Failure to Launch: The Busyness Syndrome; Doing All That Work and No Implementation. BWOT.

Pardon us while we jump on our soapbox, but you need to hear this. How many times have we had the inquiry for some type of planning that involves a “retreat” or some ridiculously little amount of time, “We need a strategic plan in three hours!” Well, we’re sorry, we’re not just coming in to snake the pipes folks, there’s a lot more “clog” than you think when we’re dealing with systemic change. But enough of the plumbing- organization analogy, because that’s just gross albeit funny and probably true. Let’s get into this with a bit more sincerity and clarity.

Ahem. Let’s do a little guided imagery exercise. It’ll be fun. Close your eyes and relax. Take a deep breath. Take another and another until you get a very even, extended rhythm that gets all the butterflies out and float on a cloud for a bit. Now, think about what your day looks like as a leader. The meetings that go nowhere. The endless list of grievances from faculty, staff, students, leadership, and everyone else. Honestly ask yourself when you’re the happiest in your work. That may take a while. Got it? Now, think about how your day would look like if those grievances got to a more manageable level.  How would your day start and end differently? What types of current coping mechanisms that do not serve you well would be eliminated? How could creativity be harnessed with those around you? What would that feel like and how different is that from what you have been experiencing? How are people interacting? What would a new metaphor for daily work be? Hold that vision and write it down.

Now, let’s go back to your current situation. How does it feel? What does it look like? Where are all those people you just imagined before? What is the cost if you do not go forward with change? What do peoples’ health look like? What does their behavior look like? How does that translate to your students who have come to your institution to change their lives? Imagine all the ripples of the stone thrown to the middle of the pond.

It seems you have three choices. 1) Keep the status quo and keep chugging along, business as usual. People will come and go. Your work will be unremarkable. People will check off the boxes and limp through their experience. 2) Put on a show by enlisting in a “planning” experience with little effort, but you will have some half- baked document to refer to in case anyone asks or needs to see what you’ve been up to and if you’re worthy of some type of reward. (Don’t forget that morale will dip because of the game you’re playing, even though your intentions are good.) 3) Be the leader you and the people who look to you for leadership want, and start a calm and intentional revolution. No hysterics.

The Case for Implementation

This takes time, intention, thoughtful conversation and inclusion. It does not happen in a day retreat. It is a process which you can work hard to lay it out over time, but not too much time- results will need to surface along the way. Reflection will be needed for insights. You will need your leadership team to check in regularly. Meetings will no longer be report outs with consent agendas. Structured conversations will need to take place. Action and organization will need to take place.  Accountability will be in force because of and commitment to results. For all the aforementioned, it is very hard to accomplish this internally unfortunately, because workloads do not allow for it. Therefore, we are only interested in working with clients who understand this. It is not fair to launch a process that does not have the capacity to follow through with implementation. It also is a sure way to compromise morale and perpetuate a culture of disbelief and detachment. We believe that implementation can be accomplished through investing in an external monitoring system or hire an internal position where the job description is solely dedicated to implementing strategic initiatives, otherwise, it is too easy to let things slide off the plate and into the compost bucket. It can be years or decades before there is another opportunity to visit planning again and that is why faculty/staff roll their eyes when the next attempt comes along. We advise taking the process through full completion, otherwise save or use the resources elsewhere and spare everyone from good intentions but poor execution.

Let’s return to that guided imagery exercise—are you going to invest in focused energy and resources to bring your vision into fruition or is this just a daydream and a fleeting moment you are not able to seize?

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