In July of 2012, as the new Director of Undergraduate Admissions at the University of Minnetonka, Aubry had one goal in mind—increase productivity. With application numbers at an all-time low, Aubry knew he had to strategically impart cultural change in order to effectively utilize new processing technology.
“Undergraduate Admissions wasn’t always such a low producing department” said Alina, a transcript evaluator. “A few years ago, we consistently exceeded our application numbers. Then, the institution purchased new processing technology. That’s when things started going downhill.” Dorothy Leonard-Barton and William A. Kraus (1985) fully acknowledge the gap between technology and the ability to be able to use it effectively. Leonard and Kraus state that managers implementing new technology face many challenges including duality, employee resistance to change, the degree of promotions, and the need for one person to take overall responsibility.
Aubry understood these challenges very well and began his journey with simple tactics. He tackled the issue of resistance to change by connecting with the current employees. His strategy was to build trusting relationships in order understand their anxiety surrounding the new processing technology. He also analyzed the current working environment and assessed job functions. Doing so gave him the ability to fully understand the needs of the employees as well as the department. Although his investigation concluded within a month’s time, his work proved fruitful; and he hit the ground running. He quickly began rearranging processes and procedures, promoting employees, hiring new ones, and initiating new work cultures.
“Before Aubry came,” said Alina, “everyone in the office was considered an expert in their job but didn’t know how to do anyone else’s. There wasn’t much room for growth because no one had an opportunity to learn another process. When the new system came online, everything was exposed because now job functions needed to be combined.”
Aubry’s implementations quickly addressed these issues. His promotions and hiring allowed for the development of cross functional teams, combating the isolated knowledge culture and allowing for smooth processing procedures. He guided the newly promoted and new hires through consistent two-way communication, goal clarification, and an open door policy. He also created in office working groups.
“I think one of the best opportunities we received was the ability to be a part of the Think Tank Committee,” says Alina. “The first committee members were elected by their supervisor. The idea was to allow those who didn’t hold a direct leadership position the opportunity to have a voice and participate in creative problem solving. This really made everyone in the department feel connected and part of something bigger.”
By the very next admission cycle, application numbers hit a historical high. Aubry had successfully achieved what he set out to do. He increased productivity by creating a collaborative culture which in turn allowed for the successful utilization of technology.
(Alina Hill, personal communication, November 20, 2016)
Leonard-Barton, D., & Kraus, A. W. (1985). Implementing new technology. Harvard Business Review.
Retrieved from https://hbr.org/1985/11/implementing-new-technology