supported by conversational models. Many conversation models exist; the trick is knowing how to deploy and practicing in advance.

A typical exchange might be…

Angry Colleague: Serious attack that contains no specific points but predicts disaster.
Change Agent: Neutral response.
Angry Colleague: Escalating attack that makes further dire claims.
Change Agent: Heated response.
Angry Colleague: Character assassination.
Other Colleague: Calming and embarrassed intervention. Continue reading “The Power of Practice”