Mayo's Clinics

Aug 17, 2022, 18:05
Making Program Changes: Part Two

Making Program Changes: Part Two

07 January 2020

The complete six essential, non-linear stages of change.

(This is a two-part story. Click here to read part one Early-stage steps required for changing programs, courses or programmatic activities.)

By Dr. Fred Mayo, CHE, CHT

Last month, we discussed three steps – triggers, listening, and vision – in making program changes in your institution; this month we will focus on the next three steps – design, promotion, and implementation. These six stages don't just follow in a linear format; often the process cycles through the stages in unusual patterns.

Although many people believe the old adage “the only one who likes change is a baby with a wet diaper,” it is true students and faculty members like to make changes in programs and add features that increase the quality and relevance of their programs. Recognizing the need for change is part of the trigger and listening is part of the process of getting every relevant person involved. Once you have people engaged, it is critical to create a vision for change. That vision provides the guiding principles for designing the changes.

The fun begins once there is a clear and useful vision of the new program or the changes faculty members and staff want to make. Many people find this the most interesting stage as it draws on the creative process. The most successful design work involves several steps, the first being creating a group or set of individuals who will develop the new changes. Selecting the persons to work on the design can make a significant difference in obtaining real changes that actualize the vision.

The second step requires both recognizing the parameters that will limit what the design team can do and deciding on the areas where the design team can make important changes. Knowing the boundaries within which change is possible keeps the design team from spending a lot of energy on changes that will never happen.

The third step involves many iterations of the design change so it can be considered from a variety of perspectives. Developing ideas for the changes requires clarifying the ideas, preparing a rationale for them, thinking comprehensively both about the change’s ramifications and the impact on students, staff, faculty and administrators, and drafting a timetable for implementation. Once the design team has completed this work, the next stage requires disseminating information about the potential changes.

Once you have a clear set of changes in mind, the next stage includes a two-step process: explaining all the changes to the persons involved and collecting reactions and feedback so the design team can refine and improve the changes.

Typically, this process can be frustrating for the design time since the group often thinks their work is done, and sometimes, it is easier for a different group to present the ideas to others since they are less personally invested in the changes. However, the design team can also benefit from hearing and using the feedback to make another level of even better changes.

The second step of promotion involves explaining and selling the changes to the groups that have final approval. In many institutions, there are several committees that need to approve significant changes and they need to be convinced with carefully written documents and personal presentations. It is crucial to prepare thorough and careful explanations of the proposed improvements when there are many individuals or committees that have a chance to approve, amend, or reject the proposed changes.

Even if the changes do not require formal approvals, one of the best things you can do as a change agent involves spending time explaining the changes to all the people who might be affected by the changes. Explaining the changes over and over again helps the design team and program staff consider all the aspects of the change and clarify the ways to explain it to others who might be resistant to the proposed change. Once the changes have been approved, the next challenge involves implementing them.

Once you have a clear set of changes that have been accepted, developing a schedule for implementing them requires thinking about all the persons who will be affected by the changes, what changes need to happen first, and what changes can occur later. Often writing out the schedule for phasing in the changes and recognizing the persons, groups, and institutions involved can help with planning the specific steps in launching the new program. It also provides ideas about what materials need to be created for each of the audiences that will experience the changes and how those changes will affect them.

I hope these two Mayo Clinics have given you a new perspective on making changes in your programs or aspects of your program. They are essential stages in the change process, but they rarely operate in a linear fashion. They come from my 50 years of experience designing and developing entirely new credit and noncredit programs, making changes in already existing programs and improving programs that expand educational opportunities for students and for teachers. Next month, we will resume the discussion of civility in our classrooms and focus on ways to promote it.

If you have any comments you want to make, send me a note and I will respond individually or in future Mayo Clinics. If you have suggestions for other topics or teaching practices you want discussed, send them to me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., and I will include them in future Mayo Clinics.

Dr. Fred Mayo, CHE, CHT, is retired as a clinical professor of hotel and tourism management at New York University. As principal of Mayo Consulting Services, he continues to teach around the globe and is a regular presenter at CAFÉ events nationwide.