I’ve heard from several folks who have responded to the previous Marketing Matters, saying that while they can understand that change is necessary, changing everything will 1) cause too much confusion and 2) it will be really difficult.  If one thing at a time is tried, then the result of that change can be measured and then, if necessary, something else can be changed.

But that approach causes real difficulty as well. Three things (of course, and, at least) must be considered in answering that question:

1) Do you have enough time to implement one change at a time? You may plan to begin some development efforts, and in a couple of years, work on your tuition plan, and in a couple of years, work on your marketing, and in a couple of years work on increasing your enrollment. After all, parents don’t like a lot of change, and too much change all at once could make them feel uncomfortable, right? Unfortunately, you may have been given a mandate to “turn the ship around” in three to five years, and a plan that implements one change at a time may take twice that long or longer to complete.  And if step one isn’t successful, you may not even get to step two.

2) Do your constituencies have enough patience? If time is no object, patience may be. Indeed, no one likes change, so it makes sense that no one likes change after change after change after change. What’s the answer? ASK!! Ask your parents what they want. Would they feel comfortable working in an atmosphere of change that might help their children while they are in school, or will they commit to a prolonged project where they may not see the situation improve to benefit their children, but will make a long-term improvement for the health of the school? Knowing that today’s parents are Millennials and members of Generation X, which approach do you think will be supported by most of your parents?

Think you already know?  You’ll only know for sure if you ask them. If you have their email addresses, create a survey using a free online survey tool (like Survey Monkey – http://www.surveymonkey.com) and send them an email with a link to your survey.

Also, what about the school board?  What about your pastor, board of pastors or finance council? Are they going to support a prolonged period of change, or would they like to get through the change as soon as possible?  If all the change is put on the table as one “big” change, then it is perceived as one big change and not a lot of little changes.  Once again, ASK them what they would rather support – one big change, or a prolonged period of little changes that keep happening for the next five to ten years. If you believe that change is necessary, they may put a third alternative on the table – no change.  If you know that changes need to be made, yet the consensus is that no changes are made, then you know what your next steps are.

3) Do you really know how to measure the effect of your change? If you implement only one item at a time, it will take some time to measure the result. The timeline could then look like this: Implement change –> evaluate –> adjust –> reevaluate –> implement second change –> evaluate –> adjust –> reevaluate –> repeat as necessary. While this model can allay the fear associated with constant change, this REALLY extends the timeline. More importantly, since change means more change, your change could have an unintended consequence that must be attended to, creating the need to implement another change that was not planned for. Suddenly, your long-range timeline collapses and you’re back once again to fighting fires, herding cats or trying to grab gelatin.

If you implement everything, the key to “Everything in Moderation” is prioritization. Prioritizing your work allows you to focus on what’s most important at the time, and then adjust your priorities rather than adjusting your plan. Indeed, it’s juggling!

For you Steve Martin fans, think of it as juggling cats rather than herding them.

For example, if you adjust your tuition policy to move toward a full-cost tuition/need-based aid model, that could have a detrimental effect on enrollment.

If you focus on increasing your enrollment first, you may find you have to have a marketing plan in order to attract more students.

If you do that first, then implement the tuition model, those new families might leave since they are not beholden to your school for its mission.

If you implement a development solution first, you may have to hire a development professional – and expect them to bring in large amounts of money right away (which won’t happen since development is a long-term strategy) to offset the planned tuition increase and create a financial aid fund.

A lack of forward movement on any of these strategies implemented one at a time could be perceived as a failure of the entire advancement process.

If all the aspects of advancement are implemented “all at once,” then priorities can shift to compensate for an aspect would have difficulty surviving on its own.

“United we stand, divided we fall” not only applies to individuals, but to processes as well. As J.W.Marriott said, “The devil is in the details, but the success is in the systems.”

And a system has a lot more going on than only one process at a time.

© Michael V. Ziemski, SchoolAdvancement, 2008-2023 (Original Publication Date: 20080818)