By the way, I’m also getting re-acquainted with humidity after a 17-year respite from it. What fun.
Oh, and there’s quite a lot going on in the office too, especially with System Redesign, which is actually the subject of this blog. Let me start with what I learned from you:
At the open forums I attended during my springtime visits to our universities, I had the opportunity to meet with you and answer your questions about the System Redesign and the sharing system vision towards which we are moving. I also distributed a survey designed to evaluate our own perceptions of our collective readiness, willingness, and ability to change.
Let me say thanks to the nearly 900 people who filled out the survey—especially for their honesty and thoughtful comments. The results—summarized below—fill me with optimism and provide essential guidance for the ongoing work. Three key insights into those perceptions follow:
We are READY for change: Seventy-five percent agree or strongly agree with statements about their university facing significant competitive challenges, needing to improve performance to compete, and about people in “my unit” or the university being ready to change. There is variation though among the universities (the four most “ready” are between 80 percent and 96 percent ready; the four least “ready” between 62 percent and 74 percent), and among different groups, but the overall patterns hold strong.
We are less WILLING for change than READY for change: Only 55 percent perceived that we are willing to change. Though there is nuance in the aggregate—fully 91 percent of respondents agree they are willing to change their role if it helps improve the university’s performance. That’s amazing and shows incredible dedication and commitment to mission. Seventy-two percent agree that people “in their area” are willing to change. However, when asked about management support of the change (47 percent) and the willingness of the wider university to change (35 percent), there is a higher degree of uncertainty. We also need to do a great deal more to flesh out the vision of the sharing system—only 34 percent agree it will address our challenges while most are not yet ready to form an opinion one way or the other (54 percent neither agree nor disagree on this point).
We are less ABLE to change than we are WILLING or READY for change: Only 39 percent perceived that we are able to change and that their university has the culture, implementation capability, and management supports necessary. And the pattern is similar to the one revealed for willingness. While respondents feel they are able to change—and to a slightly lesser extent so are people in their areas—the same respondents are doubtful about the ability of their broader university to change and about leadership commitment/support for that change.
- I am in awe of the extent to which we recognize the need to change and—even more—in awe of our collective willingness to do what it takes at an individual level to improve our universities’ performance, indeed our System’s performance. Having been here now for nearly nine months and having spoken with so many of you, this does not surprise me. But it is still impressive, and I want to honor it.
- At the same time, we need to work harder—even faster, if possible—to clarify the detail of what is being proposed with respect of the sharing system and to align and support leadership across the System in representing and enabling the sharing system vision to move towards implementation.
Figure 1. Summary results of the Ready Willing Able survey
We are taking real action to position us for success. The follow-ups listed below are focused in two areas and are directly responsive to what I learned from the survey and during my visits:
Redefining Leadership: I have formed a Systemwide Leadership Group (SLG) because we recognize—as you do—the critical role university leaders will play in building the sharing system. The SLG includes presidents, vice presidents for administration and finance, chief academic officers (provosts), people identified by the presidents as representing leadership with respect of student success and retention at their universities, and the top staff here at the Office of the Chancellor (see Figure 2). We have also initiated conversations with the Leadership and Governance Committee of our Board about the importance of shared governance, generally (more to come on that in the months ahead). The objective is to build a cadre of leaders who are working together for the benefit of our students, our universities, and our System.
Clarifying Change: A number of advances are being made:
Five-year System Redesign goals are being defined, each associated with measurable outcomes that focus on improving our students’ success, achieving university financial stability, and laying track for a future in which this system of universities continues to sustainably and affordably fuel the economic development and social mobility of the state.
- Enhancing our culture and investing in our employees’ success.
- Building a modernized shared infrastructure.
- Scaling innovations that promise to improve our students’ success, reach new student groups, and meet high-demand employer needs.
- Strengthening governance and accountabilities.
- Engaging partners across the Commonwealth within the General Assembly.
Figure 3. System Redesign’s five workstreams, showing planning, execution activities, and outcomes
A team-based approach to moving the work forward has been launched (Figure 2) to ensure our efforts are:
- Transparent—the work of System Redesign teams is published online to enable and invite community engagement.
- Inclusive of all key stakeholders—faculty, staff, students, university and system leadership, etc.
- Capable of efficiently enlisting talent at all levels of a university and distributing the workload so “redesign” takes place even as we operate this $2.3B enterprise.
- Clear with respect of the roles, responsibilities, decision rights, and expectations of redesign teams and their members.
- Supported out of my office with a coordinated approach to project management
Our communications approach for System Redesign has been fundamentally re-tooled:
- We are continually improving the System Redesign website to allow for easier navigation and visibility into our progress.
- We’ve created an internal social media platform to engage employees in the dialogue.
- In the fall, we will work with the student government leaders to engage even more students in System Redesign.
- Next month, we are launching an e-newsletter that will provide regular updates on our progress and collect the most timely and relevant information into one, easy to access location.
There’s a great deal more to do, including making the detail available to you that underpins the framework. But, I figure for a blog post, this has got to be enough for a lovely summer afternoon—a Friday as it happens—when the sun is out, the wind is light, and Fishing Creek Valley Road appears to be calling. As I leave the keyboard, I look one last time at the word cloud shown in Figure 4. It is built from the one-word descriptions that survey respondents were asked to describe how System Redesign makes them feel. Like an overwhelming number of you, I am hopeful, optimistic, excited (maybe a little nervous). Today, as most days, I am also tremendously grateful for this opportunity to work with and to serve you, our students, and the people of this Commonwealth.
Figure 4. Word cloud showing how System Redesign makes respondents feel