A distinguished private Carnegie R2 research university faced multiple and interconnected risks including significant budget cuts, years of poor financial discipline, antiquated operational processes and systems, furloughs, removal of retirement benefits, RIFs, and lack of strategic direction and vision – all exacerbated by COVID-19. An internally developed change management strategy was poorly received by key internal stakeholders and created a deep schism in the campus community. It became clear the status quo was not an option and the institution needed to undergo significant organizational and cultural change to survive. BMCG was hired by the Board to support the leadership team through operational, strategic, and communications changes, ensuring effective overall change management strategy.

Actions / Recommendations:

  • Led the development of an overall change management strategy focused on creating a case for change, correcting internal misunderstandings, and developing a clear vison for the future.
  • Functioned as an integral part of the leadership team, being fully engaged and in key meetings with the Board, Board steering committees, administration, and working groups across the cabinet.
  • Ensured that two distinct workstreams—one focused on improving organizational effectiveness and the second on strategic planning—were aligned as part of the overall strategic change management approach.
  • Worked to develop a stakeholder-centric approach to all change management efforts to ensure that methodology and processes would not be vulnerable to faculty criticism.
  • Developed all communications including multiple “campus conversations” with the entire community and a password protected website to share detailed and confidential information.
  • Anchored communications strategy around institutional purpose not financial risk and worked to ensure strategy was sufficiently inclusive to foster a broader sense that the institution is a place the majority of faculty can be supportive of in the future.


Over a period of two years, gained broad faculty and staff support for and acceptance of sweeping organizational efficiency changes and a new strategic plan. Despite recent history, there was minimal resistance to the change that could – and did previously — cripple the ability to change. While the focus throughout was on internal stakeholders, the plans and vision for the future were widely praised by alumni, donors and the local business community.