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
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. SUCCESSFUL ORGANIZATIONAL CHANGE
SUCCESSFUL ORGANIZATIONAL CHANGEThere are two main reasons it is necessary to develop a distinctive approach to change within higher education: overlooking these factors may result in mistakes in analysis and strategy, and using concepts foreign to the values of the academy will most likely fail to engage the very people who must bring about the change. In order to develop a distinctive model, the following unique features of higher education institutions need to be taken into account: *Interdependent organization *Relatively independent of environment *Unique culture of the academy *Institutional status *Values-driven *Multiple power and authority structures *Loosely coupled system *Organized anarchical decision-making *Professional and administrative values *Shared governance *Employee commitment and tenure *Goal ambiguity *Image and success. Although not an exhaustive list, this represents some of the key features of higher education institutions that affect organizational change. (For a more detailed description of these characteristics, see Birnbaum, 1991.)
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. SIX MODELS
SIX MODELSAn extensive review of all the research on change conducted specifically within higher education, and within the framework of the six theories outlined above, provides a set of insights about the change process in this context. The cumulative evidence, so far, suggests that organizational change can best be explained through political, social-cognition, and cultural models. Political processes such as persuasion, informal negotiation, mediation, and coalition-building appear to be very powerful strategies for creating change (Conrad, 1978; Hearn, 1996). Social-cognition models illustrate the importance of altering mental models, learning, constructed interaction, and other processes for creating change (Eckel and Kezar, forthcoming; Weick, 1995). Cultural models demonstrate the importance of symbolism, history and traditions, and institutional culture for facilitating change on campus (Cohen and March, 1974; Kezar and Eckel, forthcoming). Evolutionary models highlight some key characteristics of change, such as homeostasis, interactivity of strategies, or accretion, that appear important to understanding change. Life-cycle models have not, for the most part, been applied to higher education institutions, but show promise for helping to develop explanations of how organizational change occurs. There is mixed evidence about the explanatory power of teleological models, but to date they appear to have limited support from the research in terms of how change actually occurs in higher education and of efficacy for facilitating change. Some strategies, such as incentives or vision, have proven successful for creating 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
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
Bolman, L.G., Deal, T.E. (1991). Reframing organizations: Artistry, choice, and leadership. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Burnes, B. (1996).Managing change: A strategic approach to organizational dynamics. London: Pitman Publishing
Carnall, C.A. (1995). Managing change in organizations. (second edition). London: Prentice Hall.
Carr, D., Hard, K., & Trahant, W. (1996). Managing the change process: A field book for change agents, consultants, team leaders, and reengineering managers. New York: McGraw-Hill.
Cohen, M.D., & March, J.G. (1974). Leadership and Ambiguity: The American college president. Boston: Harvard Business School Press.
Conrad, C.F. (1978) A grounded theory of academic change. Sociology of education 51, 101-112.
Eckel, P & Kezar, A. (in press). Strategies for making new institutional sense: Key ingredients to higher education transformation. Review of Higher Education.
Goodman, P.S. (1982). Change in organizations: New perspectives on theory, research and practice. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Hearn, J.C. (1996). Transforming U.S. higher education: An organizational perspective. Innovative higher education, 21(2), 141-54. EJ534330.
Levy, A., Merry, U. (1986). Organizational transformation: Approaches, strategies, theories. New York: Praeger.
Morgan, G. (1986). Images of organization. Newbury Park, CA.: Sage Publications.
Rajagopalan, N. & Spreitzer, G.M. (1996). Toward a theory of strategic change: A multi-lens perspective and integrated framework. Academy of management review, 22 (1), 48-79.
Schein, E. (1985). Organizational culture and leadership: A dynamic view. San Francisco: Jossey Bass.
Van de Ven, A.H., Poole, M.S. (1995). Explaining development and change in organizations. Academy of management review, 20(3), 510-540.
Weick. K. E. (1995). Sensemaking in organizations. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.
The mission of the ERIC system is to improve American education by increasing and facilitating the use of educational research and information to effect good practice in the activities of learning, teaching, educational decision making, and research, wherever and whenever these activities take place. This publication was partially prepared with funding from the Office of Educational Research and Improvement, U.S. Department of Education, under contract no. RR-93-00-0036. The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect the positions or policies of OERI or the department. Permission is granted to copy and distribute this ERIC-HE Digest.
Title: Understanding and Facilitating Change in Higher Education in the 21st Century. ERIC Digest.
Note: Based on the ASHE-ERIC report of the same name published by Jossey-Bass Publishers. Contains small print.
Document Type: Information Analyses---ERIC Information Analysis Products (IAPs) (071); Information Analyses---ERIC Digests (Selected) in Full Text (073);
Available From: ERIC Clearinghouse on Higher Education, One Dupont Circle, Suite 630, Washington, DC 20036-1183. Tel: 800-956-7739 (Toll Free). For full text: http://www.eriche.org.
Descriptors: Educational Change, Educational Research, Higher Education, Institutional Characteristics, Interdisciplinary Approach, Organizational Change
Identifiers: ERIC Digests
©1999-2012 Clearinghouse on Assessment and Evaluation. All rights reserved. Your privacy is guaranteed at