Course Project: Organizational Changes in Higher Education

Kathleen Haynes

Walden University

Understanding Institutions: Organizational Behavior and Culture

EDUC 6157-3

Instructor Gerald Gary

May 22, 2011



Course Project: Organizational Changes in Higher Education

Gaining Faulty Support

The decline in enrollment at Apex State University is a serious problem which is more symptomatic of policies and procedures that involve the faculty, and is a system-wide issue for Apex, during a time when most of the country is experiencing growth rather than a decline... The policy put forth by Apex State University in not granting credit toward a student’s major for courses taken at another institution is archaic for the 21st century. The need for policies and articulation agreements between colleges and universities that ensure a smooth transition from one institution of higher education to another is an utmost priority. The policy of Apex State University is excluding enough students so that revenue is being affected. The decline in government funding taking place throughout the country, and resources from outside sources are no longer a given, Apex must act; continuing on a path without substantial change jeopardized the future of Apex.

In looking over the culture at Apex, it is clear that the academic functioning is that of an anarchical institution (Birnbaum, 1988). This concept works counterintuitive, and “defies the common expectations that are part of the familiar ideas of organizations as communities” (Birnbaum, 1988, pg., 153-154). Promoting best practices to ensure success of the students at Apex State University should be the faculty focus. Attention must be paid as to how to involve both the faculty and administration in such a way that support is gained to provide effective leadership, therefore allowing a new policy to be implemented that will increase enrollment and revenue, putting Apex on firm ground for the future.

A review of the literature, suggests that faculty, through their senate, holds” legitimate and exclusive authority to formulate and adopt educational policies governing the curriculum, academic programs, instructional methods, and standards of student performance” (Ricci, 1991, p. 5). The degree may vary depending on institutional type, along with an institutions history and culture (Ricci, 2001); the organizational arrangements of academic institutions may well affect educational policymaking (Baldridge et al, 1978, as cited in Ricci, 2001). Educational policies governing the curriculum, degree requirements, and academic program quality (Trow, 1990, as cited in Ricci, 2001), derive their authority from governing boards and administration (Baldridge et al, 1978; Edelstein, 1997, as cited in Ricci, 2001), institutional statues and by-laws often define the limits of faculty policy making (Ricci, 2001, p. 2).

Birnbaum (Birnbaum, 1989) gives the most careful analysis of academics senates, using his models of bureaucracy, political systems and collegiality. Birnbaum (1989,) argues that senates “fail to perform manifest (planned, intended) functions such as key decisions governing institutional resources’ (Birnbaum, 1989), clarifying institutional goals and policies, program evaluation, and developing shared values through consensus (Birnbaum1989). Instead, Birnbaum sees these senates as largely symbolic, exhibiting latent (unplanned, unintended) functions (Birnbaum, 1989), such as serving as campus authority relationships, symbols of faculty status, and as a ritual, bringing members of the institution together (Birnbaum, 1989). These symbolic elements of senates occur in academic organizations characterized as an “organized anarchy,” institutions with unclear goals, loosely coordinated units, and accidental decision-making (Baldridge, Curtis, Ecker, & Riley, 1978;, as cited in Ricci, 2001).

I recommend strategic planning as a formal process to help Apex identify and maintain an “optimal alignment with the most important elements of the environment…within which the university resides” (Rowley, Lujan, & Dolence, 1997, p14-15, as cited in Lerner, 1999). This environment consists of the “political, social, economic, technological, and educational ecosystem both internal and external to the university” (Rowley, Lujan, & Dolence, 1997, p.14-15, as cited in Lerner, 1999).

Apex faculty must understand that as an anarchical institution its rationality is bounded and limited, with participants unable to give attention to the finite number of elements that exist in the environment. This condition is what leaves their faculty senate in a state of organized anarchy, where little is accomplished, but dominion rules. Apex administration must understand that its faculty plays a critical role in the institutional process and to achieve the mission and goals of the university, there must be a set purpose for the organizations existence (Lerner, 1999) and the ideal state the organization hopes to achieve. The administration must also understand that the faculty cannot be ignored. The universities philosophy consolidates its values, relationships with stakeholders, policies, culture, and management style (Hax & Majluf, 1996; p.27, as cited in Lerner, 1999). There is already a credibility gap between what the public wants and what the traditional college and university provides, and adapting to the needs of the consumer-driven market, and targeting specific functions (Lerner, 1999), is a necessity. Strategic planning is one of the major steps Apex can take to address the challenges it faces, developing a competitive advantage and place within the environment (Lerner, 1999).

