The 12th International Conference on Performance Measurement in Libraries Proceedings
As academic libraries redefine their services and roles within higher education, library leaders are charged to implement transformative changes. The biggest leadership challenge in effecting change is the human element: helping employees to embrace and implement the changes necessary for transformation. This paper describes the change management process used by Butler University Libraries in 2013-14 to migrate to a cloud-based integrated library system that streamlined workflows and drove reorganization.
Design, methodology or approach:
The library leadership team relied upon two tools to develop strategies for change management and to track progress in employee perceptions of and participation in implementing change: the book Managing Transitions: Making the Most of Change by William Bridges and Susan Bridges and the Ryan Change Style Assessment instrument. Managing Transitions applies the Transition Model of psychological response to change to organizational change management. The model presents three phases of transition: “Letting Go,” the “Neutral Zone,” and “A New Beginning.” The book provides managers with concrete strategies to support employees through these phases. The Ryan Change Style Assessment developed by The Ryan Group, Inc., is one of several instruments available to determine how an individual responds to change. A self-scoring instrument, the Ryan Change Style Assessment identifies four change styles based on scales in four dimensions: preferred role during change (lead-follow, emotional expression (low-high), orientation (people-task), and openness to change (excited-cautious). The results place each respondent into one of four change styles: Initiator, Collaborator, Protector, or Questioner. Supporting documentation provides information the needs and contributions of each style during change.
While planning for the system migration, the library leadership team read Managing Transitions and discussed each chapter at biweekly meetings. This reading provided a shared vocabulary for discussing change. Also during the planning phase, all library employees completed the Ryan Change Style Assessment. The results were compiled into a 2 x 2 matrix graphic. Two months before the new cloud-based system went live, we shared the results of the Change Style Assessment at an all-staff meeting and discussed the implications of our overall mix of change styles. Subsequently, the leadership team implemented a pre- and post- system migration exercise to determine employee readiness for and integration into their roles following system migration and reorganization. The exercise used a graphic “map” of the three phases of transition from Managing Transitions. Employees were asked to place a dot color-coded to change style on the map to indicate their current position in the three phases of transition relative to the system migration. The pre-migration map became an essential tool for the leadership team in developing strategies for communication and decision-making. The transition strategies used by the leadership team during the change implementation phase included intentional over-communication of all issues related to the system migration, for both internal and external communications; ceremonial events to acknowledge critical milestones; and increased employee engagement in redefining their roles and position responsibilities. Three months after the system migration, the mapping exercise was repeated to assess progress toward employee integration into their roles using the new system.
In the pre-migration map of staff readiness for the migration showed that ten of 21 employees (47%) placed themselves on the border between the “Neutral Zone” and “A New Beginning”—they were ready for change. Not surprisingly, three of them identified as “Collaborators” and three identified as “Initiators,” the two change styles of the Ryan Assessment that are excited by change. Seven of the employees (33%) placed themselves within the “Neutral Zone.” All four change styles were represented in this group. Four employees (20%)—two Protectors and two Questioners, the styles cautious about change—placed themselves inside or on the border of “Letting Go.” This initial map demonstrated that most of the employees with change styles open to change were ready, while those cautious about change were less likely to feel ready for change. The leadership team used these findings to be more intentional in addressing the concerns of those with these change styles by communicating detailed information about migration tasks, workflow changes as information became available, and to reassure employees that these changes would not result in elimination of positions.
The post-migration map showed that twenty of 26 (77%) of library employees positioned themselves in or on the border of the “New Beginning” phase, three (11.5%) positioned themselves within the “Neutral Zone,” and three (11.5%) positioned themselves in the “Letting Go” phase. All of those who placed themselves in the “Neutral Zone” or “Letting Go” phase identified as Questioners or Protectors.
Research or practical limitations or implications:
The purpose of the pre- and post- system migration maps was to be able to visualize, generally, staff perceptions of their readiness for the system migration by change style. We therefore made the mapping process anonymous, and we did not attempt to draw conclusions about individuals’ progress toward “The New Beginning” phase. Also, the library experienced some staff changes during the period between the creation of the two maps depicting staff “location” relative to the phases of transition; some individuals who participated in the pre-migration mapping exercise did not participate in the post-migration exercise, and vice versa.
Used in combination, the model for successful organizational change presented in Managing Transitions and the Ryan Change Style Assessment instrument provided the leadership team at Butler University Libraries with an effective process for minimizing disruption and discord during a transformative system migration. The outcomes we had anticipated include: improved communication through a common vocabulary for change management; better understanding of and ability to leverage individual and collective change styles to improve morale; a smooth migration facilitated by better communication and improved morale; and increased capacity for new library services. The outcomes we did not anticipate include: improved decision-making through balanced change-style composition on teams; institutional recognition of the library organization as a resource for change management; and revitalization of the library organization’s image as a forward-looking, vital resource.
Paper presentation from: 12th International Conference on Performance Measurement in Libraries, July 31-August 2, 2017 Oxford, England. Archived with permission.
Miller, Julie L., "Managing Transitions: Using William Bridges’ Transition Model and a Change Style Assessment Instrument to Inform Strategies and Measure Progress in Organizational Change Management" (2017). Scholarship and Professional Work. 74.