Sustaining Engagement

Janis Wolens is the Stakeholder Engagement Manager for the Enterprise Project's Organizational Change Management team.
Twenty years ago, I was working on a project to transform how the university does business. Today, I am working on another project to transform how the university does business. It goes to show organizations must be willing to reinvent themselves to meet the evolving needs of stakeholders. Transformation was meaningful then, and it's certainly meaningful now.

The scope of the Enterprise Project has increased to include an entire suite of transformation initiatives. With the goal of capitalizing on additional opportunities, it’s no wonder why the timeline extension was needed. It’s also no wonder how staying engaged can pose a struggle.

Here are thoughts on how to stay engaged when you’ve seen one too many iterations of the same day, week or year.

Find your individual connection

The Enterprise Project Guiding Principles provide direction for the project and set the stage for how our university is approaching this work. (If you haven’t reviewed them lately, take a look to refresh your perspective.) But those Guiding Principles do not explicitly translate to personal motivation – why am I invested in this work? And engagement means answering that question on an individual level.

Each person should determine his or her own compelling "why" statements. What does implementing modern systems and more efficient processes mean to you? To me, the outcome is impactful when I view it as “shaping how new Buckeyes interact with our administrative systems.” One of my “why” statements is ensuring everyone’s experience with our administrative systems is as world-class and innovative as the institution we serve.

Avoid emotional attachment to “how”

While you’re connecting personally to why these changes resonate with you, try not to become stuck on how the changes unfold. Before a final solution or decision is reached, many options for how to proceed will be discussed. Becoming emotionally attached to one way – even when you feel it is clearly the right way – is a trap. It can limit your willingness to listen and your ability to understand alternate viewpoints. It also makes it more difficult to adapt if a different method is selected.

I’m not saying you should blindly accept whatever “how” comes your way. We should all feel empowered to communicate our perspective and advocate for what we think is best. Just remember to keep your mind open to different routes to the destination.

Plan to disengage…temporarily

No one can be fully engaged at all times. Sometimes a break is exactly what you need to clear your head and reclaim your focus. That can mean anything from working on a different task for an hour to a vacation with loved ones. You’ll be refreshed and more effective when you re-engage.

The key is to plan when and how you disengage. Waiting until you’re overwhelmed and stressed often results in decreased engagement right when you need it most. For ideas on how to disengage positively, see Dean Bern Melnyk’s tips for coping with stress.

The next four years will offer both achievements and challenges, but transforming the operations that support the mission and strategic plan of the university is a worthy goal. So take some time to define your connection, commit to an open mind and carve out when you can step away. Because everyone’s talent, dedication and engagement are critical to the success of the Enterprise Project.