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Case Study

Cal Poly Pomona—
College of Business Administration

A college of six academic departments and more than 5,000 students needed to undertake a renewal process to move beyond its culture of silos, update some of its administrative processes, and address what seemed to be a lack of opportunities for innovation. The dean of the college, Dr. Erik Rolland, engaged The Grove to design and facilitate a college-wide visioning- and culture-development process.

Key formal and informal leaders from across the college were invited to join a design team. Initial interviews were held with representatives from the various academic departments and staff units to learn about the challenges and opportunities facing the college, and to assess the college’s readiness for change.

The design team then invited faculty and staff to three all-day meetings and one half-day meeting over the course of six months, with a group of 50–60 participating. The first meeting focused on the case for change, current trends in higher education, and learning about important current functional activities and what these might foretell about the future. During the second meeting, the group envisioned the future of the college in 2025, captured potential strategic initiatives, and—through a dialogic process—began to explore how the culture of the college may need to shift to realize the vision.

For the third all-day meeting, the focus was on discovering a metaphor that would help tell the story of the change. The college being "at a crossroads" emerged as a central message. After this a draft version of the vision map (a Grove Storymap) was prepared and shared at the final half-day session—an all-college meeting with more than 110 faculty and staff present, inviting input for further refinement on all of its elements.

The vision map served as a container and focus for the process. In its final form (see above), a beloved rose garden holds the initiative's goals. Campus walkways show the strengths and operating principles and also reflect the metaphor of the college being at a crossroads as it embarks on its Vision 2025. The vision map continues to be used to communicate about the college and promote engagement in, and support for, its vision.

Ultimately members of the design team formalized their association as the Strategic Action Group. They shifted from initiating and designing the change process to actualizing the change, with pairs taking on the responsibility for leading each of the strategic initiatives.

In this project, change methodology, dialogic practice, and visual facilitation were combined to achieve a successful result.

Strategic change in organizations is about changing people’s behavior and attitudes as much as it is about changing processes and procedures. In order to successfully facilitate change, you need a process that is both blame-free and cognizant of the mental struggle of letting go and finding ways to do things better. The unique support you get from The Grove is an intentional process in which people are engaged from the bottom up and can consider both their fears and their dreams, which allows them to let go of old practices and embrace, own, and get excited about the change.

Erik Rolland
Cal Poly Pomona
Provost’s Associate for Strategic Transformation
Dean of College of Business & College of Professional and Global Education

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