This post is going to be a little disjointed, as I want to cover two relatively independent topics. First, I would like to discuss the organizational readiness of Fanshawe College (my place of employment), leading into the first few months of the COVID-19 pandemic, and then I will shift to how I intend to incorporate some new (to me) concepts of change leadership into my own practice going forward. I hope you enjoy the read.
Fanshawe’s Readiness for Change
While it’s still early to draw any definitive conclusions regarding the success of Fanshawe College’s shift to online and blended learning in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, I would like to illustrate how its organizational readiness for the change will likely have had an impact on the outcome. Weiner (2009) argued that the level of an organization’s change readiness has an impact on the likelihood of the success of the implementation of that change. He went on to indicate three main areas impacting organizational readiness, including Change Valence, Change Efficacy, and Contextual Factors. The Change Valence, or the value an organization’s members put on the need for the change, at Fanshawe was high due to the necessity of that change. Weiner observed that “the more organizational members value the change… the more resolve they will feel to engage in the courses of action involved in the change implementation” (p. 3). In the case of the COVID-19 pandemic, Fanshawe College had no choice but to adjust to the change as a result of external forces demanding a response. In that way, Fanshawe’s members really had no choice but to implement the changes, as they were compelled to act and were highly motivated to see that change be successful. As far as Change Efficacy, Weiner defined this as “a function of organizational members’ cognitive appraisal of three determinants of implementation capability: task demands, resource availability, and situational factors” (p. 4). At Fanshawe, with the exclusion of sufficient time, we had many resources at our disposal, including knowledge, technical supports, and human resources. As far as task demands, for many this was an unknown, but Fanshawe was quick to respond and provide training for those who required it. Finally, in terms of Contextual Factors, Fanshawe quickly put policies and procedures in place that helped facilitate the change. One such example as reported by Theodore (2020) was the Fanshawe Experience Guarantee, which allowed students to defer their tuition to another year if they weren’t satisfied with their program delivery. This policy reduced the risk for students concerned about their ability to be successful in an online learning environment which undoubtedly increased registrations. Another element which provided a positive context in which change could be effectively implemented was a long history of success. Fanshawe College placed first in the province in terms of graduate employment rate, and above average in student, graduate, and employer satisfaction (“Key Performance Indicators”, 2019). This track record of success would have had an impact on the members’ confidence in their ability to realize a successful change implementation. All of these factors combined indicate Fanshawe College’s relatively high readiness for change. In time, it’s my opinion that we’ll likely see a correlation between Fanshawe’s high readiness for change and a successful implementation of the change from primarily face-to-face, to online and blended learning amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
Impacts of the Literature on Future Practice
Following my reading of the literature surrounding change management and leadership, I’ve recognized some similarities to my own approach, in addition to some lessons I can apply moving forward. To begin with, I see some overlap between my approach to change leadership and to what Biech (2007) identified as Theory O. Biech asserted that Theory O “attempts to build bridges between the organization and its employees, partially on the assumption that the involved employees will bond with the organization they have helped change” (p. 4). I’ve long felt that involving as many people in a change in policy or procedure as is reasonably possible is a positive approach. Not only do those participants feel more invested in the successful implementation when they were involved in its development, as Biech suggested, but the leader also benefits from a diverse list of perspectives and possible solutions. Additionally, some new ideas presented to me which I look forward to incorporating into my practice are Appreciative Inquiry and Understanding Organizational Cultural. Biech recounted that Appreciative Inquiry “identifies the best of “what is,” envisions “what might be,” discusses “what should be,” and implements the “what will be,” all from a positive, “appreciating” point of view” (p. 5). I love this positive and optimistic approach. However, I think one would need to be careful to only employ it from a place of genuine appreciation. Any attempt to fake this approach to simply appear to be optimistic would be easily identified as disingenuous and one would lose the engagement of their constituents. I also need to be wary of making sweeping organizational changes in the future, which I have a history of doing. Biech went on to indicate that “if the change is too different from the culture, it will create disconnects and be a continuing stumbling block for successful implementation” (p. 5). For this reason, I need to be conscious that future changes align well with the existing culture of my organization in order to get buy-in from my constituents.
Biech, E. (2007). Models of change. In Thriving Through Change: A Leader’s Guide to Change Mastery (Issue c, pp. 1–8). https://royalroads.skillport.com/skillportfe/assetSummaryPage.action?assetid=RW$1544:_ss_book:22651#summary/BOOKS/RW$1544:_ss_book:22651
Key performance indicators. (2019). In Ontario Colleges. https://cdn.agilitycms.com/colleges-ontario/documents-library/document-files/2018-19 KPI results_20190920202722_0.pdf
Theodore, H. (2020). Fanshawe College unveils 4-part student guarantee for fall term. 106.9 The X. https://www.1069thex.com/2020/06/29/fanshawe-college-pledges-4-part-student-guarantee-for-fall-term/
Weiner, B. J. (2009). A theory of organizational readiness for change. Implementation Science, 4(67), 1–9. https://doi.org/10.1186/1748-5908-4-67