Enabling Transformative Change in Educational Facilities: An Introduction to Maturity Models

This is part of a series of stories about integrating health and sustainability into day-to-day facility operations and management. Find related stories here.

Healthy Green Schools & Colleges has led the charge to guide K-12 schools and higher education institutions in their process of integrating health and sustainability as part of daily facility operations and management. Through this program, facility professionals can identify low- or no-cost measures that can make a major difference in health and indoor air quality. HGSC was developed in partnership with recognized school facility management leaders and covers the full range of facilities management practices. 

However, the program is not simply a checklist of activities to complete once. An institution will ultimately be on a journey to activate, facilitate, and embed new ways of setting priorities, making decisions, allocating resources, and measuring progress to successfully integrate health and sustainability as part of day-to-day facility operations and management. This process requires managing change, which in turn requires a consistent, structured, strategic, and sustained effort. 

Introduction to Maturity Models: A Roadmap for Change

Navigating the complexities of implementing change, especially in dynamic environments like educational facilities, can be daunting. Change often demands a structured approach, and maturity models offer just that. Maturity models provide a consistent framework for organizations to assess, plan, and execute change effectively. In the context of integrating health and sustainability into educational facility operations, understanding and utilizing a maturity model can be a game-changer, paving the way for a healthier, more sustainable future for students, staff, and the broader community.

What Are Maturity Models?

Maturity models are tools used by organizations to assess the effectiveness and maturity of various processes or areas within the organization. They provide a roadmap for continuous improvement, allowing organizations to identify their current level of maturity in a specific domain and understand what steps they need to take to reach higher levels of efficiency, effectiveness, and sophistication.

Your school may already use the concept of maturity models without even knowing it. Imagine a high school initiating a simple recycling program and, guided by a maturity model, evolving it based on lessons learned and continuous improvement, then expanding the recycling program to all schools within the district. Maturity models can facilitate a systematic approach to embedding sustainability into school culture by starting in one building and branching out.

Similarly, higher education institutions undoubtedly engage with maturity models. For example, a university that signed the American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment and is aiming for carbon neutrality may use a maturity model to set clear milestones and systematically achieve and maintain this goal.

The Importance of Maturity Models in Enabling Change

Maturity models offer a step-by-step guide to progress, helping institutions identify where they are and what they need to focus on next. They also provide benchmarks, enabling institutions to measure their progress against criteria. Finally, maturity models can facilitate strategic planning by highlighting areas that need improvement and guiding resource allocation.

Three Ways Maturity Models Facilitate Change Goals

Maturity models assist with facilitating change in the following ways: 

  • Clarifying the Path Forward. They offer a clear roadmap for institutions, breaking down the change process into manageable, recognizable stages.
  • Ensuring Consistent Improvement. Maturity models encourage continuous, gradual improvements, helping organizations build on their successes at each stage.
  • Customized Strategies. They allow institutions to develop strategies that suit their unique context, needs, and current progress.

Introducing the Maturity Model for Health and Sustainability in Educational Facilities

Participants in the HGSC Program are guided by a maturity model that consists of five levels, each representing a stage in the journey toward fully integrating health and sustainability into everyday facility operations:

  • Level 1 – No Maturity/Not Started: At this stage, there are no clear processes, guidelines, or benchmarks. The institution may be unaware of the need or has not begun any efforts toward integration.
  • Level 2 – Initial/Ad Hoc: The institution has recognized a need for action and changes have begun. However, efforts are inconsistent, informal, and often reactive, with success largely dependent on individual initiative.
  • Level 3 – Defined/Managed: The institution has established clear processes and standards. There is noticeable progress with consistent practices and an understanding of their effectiveness. Activities are actively managed.
  • Level 4 – Managed/Measured: Processes are not only clear but also monitored and measured. Data is utilized for informed decisions and proactive improvements, focusing on data-driven management.
  • Level 5 – Full Maturity/Embedded: Processes are fully integrated into the institution’s culture, structure, and operations. The system is self-sustaining with continuous improvement, optimized practices, and adaptability to changing conditions.

A maturity model in educational settings functions as a roadmap, marking milestones from initial steps to advanced sustainability achievements. It’s not just about implementing eco-friendly practices but about embedding them into the culture, curriculum, and everyday operations. 

10 Factors Necessary to Integrating Health and Sustainability as Part of Day-to-Day Facility Operations and Management

In our maturity model, HSGC believes there are 10 key factors necessary for successfully implementing change. These factors can each be given a level of maturity on any aspect of an institution’s pursuit of integrating health and sustainability into their everyday facility operations and management.

The factors are: 

  • Clear Vision and Objectives
  • Effective Communication
  • Leadership Commitment
  • Staff Engagement
  • Adequate Resources
  • Change Champions
  • School Culture
  • Evaluation and Improvement
  • Organizational Structure 
  • Stakeholder Relationships

Adopting a maturity model approach to integrating health and sustainability into educational facility operations offers a structured, strategic path toward transformative change. By understanding where they stand and what steps are needed for progress, educational institutions can effectively navigate the complexities of organizational change, paving the way for a healthier, more sustainable future for our students, staff, and communities. 

In this series, we will explore each of the 10 factors necessary to integrate health and sustainability as part of day-to-day facility operations and management. Each post will define the factor, explore how it might look at each stage of maturity, review challenges associated with this factor, and provide reflection questions to help you assess your institution’s maturity on each factor.