I wish to initiate a discussion on a topic that is of extreme importance to all members of our College community -- the health of our organization.
The permanent state budget cuts we recently absorbed (4% since July 1, 2001) have fallen largely on our staff and operational budgets. This has increased levels of anxiety within our organization. Yet with a reduced work force and a smaller operational budget we must strive to perform at the highest possible level and continue to maintain our strategic positioning. Simultaneously, we have embarked on a transformation of our College in order to better position ourselves to meet our looming challenges and opportunities.
Last year I identified two management themes that should underlie everything we do throughout the year: strategic thinking and organizational culture. I believe these continue to be the two most important themes for us to concentrate on during the coming year.
Guided by strategic thinking, we have been successful over the past seven years in becoming a smarter organization. Our mission, vision, values, goals, and objectives have been widely discussed by the CFR community and honed to their present form. A smart organization is one that is guided by its defined strategic vision, goals and values. I believe we have been working hard to use the benefit of our shared strategic thinking and you can review these statements in their entirety. Our recent undergraduate curriculum transformation is a positive illustration. We still have a way to go to institutionalize these practices, but I believe we are moving in the proper direction.
In this email, however, I wish to address the organizational health of the College and the culture each of us creates every day we come to work. I firmly believe that the best ideas put forth by our most dedicated people are not sufficient for us to be successful. In addition, we must cultivate the proper organizational culture. The smartest organization will not succeed if it is not also a healthy organization. Organizational health is essential to meet or exceed our goals and expectations.
What do I mean by a healthy organization or one with the proper culture? A healthy organization operates with the goal of continuous improvement in a courteous, respectful and free flowing work place. The Workplace Quality Committee (WQC) has produced several documents and reports that present characteristics of, and guidelines for, a healthy organization (see below). The WPC also responded to the question about core values that we did not have time to address appropriately in our last facilitated retreat in December 2001. The values we espouse are consistent with the behavior list referenced above and Richard's Rules developed in 1996-97 when we initially started working to improve the culture of the College.
I believe that these values are embraced by most of us in the CFR community and that we truly desire to work in a healthy organization. We have exhibited these desires in our discussions since 1996-97 but somehow we are falling short in bringing our desires into our performance.
If all members of our College community take a moment and reflect on the characteristics referenced above (and below), I am sure each one of us will be able to think of at least one area where improvement is needed. Changes in personal attitudes and habits are not possible without first recognizing that a problem exists. Tolerance toward diverse views is necessary in a College with as much professional diversity as ours. Yet, it is through this diversity that we gain the strength to prosper.
Not only must we all strive to achieve the ideal characteristics listed above; we must also design a performance and reward structure that recognizes pursuit and accomplishment of these ideals. Nothing is more damaging than to reward an employee who flouts and disregards the norms of his or her workplace. I ask all supervisors to help me ensure that this does not happen in our College. I promise to reward those who productively enhance the good of the organization while also sustaining and achieving their personal professional goals.
The core values we have espoused are:
Say what you mean, mean what you say, do what you say you will: honest, clear and complete expression of what you (whether individual/group/institution) plan to do, factors that affect the decision or action, stages and processes in implementation, and anticipated or actual outcomes. Communicate to engage: Ask clarifying questions; make sure that all parties to an interchange are on the same page. Debate and analyze ideas, never attack people or ridicule their ideas. Provide opportunities for two-way conversations about issues and for input on decisions; create ways that people can see what happened to their ideas.
Treat all ideas as worth considering and all people as having worth, no matter what their position in the college or life. Provide all members of the college the authority appropriate to their responsibility (the freedom to do the job) and a supportive and responsible environment. Strive for truthfulness as a way of life, so that colleagues and customers can have confidence and trust in our words and deeds. Feel free to ask for help when needed.
Responsibility (personal, group, institutional) for one's own words, actions, commitments, results, owed to colleagues, students, and other clients. This includes the dual responsibility both to support and promote good ideas and to accept remediation or defeat ideas not strong enough to survive.
The College's WQC has produced several documents which present characteristics of a healthy organization.
1. Carry out responsibilities in a professional manner --
2. Strive for the highest quality --
3. Work together constructively --
I ask you to join me in working towards the institutionalization of these characteristics during the coming months and years. Coupled with our shared core values and our new vision, I am confident that we will continue to prosper and to promote a healthy organization. Thank you and best wishes.
B. Bruce Bare, Dean