In a constantly evolving environment, we have no option but to adapt, to innovate to grow, and to respond to existential challenges presented by our competitors. Recognizing the imperative, however, doesn’t make it any easier.

As a new leader charting a new course or as an established leader shepherding a new direction, every step you take will be highly visible, critically important, and difficult to implement. Outside of a crisis, significant change represents the single biggest test of your leadership and your team. It can be extremely difficult to build and retain the trust of key stakeholders who may be concerned about and directly impacted.

At BMCG, we use this same approach and methodology we use for crises and pair it with proven change management strategies to help you effectively:

  • Develop and articulate your strategic vision
  • Build an understandable, detailed, and data-driven analysis and case for change
  • Effectively, honestly, and compassionately communicate the “what,” “how,” and—importantly—“why” that builds community support and culture that understands and values change
  • Identify and mitigate barriers
  • Undertake and sustain change by establishing and measuring against key performance indicators

Case Studies

A large, public R1 institution faced a number of strategic headwinds – capped enrollment, flat tuition, loss of international student revenue, and a series of state-mandated but unfunded priorities that were sapping resources. Moreover, there was lack of internal understanding about the scale of these challenges as well as what would be necessary to re-energize the institution’s academic, healthcare and research mission. The launch of a critical and strategic budget realignment was exacerbated by lack of confidence in the abilities of both the internal communications function and the finance and budgeting function.

Actions / Recommendations:

  • Developed the structure and goals for a year-long, three-phase initiative to:
    • increase understanding of budget challenges, and 
    • empower a series of taskforces to identify opportunities to save money, increase revenue, and remove internal barriers to success.
  • Through multiple interviews with key leaders and the president, BMCG developed a clear strategic positioning for the president’s year one initiatives through the dual lenses of a focus on openness and collaboration and a sea change from previous leadership. 
  • Worked with the finance team to develop clear and accurate budget information to facilitate stronger decision-making.
  • Led all communications activities and developed all materials for the launch of their strategic budget initiative including a series of virtual town halls, a comprehensive, and key presidential video and email messages.

Results:
Despite occurring at the height of COVID-19; the new openness, collaborative approach, and detailed (albeit difficult) information about the financial challenges the institution faced, led to an overwhelmingly positive response by faculty and staff.  Internal survey data showed a high degree of satisfaction with the president and the approach. The various task forces generated hundreds of new ideas which were then prioritized, aligned, and initiated. And the model of engagement developed by BMCG became the hallmark for the president’s leadership style.  The second year saw the application of this approach once again as the university undertook a broader strategic planning process built on the foundation of the financial sustainability work completed in year one.  

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.

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.

Results:
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.

A small, private nursing/health care university, facing financial pressures, realized it needed to re-envision its organization to better meet student needs as it pivoted from a faith-based institution into a secular organization. Fundamental change included expanding with a new campus, a complete brand and name change, and internal restructuring, including the involuntary elimination of some positions. At the same time, the university was facing significant academic challenges in its largest program.

Actions / Recommendations:

  • Identified and mapped out the risks, benefits and dependencies the university faced in undertaking significant change across the institution. 
  • Created a change management and communication strategy that provided key internal stakeholders –with a focus on staff, faculty and students – information necessary to increase support for the change.
  • Developed supporting materials and approach to retain the trust of business and clinical partners, as well as accrediting and state agencies.

Results:
While there was anxiety and uncertainty over the elimination of positions, the re-organization was greeted positively as faculty and staff understood where the institution was going and largely agreed the changes were needed. University leaders were able to focus on the transformative change the re-organization brought and how it would benefit students, setting the conditions for the institution to grow in both enrollment and clinical partnerships.