Planning for Higher Education Journal

How Incremental Success Slows Transformative Change and Integrated Planning Achieves It

Journal Cover
From Volume 44 Number 2 | January–March 2016
By Anne Milkovich
Challenges: Change Management

Higher education institutions are under pressure to make transformative changes aimed at improving key areas of performance: access, affordability, price, and productivity to name a few. Institutions have responded with budget cuts and efficiency gains with incremental success. Yet paradoxically the very success they have achieved has also impeded the transformative change their stakeholders seek.

Many theories exist to support adaptive change in higher education. A single foundational theory of organizational change in industrial enterprises explains the paradox and illustrates how incremental success slows transformative change. Structural contingency theory, introduced by Alfred Chandler in 1962, encapsulates a number of higher education change theories, further grounding practitioners as they assist institutions in adapting to changing conditions and informing their planning efforts.

To achieve transformative change requires a model of integrated planning to synthesize unit improvements into institutional change greater than the sum of its parts. This article presents structural contingency theory to explicate the change process and introduces institutional portfolio management as an operational model of integrated planning. It speaks to an audience of practitioners seeking pragmatic solutions to very real and present problems.

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