Change with a purpose
Openness and Trust
By Carole Anderson, Dean - College of Dentistry
Throughout the last five years as dean of the College of Dentistry, I’ve learned valuable lessons about change. When I assumed my current role, someone said to me, “You have about two months to make big changes.” But long-lasting changes don’t occur in a revolutionary way. It’s a more subtle process than that. You have to be cautious and intentional as you make decisive changes backed by solid rationale.
We all know change is hard and it takes a lot of work. The college’s faculty, staff and students have shared in the years of hard work and change that have strengthened us as a community and an institution, and the results of our collective efforts are impressive.
We began with the goal of creating a “high-performance culture” in the college, and we defined high performance as being the difference between achieving genuine excellence and just getting the job done. Although high performance varies with individuals’ roles, some common themes include being accountable for one’s own actions, serving the needs of our students and patients, striving for constant improvement, getting results and acting with integrity in all we do. We measure these expectations through patient satisfaction surveys, meetings with students to ask for feedback, using a robust performance management process and monitoring our measures of success.
Creating a high-performance culture also required making changes in our organizational structure, our compensation guidelines, our staffing, performance evaluations and performance reports. Some of these changes weren’t easy, and my job was to lead the way and explain the rationale behind these changes. It’s not that people don’t want to change. It’s more often the case that we don’t know how to change unless we’re given specific guidelines and clearly stated goals and expectations.
One way we’ve facilitated change has been opening the lines of communication and encouraging honest dialogue at all levels. We’ve seen that frequent, frank communication increases understanding and it decreases confusion and delays. With that in mind, we’ve hosted town hall meetings for students and for faculty and staff members. We’ve also committed our best efforts to finding sensible solutions to problems that are presented in those gatherings.
All these efforts — and others — have laid the foundation for long-term plans that will move the college from excellence to eminence. With that goal in mind, we’ve implemented an ambitious strategic plan for the college, and we’ve forged ahead with much-needed building improvements. We also added to our staff and faculty expertise by appointing several key positions, including four new division chairs, a DDS program director and a director of community education.
The cumulative effect of all these efforts have led to strong results, including:
- An ambitious strategic plan for the college.
- Increased diversity of our first-year class of dental students, which now stands at 14 percent; the national mean is 13 percent.
- Accreditation of our new dental anesthesia training program.
- Increased fundraising that yielded $1 million in gifts to our building fund and $3 million in gifts for scholarships.
An important element of real change is that it must be ongoing. Though we’ve seen marked improvements throughout our college, we still have areas that need work. We don’t expect to achieve success overnight, but the work we’ve done together will help the college and the university to continue to grow and become even more dynamic.
Excellence requires hard work, and real success can only be achieved with great effort. As leaders, it’s important that we pave the way for positive changes, that we strive for continual improvement and that we take responsibility for our role in making Ohio State great.