8 tips for managing change

At the AACRAO SEM Conference on Monday, CUNY Borough of Manhattan Community College’s Vice Provost of Enrollment Management Diane Walleser, along with colleagues from the admissions, registration and financial aid departments, presented a session on “Managing the Messy Middle of Change.”

Walleser, the college’s first enrollment manger, helped launch the college’s first enrollment management division, leading staff—new and old—through a period of significant change. “I love change because I love the results of it,” she said. However, she noted that everyone tackles it differently. Walleser therefore formulated an approach to change using two theories—the “Change Monster” theory, which focuses on morale and confidence; and the ADKAR model (awareness, desire, knowledge, ability, and reinforcement).

New division, new challenges

Some of the challenges at BMCC included:

  • Declining enrollment
  • Super-sized silos
  • Under-leveraged technology
  • Stops and starts with enrollment cycle
  • Little knowledge of Enrollment Management
  • Hierarchical management
  • “What do you want me to do” response from staff (versus “I have an idea")

“We had to make sure we had a model and a vision,” Walleser said. “We went from a process approach to a student approach.”

BMCC put together plan that included strategic drivers as well as specific change management efforts, staff requirements, technology gaps and measures of success. Some the major efforts that BMCC undertook were: reworking the admissions department philosophy; expanding its call center; and creating a one-stop center. To do so, they created four working teams focused on processing, recruitment, direct admission and student experience. These cross-functional teams included high impact players from other departments and encouraged the creation of solutions.

“I was blown away by the quality of their solutions and the excitement that they had as they sat around the table,” Walleser said.

There were “messy maneuvers” along the way, Walleser and the co-presenters shared. In admissions, that was changing department philosophy by adding staff coaching, evaluations and expectations, team building, and re-matching of skills to positions. For the call center, it meant working through an unplanned, significant delay in the move of financial aid and registration inquiries to the call center.  As for the new one stop center, it meant building a new office that didn’t exist and pulling staff from current departments, as well as creating a communications plan, developing training, establishing goals and outcomes, working toward quick wins to gain support, establishing a realistic time frame, assessing risks and challenges, and making practices transparent.

In conclusion, the presenters offered these tips for handling change:

  • Identify your champions.
  • Talk to resisters, listen to naysayers, and take the fear away when you can.
  • Award creativity versus having a no-mistakes mentality.
  • Regain consensus of goals.
  • Develop troubleshooting skills to expect unanticipated consequences.
  • Collaborate, listen, and keep your ear to the ground.
  • Maintain strong leadership visibility.
  • Celebrate successes and keep your team motivated.