After determining the value and mission, then Apex should perform a Gap Analysis (CSUN strategic planning leadership retreat, April 1997, Hill & Jones, 1992, as cited by Lerner, 1999).This would result in the development of a specific strategy and allocation of resources to close the gap. In the case of Apex State University, understanding the gap in the financial revenue it is losing because of its policies and its organizational culture would be an important first step... Another important step for Apex would to establish a benchmark (Lerner, Rolfes, Saad, &Soderlund, 1998, as cited in Lerner, 1999), to perform a systematic process of measuring and comparing Apex’s organization against other similar institutions operations, practices, and performances within and outside the industry,(private, and for-profit institutions), including evaluating the “best practices”. This would be used within the strategic planning process to guide management of the institutions human, social, and technological resources. One of the identifying features of the anarchical institutions is the unclear technology it uses, it can be a wide variety of technologies that tend to be based on trial and error, and by establishing a benchmark, Apex could see what other campus’ are doing and this could bring about a change in the way the faculty sees its purpose. Dr. Stephen Joel Trachtenberg has pointed out, introducing more than one issue at a time, which would bring sufficient change to the university (Trachtenberg, 2008, p. 57).would result in failure. “For instance, if you go to the faculty and want to propose some innovation, you don’t want to give them too many issues to fight about” (Trachtenberg, 2008, p.57). With Apex’s anarchical structure, this is a probability. Using a basic strategic model, would create a framework for determining the direction Apex wanted to go, and would allow all constituencies to participate and work together towards accomplishing their goal (Lerner, 1999). Strategic planning also would raise the vision of the key participants, and encourage their careful reflection and creativity on the strategic direction the university should take on its transfer policy (Hax & Majluf, 1996. p.2, as cited in Lerner, 1999).

In the anarchical institution, if leadership persists in their attempt to move faculty to this new initiative that might not have been received well in the past, it does not mean it will not be received at a later point. Because there is a unique set of participants, problems and solutions those coupled today may be differently coupled tomorrow. Strategic planning can provide the leadership with the tools to persist and focus their attention to follow-up on limited agenda as Trachtenberg has suggested. With small unobtrusive changes, to start, large-scale effects can be realized without generating opposition. This would also requires periodic evaluation of the strategies, tactics, and action programs taken to assess the success of any measures achieved and determine if they fit into the mission and value of the university and if educational resources are increasing.

It has been found anarchical institutions flourish when resources are abundant and may diminish when resources decline and difficult choices must be made. In the case of Apex, it will be necessary to engage faculty early in the process, open the lines of communication in a dialogue that the faculty understands, and when all is said and done, a reward system such as shifting resources and allocating funds for strategic priorities may be a necessity to finalize any changes that the faculty are willing to agree upon.

Like all initiatives and proposals there are may be limitations and problems with the solutions employed. Strategic planning for instance, is an involved complex process, and is not a prescription for immediate success (Lerner, 1999), rather it engages the entire organization and helps them develop a framework and context within which answers will emerge (Lerner, 1999).Ensuring commitment from leadership is an important element, especially in light of the reduction of executive decision-making power in favor of a shift to some decision making by the participants.

For Apex State University, this may seem to be counter to the issue of faculty having “ownership of the curriculum” (Course Project Scenario, Part II), but creates perfect conditions for “streaming” (Birnbaum, 1988). Faculty, as with most individuals in organizations, do not like to be told they have to be involved, they need to be invited into the strategic planning or to any decision that is going to create a solution. The problem has been identified: student enrollment is dropping, affecting revenue. The cause: Apex’s transfer policy. The solution: modify or change the transfer policy to reflect current trends, articulation agreements, or develop a new policy using strategic planning. The participants: faculty and administration.

