Stories of Change

Implementing a new technology system at a large public university

Where?  A large state level public university in the United States.

Why ?

Different departments used a different technological platform leading to systems that did not speak to each other. This made the student interface cumbersome and made student record-keeping onerous.

How ?

In order to select the best system for the university to follow, a change committee was set-up with representation from across the campus. A few professors with an interest in technology also joined in. As did a few technology experts from the university IT department.

The committee was to meet every other week for a period of three months to agree and arrive at a recommended common technological platform. As the committee began to meet, it soon became clear that they were not on the same page. Different interests and different values led to discussions that were often contentious and led to little progress.

Private interviews with committee members revealed that several members were very suspicious of the motives of the committee chair. They feared that the committee chair had already made up his mind to recommend a platform that many did not support.

Yet there was no way to directly confront him as there was no real evidence that this was the case. Discussions continued at a snails pace through an entire semester, several committee members excused themselves from meetings because of other pressing work.

In the second semester, a decision was taken to bring in an external facilitator to help move the talks along. The external facilitator had met with several participants one on one and had a fair sense of the issues at hand. She was able to design rules of engagement that people on the committee regarded as fair.

With faith in the process, discussions picked up pace. Over a period of six meetings, the committee was finally able to make a recommendation they felt was fair and one they would support.