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Driving University-Wide Change

Exercise Instructions

Large University initiatives, IT initiatives included, require changes in work process and individual behavior as well as changes in the underlying technology. Those responsible for the technical changes do not have the authority or responsibility to enable the needed changes in the "social system" surrounding the technical change. What steps can we take, or what incentives can the university provide, that would encourage those in leadership and management roles to take up training, communications, and investment in people that will be needed to make the initiative succeed?

Assume Penn's senior leadership has given the green light (approval & funding secured) to move ahead on a large change process - StaffInTouch, a new system that will track staff members through their time at Penn. StaffInTouch will track the training and development needed and completed to meet the specific competencies for each position staff members hold. It will incorporate performance appraisal information, benefits information, annual benefits selection and other HR components. It will include a version of the University calendar tailored for the individual's position, department, and interests, and it will track paid time off for University accounting and reporting purposes. A separate grievance module will allow staff to fill out a form and then select whether to have it delivered to their supervisor, the University ombudsman, their lawyer, their congressperson, or Jerry Springer.

How do we promote consistent success with StaffInTouch, regardless of where you sitSchool or local unit, large or small? As a group, work through the following questions. Summarize highlights of your work on a flip chart legibly enough for other groups to read.

  1. Carry-ThroughThink about how StaffInTouch changes the way people work and progress at Penn. Success depends not just on implementing the new system. What processes need to change, and how will individual behavior and activity be expected to change? How can Penn make sure that communications, training, and other investment in people happen?
  2. Horizontal ViewExplore how Penn can encourage ownership of University needs as a whole (looking outside individual units) using StaffInTouch as a concrete example:
  • Who are the key stakeholders across the University and what are their responsibilities?
  • How does Penn assure involvement of relevant groups for planning, implementation, and ongoing support of StaffInTouch?
  • How can those implementing the technology influence crucial players to accept responsibility for the process, even though they don't have the authority to require it?
  1. Applies Elsewhere?Step back for a moment from StaffInTouch. What guidelines for carry-through apply generally to any new large process change at Penn?
  2. HandoffToday's retreat won't identify all the questions, much less figure out all the answers. Is there a natural "home" for the issue of driving University-wide change: a group or role whose responsibility is to explore the issue and begin working on possible solutions? If not, identify the kinds of people who need to be involved in exploring this issue.
  3. AdviceAll in all, what two or three pieces of early advice would you give the people to whom you would hand this issue?

Exercise Results: Driving University-Wide Change


  • Need rational process for priority-setting for large University-wide projects.
  • Need to ask the question: Is the proposed system aligned with the strategic mission of the university?

Outstanding Issues:

  • "Sinking feeling" when people are being asked for buy-in on major University process that they don't perceive is needed. Who decides these things & how? How do people (faculty, in particular) communicate their interests & needs?
  • How do we ensure IT plan is aligned to larger University mission?
  • What if functional organization thinks there's high value to innovation? What buy-in do they need? How to get it?

Next Steps:

  • Determine who needs to be involved in setting priorities for U-wide projects with an IT component and whether a place exists now for this to happen. Determine whether IT Steering, with membership enhanced, could be that place.


  • IT Steering Committee? (with membership enhanced)
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