Embracing Change Together: Strategies for Effective Change Management

by Andrea Lehmacher, Ed.D.
Oakton College
Des Plaines, Illinois


Change isn’t just something that happens – it’s something we actively need to embrace. We have lived in constant change management since 2020, when the world changed, and we had to change to serve our students and community differently. Whether implementing large-scale institutional change, such as a new strategic plan, revamping enrollment management strategies, or the everyday transitions within our teams, navigating change takes careful planning and a clear vision. As leaders in marketing and communications, we play a crucial role in driving positive outcomes for our institutions–our work is so much bigger than ourselves!



Embrace a Strategic Mindset

The earlier you can get ahead of a change, the more strategic you can be. Bringing about significant change, whether introducing a new strategic plan or upgrading tools and systems within our departments, requires a thoughtful approach. Start by clarifying the why, outlining goals, and setting benchmarks or milestones. Involving everyone (especially the critics) in the process, from staff and faculty and students to our community partners, ensures that our change resonates with our college community’s broader vision and mission. With a strategic and thoughtful approach, we can ensure that our efforts are in sync with the larger picture, making implementation and acceptance easier.


Communication is Key

Open and honest communication is at the heart of effective change management. It’s the glue that holds everything together! By keeping communication channels transparent and open, we ensure everyone stays in the loop and feels involved. From town hall meetings to informal brown bag lunch meetings to attending departmental meetings to emails and other digital platforms, there are plenty of ways to share updates and address concerns head-on. We need feedback and dialogue to foster collaboration and trust and empower individuals to voice their opinions and contribute–and we know change can be challenging!


Adaptability and Resilience

Change isn’t just about institutional shifts; it’s also about how we evolve as teams and departments. Let’s nurture a culture where adaptability is celebrated, and innovation is encouraged. Providing professional development and skill-building opportunities ensures our teams can thrive in any environment. By embracing change as an opportunity for growth and learning from setbacks, we empower our teams to embrace new challenges confidently and resiliently (did someone mention AI?).


Lead by Example

As leaders, our actions speak louder than words, and our teams are especially watchful of us during times of uncertainty. Leading by example shows our teams that change is just part of the journey and is necessary. Yes, change can be tough and emotional (and exhausting), but it can also be exciting! By staying positive and open-minded and participating in the work, we inspire others to do the same. Offering guidance, a listening ear, and support along the way allows us to build trust as we guide our teams through uncertainty and toward success. We become stronger together!


Celebrate Progress Together

Within the hustle and bustle of change management, pausing and celebrating milestones along the journey is essential. Recognize the efforts and contributions of individuals and teams, acknowledging their role in driving change forward. Celebrating achievements or milestones boosts morale and reinforces the importance of change management as a collective endeavor toward institutional growth.


The Only Constant is Change

Navigating change in our community colleges is about coming together as a community. By planning strategically, communicating openly and consistently, and encouraging a culture of adaptability, we can embrace change as an opportunity for growth and transformation. As leaders in marketing and communications, we have the privilege of guiding our teams with purpose and positivity and inspiring them (all of us) to thrive within change.


Andrea Lemacher is the director of marketing at Oakton College in Des Plaines, Illinois. She’s a proud community college graduate with a bachelor’s in media communications, a master’s in communications and training, and doctorate in higher education and organizational change. Lehmacher serves in advisory roles for several higher ed organizations including NCMPR’s leadership committee.

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