2018 Educause Top 10 Issues: #10 is Change Leadership

The Top 10 Issues of 2018 for higher education technology were announced at October’s Educause conference in Philadelphia. This entry will be my first in a series of ten as I share my thoughts on each of the issues, from #10 to #1. So let’s get the party started!

First one to discuss for 2018:

#10 Issue: Change Leadership
Helping institutional constituents (including the IT staff) adapt to the increasing pace of technology change.

First I need to get it off my chest how excited I am about change leadership being present as a standalone issue — finally!

Why

  • Technology is pervasive.
  • Its reach extends across all administrative, academic and student units.
  • It’s far more powerful, economical and beneficial when consistent and integrative.

As technology leadership on any campus, you don’t want to be perceived as change-adverse or fearful. Why? Because there are enough tech and change naysayers on any given campus and let’s just say the market is not waiting for you. In addition, and this will likely come as no surprise, but it’s not uncommon for the largest change resisters to come from within your very own IT department. So leadership, strategy and vision need to focus externally AND internally for maximum effectiveness.

Project frozen? Patience is waning for those who feel compelled to sit on their hands while they wait out large chunky train-style projects. Read: “I can’t work on project b until project a is complete, which is two years from completion so my hands are tied.’ No. Get to work. People know better.

And keep in mind – most peer leadership, especially in academia, has years of traditional snail-paced-change occupational experience. Suddenly, technology is sprouting across all academic dimensions and who better to be looked at as a valued resource than those who have been literally surfing transformational and fast-paced change for the past ten years? Yes. I’m looking at you. Stand up and stand out as the apt leader, ready to take on leading change in an integrative way across your campus.

Why is it important? The sustainability of any institution relies on it. Change is inevitable. The leadership needs to be deliberate, collaborative and led by a proven change artist. And it IS art. For smooth, successful change, there are very delicate steps that must be taken in a certain order. And with the optimum leadership, while you might need to wait for task b to complete prior to executing task c, you can absolutely be driving overarching projects concurrently.

What

You’re likely geared to do this because you’ve been doing it. But your experience absolutely does not erase the bad mouth taste that many administrative and academic leaders equate to old-school tech leadership. Remember Mr. Acronym? Mr. Super Technical Wizard? Many of your coworkers worked with that guy so you need to be cognizant of that while you try to lead and liaise and they try to wrangle out of your eye contact. Understand it’s not you. It’s past you’s. Be gracious, be mindful, be self-aware and be respectful of THEIR business. Learn, understand, care and smooth, don’t boss, bark or know-it-all.

Sharing past mistakes and lessons learned has far more value to a tentative crowd that extolling self-virtues. Advocating for smart transitional change over attention-grabbing ‘too soon’ steps also impresses a nervous crowd and breeds confidence.

The what is owning it and owning it well. Always prepared to speak at all levels on any piece/part of the change, deeply understanding the big picture and connectivity of it all, able to explain the technical underpinnings topically and the user and business impact across all genres in layman’s terms.

Action

Lead it. Own it. Live it.

For now, as an example? If an institution has not started the heavy-lifting task of breaking down the organizational silos that for years and years protected individualized internal processes, get on it. For numerous reasons. Silo’s used to be ok. Not a plus but absolutely not the impassable barrier of forward movement that they are today when trying to impart improvement. Universities need to be plug-and-play these days, poised to pivot at any given moment to better solutions and services. Historically, slow and steady won the race as it pertained to technology, but no more. If something much better – performance-, economic- or user-experience-wise – exists, your ‘customer’ might very well make a decision based on the better technology. With heightened competition and a shrinking pool of prospective students, differentiators matter. And if getting to an improved state involves a few years of building relationships and breaking down boundaries, you’ve likely already lost the race. But there’s always tomorrow. So give up (never) or get on it (immediately). Act.

Still hanging on to the ‘change for the sake of change’ mantra as a reason to remain immobile? Don’t worry, you have another strong option…

I love magic, but I recommend acting on this one. Read my lips: CHANGE LEADERSHIP IS POSSIBLY A CIO’S MOST IMPACTFUL HANDS-ON SKILL SET. To a campus, to university executive leadership, to the student experience, to an innovative culture. You can’t fake it so if you haven’t perfected it, keep on learning it.

 

And for those that have been humming since seeing the featured image, enjoy:

 

 

 

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