Vice chancellors talk change management, transition of power

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By Alison Graef

Dr. Thomas Cleary, vice chancellor for planning, performance and information systems, said to expect some anger and disapproval during the transition of power from Chancellor Bruce Leslie to incoming chancellor Mike Flores, president of Palo Alto College.

Cleary and Associate Vice Chancellor Linda Boyer-Owens presented on change management at a special board meeting and chancellor retreat April 7 at the workforce center of excellence.

Flores was announced incoming chancellor at a Feb. 8 board meeting. Leslie announced his retirement at the Oct. 23 board meeting and will stay until Sept. 30 to help with the transition.

Cleary said most people say they want change, but they are much more reluctant when the reality sets in that change creates uncertainty and requires them to adapt.

“People don’t like uncertainty,” Cleary said. “People want to know what is going to be different.”

Cleary said change must be “socialized” to promote positive reactions through clear communication of what the change is and how it will affect people.

“Change is personal,” Cleary said. “At the end of the day, it’s not about Dr. Flores. People want to know about the agenda.”

He said reaction to change is a process. It can start with anger or disapproval, then goes to anxiety before leading into ambivalence or anticipation. He said it ideally results in acceptance and enthusiasm.

He said it is best for the transition to the new chancellor to be done quickly because if Flores’ agenda is solidified, employees will be able to relax.

He said employees are already wondering how the new chancellor will affect initiatives such as the Alamo Institutes, tenure, the single-accreditation model, and the use of FranklinCovey programs such as “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” and “The 4 Disciplines of Execution.”

Boyer-Owens presented the Prosci ADKAR Model, a model used for change management in organizations.

Boyer-Owens said responsible change needs leadership, project management and the “human side of it,” which is change management.

“It is personal,” Boyer-Owens said. “We don’t change the organization. We change people one at a time, and we have 5,500 employees, so they’re all going to change at a different pace.”

The Prosci model has five steps represented by the acronym ADKAR, awareness, desire, knowledge, ability, reinforcement.

The first step is “Awareness of the need for change.” Boyer-Owens said awareness was accomplished through communication about the transition process from Leslie to Flores.

She said the next step is to have employees desire the change.

“That’s probably pretty easy with this change,” she said.

The next step is knowledge. Boyer-Owens gave examples of questions employees probably have: “How do I fit? Where are we going to go? What’s my part? What will things look like a year from now with Flores as chancellor?”

“It’s really critical that we communicate, we share everything we know, we’re totally transparent,” Boyer-Owens said.

Next in the Prosci model is ability, where employees start functioning under the new model mandated by the change.

Finally, the reinforcement phase is usually a one- to two-year process.

“You turn your back and everybody has gone over the wall back to the old process,” she said.

She said it’s important to monitor for regression and be willing make adjustments to the new system.

District 5 trustee Roberto Zárate said he is excited to maintain the “momentum” the board has had over the years.


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