Learning to Embrace Change
It’s fair to say that most people dislike change. There is a lot of uncertainty that comes with it.
People tend to focus on the negatives. They harp on the challenges and pitfalls, rather than the potential new opportunities.
Take a merger within parking and transportation departments at a university as an example. This can be as challenging as what a giant corporation faces — if not more so. That’s true even at smaller institutions.
There are often great differences in technology, culture, resources, management style and administrative policies. Even though these changes can bring about extraordinary results, greater efficiencies and better service for patrons, people don’t like them.
While the list of potential pitfalls in any merger is long, with the proper amount of planning, and a very open and transparent policy of communications, they can be effectively navigated. A well-planned realignment can provide a strong foundation for years to come.
These challenges span far beyond simple operations and personnel realignment, though those are important aspects. The key to success lies in the journey, ensuring that good programs and systems aren’t needlessly destroyed and that morale and the mission is maintained.
Consider the culture of each institution. It can differ wildly: one leadership team may be easygoing and flexible, while another may be autocratic and strict.
One isn’t even necessarily better than the other. But, history, traditions and strong independent identities can result in significant speed bumps that threaten to hinder the transformation into a single, unified group.
There’s also the question of budgets. Fees are often distributed differently in parking and transit departments, even within the same institution.
Many important decisions are made during a merger. A merger is not usually implemented to merely double the budget or number of personnel, but to streamline operations and eliminate waste, all with the goal of better servicing patrons.
That raises many questions among stakeholders: Will jobs be eliminated? Where will leaders be stationed? How will performance and morale be monitored remotely? How will normal employee activities be accomplished when there is physical separation between operations?
Clear communications and compassion for those going through the change can help limit uncertainty and rumors from developing. But, perhaps more than any other benefit, this can build a roster of advocates who will champion for the change.
Mergers and realignments can present incredible opportunities that would otherwise not be possible. There is an opportunity to start with a clean slate and make wholesale changes that can modernize operations, realign job functions and improve the daily routines for all involved.
They are also fraught with potential danger. All the more important to have a clear plan in place that is communicated early and often to all involved.
Are you ready for change?
Click here to read about Passio’s role in a merger of departments at the former Georgia Regents University (now named Augusta University).
Mitch Skyer, president of Passio Technologies, along with representatives from Augusta University, formerly Georgia Regents University, and Timothy Haahs & Associates will co-present “Change is Good – You Go First!” at the 2016 NACAS South Annual Conference in Orlando, Fla. The discussion, scheduled for 4:15 p.m. on April 18, will explore how Augusta University combined its parking and transit systems into a single, functional entity.