Category: Budget

Efficiencies and Revenue Streams in the EHHS Division

The last few weeks have been intense and invigorating.  I have spoken to many people in the EHHS division about efficiencies and opportunities and have appreciated the willingness of everyone to engage in difficult discussions.  We have made great progress.  The term “efficiencies” sounds somewhat benign, but sacrifices often are necessary to achieve them.  This requires change and change is rarely easy.  The culture in some programs allows for more change than others, making efficiencies less painful and the development of new revenue streams a welcomed challenge.  Regardless of the degree to which change is part of a department’s culture, most people are not overly afraid of change; rather, they are afraid of what might be lost.  

In order to combat the fear of what might be lost, we must continue to deepen our communication. In fact, deep communication is one of the key factors for success in the face of change.  When the teacher education programs were being completely redesigned, part of what allowed such a significant change in culture was improved communication.  Dr. Linda Black was brought in for a retreat and people learned to work together and communicate as never before.  She taught us to “start with the heart” and emphasized that we are collectively responsible to each other.  She also taught us that people are free to “stay stuck” but they can’t hold the process and others hostage.  These lessons and many more improved interactions and helped everyone with a complete cultural shift in teacher education, one that led to national accreditation.  I appreciate what it takes to make changes, small or large, within departments. 

This week, I will be discussing efficiencies that have been found in the EHHS division with the President’s cabinet.  Most importantly, I will present a document detailing new revenue streams realized through programmatic change and development of new programs.  The changes and new programs have been discussed with faculty members and chairpersons/coordinators of affected programs.  First and foremost, the changes will have a positive impact on the lives of students and on society once students have jobs.  While I am not comfortable presenting budget numbers in a blog, I will say that we will be able to achieve a significant increase in revenue if the program changes and new programs are achieved.  This speaks to the future and speaks of hope.  My feet are grounded firmly in the reality of today and I trust we all can feel the hope that will allow us to evolve in ways that make a difference in the future for us, our students, the College, and society.

A Penny for Your Thoughts

This week, I present a challenge.  I need each of you, individually and collectively, to help figure out how to eliminate our 4 million dollar budget deficit over the next three years.  Addressing our deficit will take a multi-faceted approach with new ways of thinking.  Unfortunately, it’s natural to rely on comfortable, familiar ways of thinking during difficult times. The old familiar ways, however, may not be appropriate for new challenges. In my blog entitled, Treading Water, on September 10th 2010, I referenced Tim Hurson’s book Think Better when writing about reproductive thinking and productive thinking.  This blog builds on that information – here’s a reminder:  

Reproductive thinking is seen when a question is asked and the conditioned response answers are given. These are answers that may have been used in the past, ones that people grabbed onto quickly because they were comfortable or familiar. Unfortunately, while the problem may seemingly be “solved,” the familiar solution leads to the end of thinking and better approaches are never discovered.

Productive thinking comes after all of the conditioned response answers are given. Tim writes about breaking deep-thinking sessions into thirds when seeking solutions to problems. The first third usually contains reproductive thinking, the second third might have some good ideas in it, but the final third is where you find the gold. Creative, out-of-the-box thinking only comes after reproductive thinking is out of the way. Tim once said, “The questions from which you learn the most are the ones you don’t know the answers to.” This statement invites you into the final third of the thinking process where neurons have to sweat.

Ron Heifetz, Alexander Grashow, and Marty Linsky addressed another aspect of thinking in their book, The Practice of Adaptive Leadership.  They wrote about technical and adaptive challenges, concepts I discussed in our EHHS divisional meeting this semester.  With technical challenges, there is a clear definition to the problem and a clear solution.  This is a problem that someone in authority can recognize and “fix.” With adaptive problems, definition of the problem often requires learning as does the solution.  Our budget deficit is not a technical problem.  We must use “productive thinking” as we face our adaptive challenge to reduce the deficit through cuts, efficiencies, and new revenue streams.  All of this must be done in a way that stays true to our values.  This challenge does not have a clear path; this is why, as much as possible, we must create a new path together.  

