Urgency: A Blessing In Disguise

I had a moment in a meeting today that made me realize something.  After working in higher education for six years, I’ve completely lost my sense of urgency.  Many times I’d have an idea for a process improvement or addition and I’d think, “Great.  I’ll work on that for implementation this time next year.”  How many other industries would take that long to work on a project?

When I began my new position at a new institution in December, there were some things I wanted to change, and other things I was told to change.  Many of these things have yet to happen because I didn’t want to step on people’s toes or be seen as the new manager who has to do everything her way.  I’ve been in my current job seven months, and although some colleagues might disagree, I don’t think I’ve made many of the necessary changes I need to.

So, our campus has a new leader.  He’s been on campus for 15 days, and in the meeting today he mentioned a couple major changes that need to be made before school starts—in 6 1/2 weeks.  For a second, I was floored.  But the longer I thought about it, the more I began to think “why can’t conditions improve in 6 weeks?”  Think about something at your institution that isn’t working or a way students can be served better.  Assuming funding is not a major obstacle, could it be changed in 6 weeks or less with the involvement of the right people?

We’re moving into a strategic planning process, which I expect will be completed in one year or less.  When it is complete, the plan will have a companion operational plan with tasks, responsible parties, and deadlines.  I fully expect that some of those deadlines will be 6-8 weeks after the kickoff of the plan.  I’m sure some people are frightened by this, but I think I’m excited.  We need to be more responsive and timely when it comes to policy and procedure change in higher education.  Students are only with us (hopefully) for 4 years—on my campus it’s half that time.  If it takes 3-5 years to implement major change, today’s students will never benefit from it.

Do you feel there’s a sense of urgency among the staff/faculty in your department/institution?  How has that helped or hindered your organizational effectiveness?

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