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Three Legged Stool

Three Legged Stool

About ten years ago, I was engaged in a curriculum discussion with a professor of marketing about the true core of the business curriculum.  This learned professor stated that, in his opinion, there were three foundations to business:

  1. sales and marketing,
  2. finance and accounting, and
  3. business operations.

Over the years I have found this “foundation” to be solid and instructive when considering the core business curriculum.

As I contemplate the “foundation” of the dean’s office, I am left with a very similar three legged stool.  Here is the proposed stool and the rational for this foundation:

  1. Communication.  The dean’s office must communicate effectively with its constituents – department heads, upper level university administrators, faculty, students, staff, alumni and friends.  On one level this is ‘marketing’ – defining and maintaining the brand of the college.  On another level this is plain old ‘respect’.  Constituents deserve the respect of being kept in the loop.  Communication by email is not sufficient.  Listening is a very important skill.
  2. Data. The dean’s office should take a data driven approach to its decision making.  Data in the form of budgets, alumni giving, enrollments, FTE’s, assessment results, survey results, etc. should be collected, analyzed and distributed.   Data should be a foundation for decision making.  This parallels the accounting function within the business environment.
  3. Process. The dean’s office should be process driven.  Most faculty handbooks clearly define processes for promotion & tenure, annual evaluations, faculty hiring, curriculum assessment, curriculum change, etc. .  These processes should be clearly documented and the outcomes clear.

Where is “management”?  Where is “leadership and vision” in this equation?  In my opinion, the effective leader will stay true to the mission and strategic direction of the institution and develop the ‘plan of action’ based on this mission.  Leadership requires adopting the the circumstances and charting a clear course that is shared by all.

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