Archive for the ‘goals’ Category

Every university administrator understands the importance of setting goals for your school and developing a plan to achieve those goals.  Most accreditation standards require developing a strategic plan that provides a roadmap for mission achievement and that establishes the foundation for continuous improvement with an overarching goal of the plan to serve as an effective guide for decisions and practice.

Over the past 15 years I have been directly involved in strategic planning as a professor, department head, associate dean and dean.   In addition, I have been involved in developing strategic plans at the department, college and university level.

University-level and college-level strategic plans are often grand productions necessarily involving hundreds of stakeholders (faculty, staff, alumni, strategic partners, students, donors, administration).    These strategic plans will often take 12 months or more to complete.    Yet, in many cases these strategic plans focus more on planning and much less on strategy.

If your university, college or department is truly looking to achieve a bold vision it is imperative to develop a sound strategy and corresponding strategic plan.   If you are willing to get outside of your comfort zone of conforming your strategic planning to traditional academic norms, I highly recommend that you read the following book:   Scaling Up:  How a Few Companies Make It … and Why the Rest Don’t by Verne Harnish, Gazelles Inc., Asburn, VA (2014).  

In this book you will find some straight forward thinking on how to compete and grow in a competitive market.  If you are unwilling to examine your university through the lens of business, this book is not for you.   However, if you are willing to examine the business principles in this book and adapt them to your school’s situation, you will find this a very helpful book.

A great place to begin is the one-page strategic plan.   I recommend that you go the the “Social Sector Growth Tools” page at the book’s website.  Here you will find free strategic resources, including the One Page Strategic Plan, adapted for the non-profit sector.

In one page you will be asked to answer difficult questions about your core customers, the ‘product’ that you are selling them, your brand promises and your kept promise indicators (KPI’s).   Only after answering these questions will you have a foundation necessary to build a strategic plan that enables a bold vision.    Do you have the courage?

– from the pen of Dr. Percy Trappe


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dennis greenDennis Green, former NFL head football coach for the Minnesota Vikings and Arizona Cardinals is often remembered for a famous rant after a tough loss to the Chicago Bears:

The Bears are what we thought they were. They’re what we thought they were. We played them in preseason — who the hell takes a third game of the preseason like it’s bullshit? Bullshit! We played them in the third game — everybody played three quarters — the Bears are who we thought they were! That’s why we took the damn field. Now if you want to crown them, then crown their ass! But they are who we thought they were! And we let ’em off the hook!

Is our college what we say it is?   Do we really believe the things we say about ourselves?   After taking a look at our college’s mission and values statements, our college’s strategic plan, and some of the “branding” found in our promotional materials and web site, here are some of our defining characteristics:

  • innovation/innovative
  • able to work in global economy
  • integrated curriculum
  • high job placement
  • academic rigor
  • effectiveness in groups
  • strong internships
  • prepare citizens
  • develop leaders

Are we who we say we are?   In my opinion, the words we use to describe ourselves need to be fully vetted by the faculty and external stakeholders.   Who are we?   Who do we aspire to be?  The words we use to describe ourselves are very important.

– from the pen of Dr. Percy Trappe

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Help me.

Help me spread Your fragrance wherever I go.

Flood my soul with Your spirit and life.

Penetrate and possess my whole being so utterly that my life may be only a radiance of Yours.

Shine through me and be so in me that every soul will feel Your presence in my soul.

Let them look up and see, see no longer me, but only You.


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pillars2A well respected senior university leader, talking to a group of undergraduate students, suggested the following twelve “leadership characteristics”.  Here we go:

  1. Be authentic – the authentic person is reliable because their inner values and motivations are clear.
  2. Be willing to consider the “big picture” – look beyond your immediate circumstance and consider the organization as a whole.
  3. Inspire others to “dream big” 
  4. Understand the mission and values of your organization
  5. Show integrity – demonstrate respect, fairness and honesty
  6. Don’t be afraid to show your passion
  7. Be creative and nimble – figure out the goal and provide solutions on how we might get there
  8. Be around people who are different and have different ideas
  9. Be a “non-anxious” presence in the time of crisis
  10. Communicate – you cannot over-communicate
  11. Be a good listener
  12. Focus your efforts on the mission and vision of your organization

A major focus of this discussion was the importance of being a positive force in regard to organizational initiatives and institutional change.     More on this later!

