HEADING_ORG-CHANGEOrganizational Change-1Universities are constantly changing, but change typically occurs at a structural level: research centers emerge; new courses are invented that reshape undergraduate and graduate programs; service units are re-engineered to be smaller and more nimble (or are decentralized or re-centralized, depending on the preferences of a current administrator). Importing the underlying frameworks of the Art of Hosting and specific techniques has made possible a different approach to change. Instead of emphasizing changes in structure or adjustments within units to fit existing personnel preferences, Art of Hosting participants endeavor to change whole units from within by changing culture along with day-to-day activities.

Integrating Art of Hosting sometimes is challenging because it alters the target of attention. Rather than focusing merely on the usual array of recurring problems such as developing a prioritized agenda for department meetings, recruiting a new cohort for a program, or organizing reports for an accreditation process, people are also first changing how they work with each other. They are invited to move from a more mechanistic, predetermined path to more organic and emergent actions focused on these larger objectives. However, the results make change worthwhile: leaders can engage more people and groups, and can generate ideas more collaboratively, all while stepping up the pace of information gathering and decision-making. In a time when change is a constant and efficiency is a byword, can we ask for anything more?

The four stories included in this section suggest different approaches to engaging university employees that begins with a dramatic alternative to planning-as-usual:

  • Mein’s story begins with a “call” to create more effective integration of the Web in the University of Minnesota’s largest academic unit—The College of Liberal Arts. By bringing together a diverse group of administrators, faculty, and IT professionals in a shared space to generate important questions, the Open Space Technology process opens up the agenda for change and surfaces challenges in sustaining momentum.
  • Hokanson also draws on the enduring problem of how to integrate technology into the administrative and academic work of one of the smaller academic units, the College of Design, and points to the importance of using face-to-face engagement even when the task is technical.
  • Dorman’s contribution shows how Art of Hosting can jump-start redesign and implementation of well-established programs involving previously unacquainted individuals from many units. He demonstrates that trust, a critical component in his leadership development program, can be established rapidly.
  • Hokanson and Maple discuss how Art of Hosting can have pervasive effects throughout a college. When an increasing number of members acquire the fundamental training and skills, they reshape basic recurring decision-making routines and rethink their approach to major academic program renovation.

These contributions all highlight how, by working together, people become more effective in carrying out their roles. Increasing participation does not necessarily come with increased inefficiency. In each case, Art of Hosting events took no more time (any many times, even less) than a more typical approach, but produced results that were immediately useful.