A Leader's Role in Change

Marie Mendenhall-Mead is the Chief of Staff and Executive Director of Finance in Ohio State’s College of Engineering.

“Time and change will surely show how firm thy friendship O-hi-o!”

Those lyrics from Carmen Ohio evoke memories of football games and coming together as Buckeyes. But for many of us, the first reaction to change is stress. Phrases like “ARMS implementation” and “PeopleSoft upgrade” are enough to bring back stressful memories. Now we have phrases like Enterprise Project, Workday, business process transformation and service delivery.

Progress only comes through change and being willing to take a leap. Our younger students have never known a world without cell phones, the internet or computers. By contrast, I remember black and white TVs with two channels. All of us in higher education are part of a world that thrives on innovation and creativity to make improvements, whether it be creating drugs to cure cancer, building autonomous vehicles or traveling to third-world countries for service learning trips.

The Enterprise Project is an opportunity to redesign how we as a university conduct business. Rather than waiting to see what happens, all of us should be actively engaged and strive to be a part of it.

As a leader in the College of Engineering, I have already involved my direct reports who manage human resources, financial operations and budget planning in the project. Soon the departmental staff will also become involved. All of them have experience, insight and knowledge that will contribute to the Enterprise Project’s success.

All I ask of my team is to share their viewpoints and be willing to take a leap and envision the change. We are examining how we do business and how we can improve. I admit it can be hard, and it takes time away from our daily tasks.

I was fortunate to hear Thomas Friedman, the Pulitzer Prize winning author and New York Times columnist, speak at a conference last year. He talked about the need to take time to plan and absorb the rapid pace of technological change in the world. His speech had a powerful impact on me as a leader.

The Enterprise Project will bring about change in what we do and how we do it. But it is our responsibility as leaders to manage the change for ourselves. And, in the end, do not forget to take some time for yourself to plan for and absorb the change, both of which can be accomplished by enjoying a walk around campus this spring.