Change in a digital learning environment may be described as new or updated software, a new learning management system or simply a change to an existing process. Regardless of the size of change, anything that affects people or a process will be met with resistance. It is the leader’s responsibility to follow a change model that eliminates resistance by visioning the future, building organizational readiness, planning the change and implementing and reflecting on change. The biggest and most time-consuming portions of the model are visioning the future and building organizational readiness therefore, these two areas are focussed on in detail.
Leaders in a digital learning environment are required to create a vision for the future. A leader visions the future by challenging the status quo and improving a process, policy or technology. Change begins with the decision from someone in a leadership role who recognizes the need to do something different because of technology, regulatory or internal changes (Biech, 2007). Leaders must recognize when change is necessary (Biech, 2007) together with having the ability to vision a different future. Interviewee #1 explained that the leaders decided it was necessary to change from the Honeywell Manufacturing System to the Oracle Enterprise System five years before the implementation date. They realized the change would take many years to implement and they wanted to ensure employees were comfortable with the change. Honeywell leaders recognized the need for change and spent the time seeking technology that met the needs of the organization and employees (Interviewee #1, Personal Communication, February 18, 2020). Leading in a digital learning environment requires the ability to look to the future, challenge the status quo, view new technologies with an eye to helping employees be more efficient and effective in their day to day responsibilities. Leadership involves creating the vision for the future, but the vision must be communicated in order for employees to be ready for the plan.
Leaders in a digital learning environment build organizational readiness by communicating the changes with employees, obtaining employee buy-in and involving them in the process. Weiner (2009) postulated that two considerations to building organizational readiness are motivation theory as well as social cognitive theory. Motivation theory suggests that employees who are interested in the change are more likely to participate in it and social cognitive theory suggests that employees who are engaged in the process will put forth the effort and persistence required to be successful (Weiner, 2009). Both theories promote organizational buy-in and involvement in the process which builds organizational readiness.
Organizational readiness in a digital learning environment is also promoted through consistent messaging from leaders together with opportunities for employees to learn new technology. Interviewee #1 shared that the Implementation Team participated in a six-week boot camp in order to have the knowledge and skills to train employees on Oracle. Leaders communicated with staff (tailgate talks, newsletters, etc.) on the project for more than a year before implementation. Employees were ready for the challenge. (Interviewee #1, Personal Communication, February 18, 2020). Interviewee #2 explained that Kawartha Lakes implementation of Oracle, from beginning to end, was eight months in duration. There was limited communication with employees and training on the new technology consisted of a self-directed review of training manuals and Moodle tutorials. Employees resisted the change and did not believe the product was beneficial to them. (Interviewee #2, Personal Communication, February 17, 2020). These examples show how two organizations can achieve completely different results based organizational readiness. Organizational readiness aligns with Biech’s (2007) Change Model specifically Step 2 which discusses communicating a consistent message about what is upcoming and Step 3 which discusses employee buy in and involvement together with a communicating to build a strong united front. Leadership can change everything. Strong leaders motivate and engage employees through a vision for the future and creating organizational readiness for change. Planning together with implementing and reflecting on change is completed by the leader and employees who are involved in the change.
Planning a project and implementing and reflecting on change involves the leader together with the SME’s working together toward the vision created by the leader. Change in a digital learning environment requires a detailed plan setting out the steps that are required together with the people who will participate in making change happen (Biech, 2007). Once the plan is in place it is time to implement it into action and monitoring the successes and challenges along the way. At every turn it is important to reflect on what has been achieved and attempt to ensure the change prevails (Biech, 2007).
Leaders impact change, people and the environment. Strong leadership involves an understanding of people and achieving buy-in and support from everyone on the team. Engaged employees are motivated to participate in change initiatives because they understand the future vision.
Biech, E. (2007). Thriving through change: A leader’s practical guide to change mastery. Alexandria, VA: ASTD Press. https://royalroads.skillport.com/skillportfe/assetSummaryPage.action?assetid=RW$1544:_ss_book:22651#summary/BOOKS/RW$1544:_ss_book:22651
Weiner, B. J. (2009). A theory of organizational readiness for change. Implementation Science, 4(1), 1–9. https://doi.org/10.1186/1748-5908-4-67