Creating Successful Changes in Education using John Kotter's Model: A case-study(Part2)


This is the second article that pertains to an engineering college in Tamil Nadu. The first four steps of the Change Process in John Kotter's Model was discussed in the earlier article. In this article, we will discuss the same context in the light of the next four steps of John Kotter's Model.

Introduction

When an educational institution faces an existential crisis, drastic action on many fronts is urgently called for. There is no room for complacency. The earlier "just like that" Management does not work at all. The Change Process should be comprehensive and should encompass all variables like the educational environment, the motivation of teachers, the attitude and achievement motivation of the students, and so on. The first article talked about how some retired senior managers, from reputed corporates, now settled in the nearby big city, should be compulsorily employed as Faculty Members. They are engineers with a good background in the industry. They are professionals who would have seen many a situation akin to those that obtain in an educational institution, though the players in the system are different. The basic problem of leadership, of motivation and co-ordination, would have a striking resemblance to similar situations in the industry. They would have had considerable experience in navigating such complexities.

The aforesaid industry professionals would offer support to the CEO, the key player in the Change Process, whose mandate would be to infuse optimism, introduce drastic changes in the way the institution is administered and managed. He would be a professional from the industry and would be supported by the Principal, who would be mandated to drastically improve educational inputs and also impart the practical orientation to the students. More aspects of such details have already been explained in the earlier article Creating Successful Change in Education Using John Kotter's Model: A Case study (Part 1)

However, the context is worth a repetition for quick understanding. The engineering college, situated some 40 kilometres away from a big city in Western Tamil Nadu, is facing an existential crisis. The college does not enjoy a big brand name and is nowhere near four branded competitors who are able to attract the best quality students. The college has some placement record, but it is not perfect and needs drastic improvement. This can happen only when the college is able to attract high-quality students and also improve the quality of those who willingly join the college. The last year's admission record was around 45%. The online classes have been okay, but in 2021, there needs to be a far better improvement in standards of teaching, when the regular classes resume in August 2021.

In this article, we will discuss the next four steps of the Change Process, as given in John Kotter's Model and anchor them in the context of the case study. The next four steps are a) Empower them to Act b) Produce Short-term Wins c) Don't let up and d) Create a New Culture.

Empower them to Act

What can be done to drastically improve the situation now? It is essential to take the baby steps like providing free food for the Faculty Members. This will trigger some motivation and will enable the teachers to concentrate on the core task of good teaching. Contrary to public perception, empowerment does not mean just giving more authority. Empowerment can happen only when the educational environment changes for the better and the teachers have ownership of not only the teaching process but also equipping the students with additional knowledge regarding the latest concepts like Artificial Intelligence and Machine Knowledge. The college will do well to have an MOU, for example, with the likes of WIPRO to introduce a certificate course in this vital skill, with a pronounced practical orientation. Such steps are urgently called for. The non-teaching staff should be properly trained to answer queries from parents at any point in time. The hostel wardens should be motivated to establish rapport with the students and maintain high discipline standards. Empowerment means getting the desired results through ownership on the part of everyone. This is one important point that needs urgent attention.

Produce Short-term Wins

This can happen through increased communication between the CEO and the students on the one hand and between the Principal and the students on the other. The rural food festival discussed in the earlier article will obviously improve community relations and this will result in a greater number of students joining the institution. Trust cannot be established in a day. After all, the present students in the second and third years, in 2021, would have seen tougher times. The Management needs to infuse optimism and new hope. The CEO needs to change the situation from "just like that Management" to "Management with a Vision". Once the Vision changes in terms of the new initiatives taken and the process of trust-building starts, everything will fall in place. The short-term wins should be compulsorily inclusive of action on three areas: a) Improvement in Quality of Educational Inputs b) Improving the quality of infrastructure and c) Improving the educational environment to reflect new changes and their seriousness.

Let us take the second point of improving infrastructure. I had pointed out the not-so-good internet connection years ago. Feedback received in Jan 2020 from some students was not particularly encouraging. I had also talked about this with the Principal. There can be no short-cuts here. The college needs to invest in high-quality internet, as information is power. Once the students see the seriousness of the change, they will appreciate the sincerity of the Management and cooperate with the authorities.

Don't let Up

This relates to complacency. It should be noted that durable Change will take place over a period of sixty months. The short-term wins may result in better placement and a good quality manufacturing company may come for placement in the year 2022.

However, this is just the starting point. If the college becomes complacent, the Change process will be incomplete and people will go back to their comfort zones. The new initiatives should be self-sustaining in nature and should compulsorily involve every single human being, including the service providers, in the change process. There can never be any role or a chance for complacency. This often happens, with disastrous results. It takes years to build a good educational brand. In the present case, a minimum of sixty months is needed and there cannot be any let-up at any stage.

Create a New Culture

When the status quo is broken and the new initiatives start having their positive impacts, the educational institution will automatically see a new culture. This New Culture will automatically bring about good changes like increased optimism and hope; of a new chapter in increasing educational standards; better practical orientation made possible through inputs from the new teachers with industrial backgrounds and so on. As already discussed in the first article, the process of communication between the Management on the one hand and the CEO and Principal, on the other hand, should be so complete and should take place at least once a week. All action points should be reviewed for further progress.

Once this seriousness is in place, the New Culture can indeed take shape and become a durable experience. The perceptions of the college are likely to change by the year 2023 and it is reasonable to expect some good changes by then. What needs to happen is continuous improvement on a sustained basis. One can always learn from experience and whatever problems are seen can be easily solved as one moves on.

Conclusion

The existential crisis is not an uncommon phenomenon in today's times. Educational institutions are now becoming market-driven like never before. The role of the private sector, particularly the superb deemed Universities offering high-quality engineering education can be benchmarks for many colleges like the one discussed in the first article and this article. That the college has no choice and the Change Process is an urgent imperative, is loud and clear.


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