Academic journal article College Student Affairs Journal

Organizational Change as a Function of Disaster Recovery: Lessons from Gulf Coast Institutions

Academic journal article College Student Affairs Journal

Organizational Change as a Function of Disaster Recovery: Lessons from Gulf Coast Institutions

Article excerpt

Colleges and universities have traditionally been characterized as organizations that are slow to change. Operating as loosely-coupled organizations with multiple layers of authority these institutions are, at once, both interdependent with some external entities and independent of others (Bess & Dee, 2008; Eckel, Green, Hill & Mallon, 1999; Kezar, 2001). The values-driven nature of colleges and universities guides institutional leaders in navigating these relationships to external entities (Kezar, 2001, 2012). Serving as guideposts, institutional values help campus leaders discern whether an institution needs to adapt to the environment or resist the environmental pull toward change. Recent literature on organizational change, from various fields of study, suggests that our current environment is increasingly complex, turbulent, and continuous (Kezar, 2012; McCann & Selsky, 2012; McNamee & Diamond, 2004; Pérez-Nordtvedt, O'Brien, & Rasheed, 2013). Given this turn toward environmental uncertainty, colleges and universities must be prepared to adapt at a quick pace.

Opportunities to manage campus crises give institutional administrators practice at operating in turbulent, fast-paced environments. In the past decade, we have watched colleges and universities navigate some of the most devastating events-hurricanes, active shooters, tornadoes, and so on-to ever touch U.S. college campuses. Campus crisis management processes thus provide an apt setting for investigating how institutional change operates in the face of today's fast-paced external forces. This study investigates how institutions change as a result of managing environmental disasters, and argues that disasters stimulate organizational change.

Within the fields of higher education and organizational behavior, the use of a crisis management (CM) context to study organizational change is not a common undertaking. Scholars and practitioners in these fields rarely apply organizational development (OD) concepts to crisis response. Thus, campus administrators are not relying on OD scholarship to inform CM practices and procedures. Recognizing the utility of OD scholarship to the CM process, one scholar (Lalonde, 2007, 2011) has attempted to develop a model that connects the guiding principles in CM to those in OD. Further, Lalonde has charged researchers to further investigate how these two fields of study contribute to one another. By investigating organizational change after a campus disaster, the current study takes up a charge offered by Lalonde (2007, 2011) and challenges higher education scholars and administrators to consider this connection in their work. While there is a body of literature on best practices in campus CM (e.g., Bataille & Cordova, 2014; Cintron, Weathers, & Garlough, 2007; Wigley & Fontenot, 2010; Zdziarski, Rollo, & Dunkel, 2007), and some empirical studies examining campus CM (e.g., Akers, 2007; Johnson, 2007; Murray & Kishur, 2008), previous research has not addressed how institutions change after a crisis.

Organizational Change during Disaster Recovery

After an institution has experienced a major campus crisis, it is irrevocably changed as an organization and community; that is, the normal state of operations for an institution is forever changed. This revised state of operations has been referred to as an organization's "new normal" (Hemphill & LeBlanc, 2010; McNamee & Diamond, 2004). Campus crises disrupt an institution's daily operations, underscoring areas where attention is warranted and often introducing a need for changes that will help establish a new normal state of operations. Once a new normal has been established, there is no hope of returning to the previous operational state.

Different types of change can result from a campus crisis. Yet, we have no empirical evidence ofthese changes. Several campus administrators have documented their experiences managing campus crises of varying degrees, and the immediate impacts of those crises on the campus community and their leadership styles (e. …

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