Campaign for Change: Exploring Ideas and Practices That Lie between Fields Such as Planning and Theater, Organizational Change and Campaigns, Traditional and Corporate Universities, and Other Managerial Intersections. (on the Boundary)

By Moussa, Mario | Matrix: The Magazine for Leaders in Higher Education, February 2001 | Go to article overview

Campaign for Change: Exploring Ideas and Practices That Lie between Fields Such as Planning and Theater, Organizational Change and Campaigns, Traditional and Corporate Universities, and Other Managerial Intersections. (on the Boundary)


Moussa, Mario, Matrix: The Magazine for Leaders in Higher Education


World-shaking CEOs Phil Knight and Jack Welch know it. Political animals James Carville and Bill Clinton know it. And social activists Rene Dubos and Jesse Jackson know it. They all know the energizing force of the right idea distilled down to an attention-commanding message.

"Just do it." "Think globally, act locally." "It's the economy, stupid." These terse imperatives pierce through the swirl of information that engulfs our over-loaded minds. They come from wildly different quarters--the worlds of advertising, social movements, politics--yet they draw upon related sources of power. They focus on action, invite engagement and participation, and mobilize campaigns.

In all their various forms, campaigns offer a model for organizational change. Many corporate leaders are natural campaigners. Jack Welch, whose annual shareholder letters highlight no more than a few compelling ideas and make a convincing case that General Electric will continue delivering value, is the patron saint of simple, powerful messages. Many leaders in higher education have taken a similar campaign approach to inspiring and guiding change, and they have reaped the benefits.

Soon after becoming president of Ursinus College in southern Pennsylvania, John Strassburger "campaigned" for change on a "platform" of "Students Achieving." He wanted to change the way faculty teach and students learn. He believed the emphasis should be on doing (consulting to a social service agency, organizing an art exhibition, staging a play, and so on) rather than knowing (as verified by writing papers and passing exams).

According to this kind of pedagogy, "consumers"--peers, clients, local media--evaluate students' performance and professors mentor.

The president believed a traditional strategic plan could not capture this vision of achievement. It had to be understood, through active experimentation, before being memorialized in a document. So he and his top team launched several initiatives--journals and research conferences, for example, run by students--aimed at teaching participants how to realize the "Students Achieving" notion. …

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