Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Planning for Change: Engaging University Staff in Strategic Planning
by Hatherill, Jessica L., Ed.D., University of Pittsburgh, 2017, 97; 10666709
Abstract (Summary)

Universities are under pressure from multiple directions with accrediting bodies requiring increased focus on institutional planning efforts. University staff who manage programs, provide student services, and serve in other specialized roles are at the forefront of this changing environment. These employees may have difficulty understanding how their daily work relates to institutional planning efforts and resist change imposed from the top.

While researchers have examined employee engagement during change efforts, staff participation in strategic planning in higher education constitutes an overlooked topic. The aim of the study was to address three questions: 1) How and to what extent have university leaders communicated the strategic plan and the steps in the planning process to staff? 2) How and to what extent have staff responded to the strategic planning process? 3) What are the perceptions of middle managers involved in implementing strategic initiatives?

The study occurred at Mid-Atlantic University (MAU), a public research university located in the Mid-Atlantic region of the United States. MAU began a strategic planning process and instructed schools and administrative units to align their strategic plans with the MAU plan before entering the implementation phase.

Study participants included eight middle managers, individuals who direct programs, supervise other staff, and are in the middle of the institution’s hierarchy. A 45-minute semi-structured interview elicited information on staff reactions to the strategic plan, communication of strategic initiatives at the university and school level, and interactions between supervisors and employees. The researcher collected and analyzed documents from the university’s strategic planning website, the staff governance association, and university publications.

Several themes emerged in the areas of communication, staff responses, and perceptions of implementation. These themes included: 1) communication of the strategic planning process did not permeate the organization; 2) staff members responded in three main ways: searching for understanding, getting excited, or becoming disillusioned or resigned to the ongoing changes; and 3) a disconnection between the planning process and implementation. This paper adds to the current body of literature and includes implications for practice and recommendations for future research in the area of staff involvement in planned change initiatives in higher education.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Kerr, Mary Margaret
Commitee: Guilleux, Francois, Trovato, Charlene
School: University of Pittsburgh
Department: Administrative and Policy Studies
School Location: United States -- Pennsylvania
Source: DAI-A 79/04(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Higher Education Administration
Keywords: Change management, Employee engagement, Higher education, Organizational change, Strategic planning, University staff
Publication Number: 10666709
ISBN: 9780355332513
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