– from the pen of Dr. Percy Trappe

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smart-group-300x300I served for eight years as a department head.  During that time, perhaps the most significant actions that I took concerned the “people process” (see my earlier post on this subject).   Actions were taken concerning the hiring, promotion (and non-promotion), evaluation and mentoring of faculty and staff.  These actions have a significant impact on the future of the organization.   Now, serving as associate dean, I take great satisfaction in leaving behind a department that continues to flourish with a new department head.    I believe that it is important to develop a leadership pipeline, and I firmly believe that there are now three or four individuals who could successful lead my old department.

As I look at the future of our college, I am reminded that our “people process” must do several things well:

  • evaluate individuals accurately, in depth and in a timely manner
  • provide a framework for identifying and developing leadership talent
  • hiring new talent that fits the COB’s mission
  • recognizing and rewarding success (including leadership team)
  • fair and equitable compensation
  • provide a framework for developing faculty teaching and scholarship (coordination with CFI)
  • increasing the diversity of the faculty and staff

What can we do better?  Here are a few thoughts:

  1. feedback can be more timely to faculty
  2. feedback from dean to leadership team (including center directors) must be more in depth and more timely
  3. 3rd year reviews, 1st year reviews, RTA 5 year reviews – consistent throughout college?
  4. faculty committees – how can we assess effectiveness?
  5. 36o feedback – how can they be used effectively?
  6. summer grants – more money for funding/increase accountability
  7. faculty fellowships – great tool to reward success (how do we award these?)
  8. fair and equitable faculty compensation – benchmark peer institutions

How should we proceed?   Put a “people process” committee together, and give them the charge to look at Issues 1 – 5.   Give the committee constraints.   Issues 6-7 are clearly in the dean’s court – the money must be raised – then we can figure out how best to spend the money.

– from the pen of Dr. Percy Trappe

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Q-and-S-Pyramid4University leaders tend to be master planners.   There is a tendency for the academic leader to work out a grand scheme beforehand for the accomplishment of long-term objectives.  Often this grand scheme is wrapped in the cloak of “university planning” and is part of a larger systematic arrangement of elements.

Warning!   Many modern thinkers suggest that this preoccupation with master planning often leads to “analysis paralysis” where little actually gets done because the team is always in the planning mode and never gets to the action phase.

In Jim Collins’ book Great by Choice, he and colleague Morten Hansen used extensive research to reveal some common principles that lead the companies to greatness. Collins suggests a “fire bullets, then cannonballs” approach to leadership. A bullet is a low-cost, low risk, and low distraction test or experiment. Successful leaders use bullets to empirically validate what will actually work. Based on that empirical validation, they then concentrate their resources to fire a cannonball, enabling large returns from concentrated bets. According to Collins, successful leaders fired a significant number of bullets that never hit anything. They didn’t know ahead of time which bullets would hit or be successful.

A calibrated cannonball has confirmation based on actual experience – empirical validation – that a big bet will likely prove successful. An uncalibrated cannonball means placing a big bet without empirical validation.  Uncalibrated cannonballs can lead to calamity. Companies paid a huge price when big, disruptive events coincided with their firing uncalibrated cannonballs, leaving them exposed. Successful leaders periodically made the mistake of firing an uncalibrated cannonball, but they tended to self-correct quickly.

The idea is not to choose between bullets or cannonballs, but to fire bullets first, then fire cannonballs.   The lesson for the university leader?   Don’t be afraid to fire a calibrated bullet and fail.   Experiment.   Innovate.   See what works and what doesn’t.    Discard your failures.   Build on your success.

 – from the pen of Dr. Percy Trappe

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The culture of an academic institution is the key to success.  No other factor plays a greater role.  I  have been fortunate to work with a Dean who has done an outstanding job of developing a highly productive academic culture.  Interestingly, this Dean never formally articulated this culture.   Here is my attempt to define the values  of our College of Business:

  1. Continuous improvement of curriculum, faculty and administration: Faculty, administration and staff utilize feedback  in order to continuously improve the curriculum and meet the needs of our students and other stakeholders.
  2. Respect for diversity of academic disciplines and differing opinions: Our school includes faculty in multiple fields who participate in their respective fields through scholarly research and engaged teaching.  Faculty strive to integrate this research into the educational process.
  3. Collaboration, teamwork, and the promotion of individual strengths: Our school maintains a collegial and supportive culture with a respect for each individual’s talents and ideas, and an environment that supports success and the pursuit of excellence.
  4. Dynamic stakeholder relationships: We build mutually beneficial relationships with students, business, government, and alumni communities in order to increase our value to all constituents and supplement our resource base.
  5. Service to diverse group of stakeholders: Our school  provides leadership and performs service to all levels of the university, for academic and professional organizations, and in the business community.  We utilize our professional knowledge, skills, and talents to the betterment of the community at large.

What do you think?

– from the pen of Dr. Percy Trappe

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