Recognizing the need for change is easy. We all do this in some facet of our life almost every day. Eating better, exercising more, finding a relaxing balance, etc. All of this is change. The actual process of changing takes true leadership, whether in our personal or professional lives.
At IC Catholic Prep (ICCP), our school consists of 360-ish incredible students. They are supported by approximately 50 faculty and staff. I often wonder if parents truly knew the internal machinations that make a school run—successfully at that—they would take a long pause before they screamed, fainted, or cried. Running a successful school is hard work as it’s not just a place of employment, but also the front door to the future of our students’ lives. They need us to succeed. And we do. Kind of.
I often discuss the cost of success and the need to recognize human capital in this equation. Before ICCP, I was a career public service/government employee. Now as the Director of Finance at the school, my office is housed in the development department, where all the inner workings of ICCP take place. Recruitment, marketing, alumni relations, special events, and our President are all in the same space. Every day is like our own Manhattan Project. If someone asked me what movie I would relate our office dynamic to, I would say it’s a mix of Boiler Room, The Godfather, and Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. Oh, and an episode of Seinfeld.
Shortly after I started at ICCP, I witnessed the new fall student recruitment season in full swing. I saw a situation where very few people took on—or attempted to take on—a very heavy workload. My organizational leadership mind had alarm bells ringing so loudly that I thought people could hear them. To make matters worse, the people working on these projects all used different software systems, none of which talked to each other, much less existed in the same technical ecosystem. That means that to get a final data set on a particular student or group of students, they had to manually compile and export from these various systems, only to turn around and manually enter the data into another system. This needed to stop and in short order. The drain on human capital was immense and was compounded by the need to pull others away from their core jobs to help.
I cannot stress this enough—Human Capital has costs in various ways. Mostly we think of this as time spent on a task. But the other more nefarious cost is the amount of time it takes others to aid in completing work outside of their department. Not only does this cost them the time they should be using to complete their regular functions (loss), but now we must account for the time they spend on other work (loss).
I am a student of Contrarian Leadership, and one of the biggest things a contrarian leader does is to “think in the gray and to think freely.” By no means am I a binary thinker, and I recognized that the situation at ICCP called for not seeing things as just black and white. The phrases “Well, this is how we have always done it” or “no system is perfect” were common refrains. As someone new to the organization, I could recognize the struggle. By thinking freely, I had no problem considering outrageous ideas to help, but my leadership brain applied the necessary guardrails to make practical and cost-effective decisions.
In coming to those decisions, I used the What, So What, Now What reflective approach made famous by John Driscoll.
Figure 1: Driscoll’s reflective model from Reflective Practice in Work-Integrated Learning
Using this model at ICCP, I could really look at our current business processes at the school objectively. For example:
- ICCP currently uses multiple disconnected systems for recruitment, contract, tuition, fundraising, registration, curriculum, and records management.
- ICCP consistently loses crucial human capital to aggregate all the data from the different systems, only still to have an incomplete picture of our school data. Furthermore, the taxing workload degrades our faculty and staff’s time, willingness, and effort.
- ICCP started to look at a total school solution not only to accumulate the correct data, but also to leverage current technology against our minimal human capital resources.
This was going to be a significant cultural shift for the school. Yes, there was support for change, but the most challenging part of this entire project would be the change management component. There needed to be some stakeholder buy-in to minimize any impact this change could have on the staff. Nothing dooms a project more than failed change management in an organization. The internal stakeholders are the key to success. Therefore, in deciding to transition to Blackbaud’s Total School Solution, we took an incremental tiered approach to change using the What, So What, Now What method yet again.
- We have identified a need for change but are unsure of the impact on our daily obligations.
- The onset of worry regarding the change to our workload can lead to resistance and, ultimately, project failure.
- By establishing key expectations for each team member, we had a set of self-imposed guardrails that allowed us to compartmentalize our tasks, work on them in small increments, and collaborate when necessary.
This methodology has allowed ICCP to step into the coming fall recruitment season with a clear path, a single data collection point, and staff embracing and celebrating change.
Join me in Denver at #bbcon2023
I’m presenting at bbcon in October! Please join me as I discuss using this mix of contrarian leadership and the What, So What, Now What methodology to mitigate change apprehension and showcase how a small school with an even smaller staff can embrace the change needed to succeed and welcome it. bbcon is LIVE in Denver, October 22-24, 2023. Join other change-making leaders from K–12, higher ed, nonprofits, and more for three days of sharing, learning, inspiration, and innovation.