The following is a guest post by Nikki Massaro Kauffman, Technology Training Coordinator for Penn State University Libraries. Nikki blogs at In Clear Text and you also connect with her through Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook or SlideShare. This is the fourth post of the .eduGuru Blogger(s) Search Contest.
It’s mid-November, and regardless of political affiliation, you are probably a little weary of hearing about change. But the thing about change is it doesn’t cease to exist when we lose interest; we just lose our relevancy.
You might also be weary of change because you’ve spent the better part of your post-conference enthusiasm trying to get your supervisors and directors to adopt some of the ideas they’ve paid for you to bring back to your departments. But change does not follow org charts. Just read Shirky’s Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations to see how change has circumvented the usual hierarchies.
You could also be weary of the change in your own department, when what you really require is a change in how somebody runs a service in another department. Change can’t happen in isolation, can it?
If you really want change to happen, it doesn’t happen with supervisors or interdepartmental committee. I served a year in an interim role until a new assistant director could be found, and I can tell you that if you are hoping to climb the ladder to effect change, you won’t find what you’re looking for. All management is middle management. There is always some director, executive director, dean, president, donor, or trustee above. There are always subordinates and hindrances to enforcement below.
If you think you will reap the benefits of official channels and an interdepartmental committee, you must be planning to retire in your current position. Coordinating calendars, competing interests and replacing vacant committee members will delay decision-making and implementation.
So how can you make change happen? The truth is, like Dorothy and the red slippers, you had it in you all along:
- Use your social network to campaign for your idea. If you have a sizable network within your institution and a really good cause, you can publicize your ideas and people may respond. For example, I tweeted, “Why aren’t we using our wiki space as a knowledge base instead of static Web pages with approved authors?” knowing my followers would get the ear of people involved in these areas.
- Find evangelists. Try to gather a few people who are really passionate about your cause. Get them to enlist others until enough buzz has been built around it that the idea precedes you or until the people who don’t buy into it are shrinking in number.
- Just do it! In academia, we tend to favor inertia. People are reluctant to change direction and stray off-course. If you want someone to adopt your change, start practicing it, make it the norm, and eventually people will be reluctant to stray from the path you’ve created. As an interim supervisor, when our communications policy got shelved because of a vocal minority, I implemented it informally anyway, until even that minority followed suit.