I recommend strategic planning rather than conventional planning to bring the faculty together because conventional planning is oriented toward looking at the problem based on the current understanding, or an inside-out mind-set (Rowley, 1997, p. 36, as cited in Lerner, 1999). Strategic planning requires an “understanding of the nature of the issue, and finding an appropriate response”, or what Rowley terms an outside-in mind set (Rowley, 1997, p.36, as cited in Lerner, 1999).

As Lerner explains it, long-tern planning, in this case, is changing the transfer policy, is a projection from the present or an extrapolation from the past, building on anticipated future trends, data, and competitive assumptions (Lerner, 1999). Strategic planning also tends to be idea driven, and seeks to provide a clear organizational vision (CSUN strategic retreat booklet, April, 1997, as cited by Lerner, 1999). For Apex, with an anarchical structure, they need to be clear and committed. Is this possible? Under the right leadership, one that is committed to change, who can set goals, begin an organizational dialogue, and keep the dialogue focused and ongoing, and is set on delivering a learning organization and environment than yes. A leadership that seeks to exclude the key stakeholders in the planning and seeks to control the dialogue and decision-making will continue to lead Apex as an anarchical institution and it will forever be steeped in financial chaos, low student-enrollment, and may lead itself out of existence as a university altogether.

Institutional Analysis

When first introduced to Apex State University, it was as an anarchical institution, an institution with loose couplings characterized by decentralized systems and limited coordination between departments. (Kezar & Lester, 2009). According to Kezar and Lester these loose couplings reflect how “an organization operates under the conditions of specialization, professionalism, and decentralization of power and demonstrates how these structural factors reinforce each other”, creating an environment that is even more challenging for collaborative efforts (Frost, Jean, Teodorescu& Brown, 2004, as cited by Kezar & Lester, 2009).

When collaboration does occur, it will only occur in small pockets at local levels (Kesar &Lester, 2009). For Apex to become the managerial institute, that would be necessary. If Apex was to follow the Bergquist Academic Cultures Inventory, a change of great magnitude, especially in the area of the transfer policy, would have to take place. In Apex’s own Core Characteristics and Organizational Culture, administrative positions are all operating at a subculture, which Bergquist and Pawlak say, “focusing on the polarization that exists amongst cultures can be seen as a way to move forward organizationally, rather than remain in conflict” (Bergquist & Pawlak, 2008, p.229).

Following Kezar’s organization framework for a change process, to move Apex from an anarchical institution to a managerial one, while instituting a new transfer policy, which will also financially stabilize Apex State University, keeping it on firm ground for the future. The alterations within the organization at the broadest level among individuals, groups, and at a collective level across the entire institution will all be affected by this change (Burnes, 1996, as cited in Kezar, 2001, p.12).

For Apex, one important beginning is that the president, and administrative leadership are transformational leaders, and to show their constituency that they are motivated by the best interest of the students, faculty, and the university as a whole. Leadership must show that they are seeking to work collaboratively, not as individuals making a decision that will amount to a policy change, without consulting with the faculty, their senate, or other academic leadership. Transformational leaders raise the bar by appealing to higher ideals and the values of their peers (Burnes in Changing, n.d, para. 3)

The next step for Apex would be to realize why the innovation is called for; that the way that Apex worked as an anarchical institution was failing everyone involved with the institution, and reform of the practices and policies are needed. Kezar describes this reform as an innovation that is typically centered from the top of the system or organization, or from the outside the organization (Kezar, 2001). The President of Apex has asked for a review detailing the transfer policies and procedures, which are not working, and the stakeholders must understand why this change is necessary. Drawing from the scenario, faculty and staff, as well as upper-level management must be clear that the current policies are the cause of low transfer rates, and loss of revenue. While much of the country is experiencing exponential growth, Apex is not, and, therefore, the planned changes are in response to these external factors, and can no longer be avoided (Kezar, 2001). As a whole the faculty, staff, and administration, are the change agents and need to be aware that the outcomes both intended and unintended will incorporate a complex set of outcomes, resulting from the change process and in the way Apex will identify itself (Kezar, 2001).