It is highly likely that you will have all of the skills and expertise needed to establish what needs changing, propose a way forward and effect the change within your own organisation. Having said that, it is equally likely that during a major change project you could benefit from some kind of external support.
We are not talking here about particular technical or specialist expertise that you may need for specific aspects of a project that involves process improvement and/or the implementation of new technologies but more about general support during the change process. There are many reasons for this, for example:
- Externals have a degree of objectivity that can often help those within the organisation to achieve clarity more quickly
- Talking the issues through with externals often gives project teams greater confidence in their own insights
- Many people, not least senior managers, feel reassured that there is some kind of external validation of the way forward
- Often you can learn from the mistakes that others have already made
We are thus not advocating that you bring somebody in to tell you how to do it right (see also the section on appreciative inquiry) but rather that you look at the most effective way of facilitating the process of change within your organisation. Very often this is best achieved by finding a way to leverage the expertise of others within the sector who share a cultural frame of reference and are thus well able to place your project into an appropriate context. Such approaches often work better than bringing in experts from other industry segments who may find themselves trying to fit a square peg into a round hole.
In the following sections we look at some approaches that have worked well in change projects in the education sector. They include:
- The use of a critical friend to work with the project team
- A whole team (or perhaps even wider) approach to sharing practice across organisations via the CAMEL model and
- A more individualised staff development approach through participation in an action learning set
- A low-cost approach through the use of existing Jisc resources
The approaches are not mutually exclusive and can be combined in various ways to good effect. The right choice for you will depend partly on your organisational culture and partly on available resources to fund external support (bearing in mind that this can often be a very cost-effective way to avoid expensive mistakes).