Managing Change to Close the Loop

While there are variations, the basic assessment cycle comprises four steps: identify outcomes, develop strategies to achieve the outcomes, gather and interpret data related to outcome achievement, and close the loop. A great deal of emphasis is placed on the first three steps, but less on the final and perhaps most important step: closing the loop. Assessment is meaningless without putting the findings into action.

Closing the loop is relatively easy when significant resources aren’t needed to make the change or the person making the change has control over the implementation of recommendations. It’s not difficult for me to make a change in one of the programs I direct based on an assessment that I’ve done. Program improvements typically don’t take resources and I have power over the change process. However, implementing change is much more challenging when recommended improvement is an adjustment to organizational processes. For assessment to have impact at an organizational level, change management needs a part of closing the loop.

Below are five ways for managing change from assessment.

  1. Involve key stakeholders from the beginning of the assessment process. Change is much easier when individuals critical to implementing the change have a voice in the assessment process.
  2. Anticipate resistance. Reasons people resist change include perceived diminishment of power, disruption to status quo, or supposed lack of resources, as well as others. Anticipating hat resistance enables counter arguments to be proposed.
  3. Identify positive impact of the changes. Change will be easier to implement if positive outcomes can be identified. It is especially advantageous to articulate benefits to students, resource savings, and other improvements related to organizational mission.
  4. Identify strategies that will be employed to make change. Change must be an intentional and thoughtful process. Identifying strategies once the recommendation has been made will ease the process and demonstrate attentive commitment to improvement.
  5. Consider phasing in the change over time. Improving process requires time and energy (in addition to other resources). Change may be made easier if it is implemented over time in stages.

Assessment is more than collecting and analyzing data. The most important step is implementing the recommendations. Considering closing the loop as change management may improve the probability that improvement will occur and be sustained over time.

About Gavin Henning

Gavin is a college student educator with a reputation as an organizer, collaborator, and catalyst for educational change. His professional mission is to generate applied scholarship, bridge theory to practice, create systems and processes, and edify higher education professionals to foster college student learning, development, and success. Gavin has advanced this mission during his 20+ years in higher education in positions including professor, assessment practitioner, and student affairs educator. In his current position as Master of Higher Education Administration and Doctorate of Education Program Director at New England College, Gavin helps prepare the next generation of professionals to improve educational organizations. As president of ACPA – College Student Educators International he leads the premiere higher education association centered on fostering college student learning and development. As founder of Student Affairs Assessment Leaders (SAAL) and member of the executive committee of the Council for the Advancement of Standards in Higher Education (CAS) Gavin helps further a national agenda of accountability and continuous improvement of higher education programs and services. Gavin has been recognized by for his contributions to student affairs and higher education by receiving ACPA’s Annuit Coeptis award and Diamond Honoree awards. Gavin holds a Doctor of Philosophy degree in Education Leadership and Policy Studies and a Master of Arts degree in Sociology both from the University of New Hampshire as well as a Master of Arts degree in College and University Administration and a Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology and Sociology from Michigan State University. In his free time Gavin enjoys reading, biking, kayaking, and losing to Facebook Friends in Scrabble.
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