Together, we must gain a new perspective.  Sharon Parks, in her book Leadership Can Be Taught, quoted Ron Heifetz as saying, “you are on a dance floor, swept up in the dance, and active participant in a complex scene. There are some things about the dance that you will only know by actually dancing. But if you move to the balcony for a while, you can see things that you can never discover on the dance floor – the larger pattern of interactions of which you are a part.  You gain perspective and can make new choices.”

It’s easy to get caught up in the dance, especially when you already know all the steps.  The song that we all used to dance to has changed.  I’m asking that we each stand on the balcony, individually and in groups, to gain a better perspective.  A new perspective, along with productive thinking, will lead to new possibilities.  I’m more than happy to stand on the balcony with you to talk about possibilities and am open to all ideas around efficiencies and new revenue streams.  I have a growing list to which I would love to add your ideas. 

   Heifetz, R., Grashow, A., & Linsky, M. (2009). The practice of adaptive leadership: Tools and tactics for changing your organization and the world. Boston: Harvard Business Press.

   Hurson, T., (2007). Think Better: An innovator’s guide to productive thinking. New York: McGraw Hill.

   Parks, S.D. (2005). Leadership can be taught: A bold approach for a complex world.   Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press.

Reality Check

Last week’s blog shared our community’s work around defining our shared values. The email I sent out announcing the blog mentioned the current amount of stress in our system and the importance of our shared values as we move forward. Over the past week, I sensed an increase in stress that culminated with a statement in Friday’s Press Republican. There was a sentence in an article that said, “University officials should know what they are cutting by April 1.”

Data are being gathered, information is being discussed, but decisions have not been made yet. The complexity of the system does not allow for quick, easy decisions; yet, we want to know. The space in time that exists between this moment and the point of knowing can be filled in many ways. One common way is to fill the space with rumors and hypothesize about what might happen. This, of course, is not beneficial and only creates anxiety.

In Eckhart Tolle’s book, The Power of Now, anxiety is discussed in the context of fear. He said, “The psychological condition of fear is divorced from any concrete and true immediate danger. It comes in many forms: unease, worry, anxiety, nervousness, tension, dread, phobia, and so on. This kind of psychological fear is always of something that might happen, not of something that is happening now” (p. 35). The key here is the present moment. He went on to say, “Life is now. There was never a time when your life was not now, nor will there ever be. Nothing ever happened in the past; it happened in the Now. Nothing will ever happen in the future; it will happen in the Now” (p. 41).

Eckhart Tolle challenges us to be fully present in the current moment. In theory, this sounds easy, but in practice it is difficult. Being fully present means ignoring rumors and quieting thoughts that try to fill the space between the present moment and the moment of truth. I ask that we help each other be fully present in the here and now during the coming weeks. If we focus our present moments on making a positive difference in student learning and in our community, then we will have lived our moments fully, free of fear and anxiety.

Tolle, E. (1999). The Power of Now. Novato, CA: New World Library.

Lions, and Tigers, and Bears! Oh, My!

I’ve heard some interesting rumors since President Ettling sent an email about our current budget deficit.  None of the rumors shared with me was true.  It’s human nature to imagine possibilities because it serves as a way to direct anxiety.  It is normal, on some level, to worry.  The budget will have to be cut, but exactly how is unknown at this moment.  This is ambiguity with a capital “A.”

I was at a retreat about five years ago where Linda Black, Ed.D., LPC said that, “wisdom tolerates ambiguity.”  In fact, moving too quickly away from ambiguity might result in not taking the time during uncomfortable moments to explore multiple possibilities. Sometimes, it is too easy to reach for old solutions and quick answers (I wrote more in-depth about this in my blog entitled, “Treading Water”).  There is no move toward quick, easy answers as we seek answers to the budget deficit.  The
President is taking the time necessary to explore all options. This is a
wise approach that tolerates ambiguity.

Until we know details about the multi-faceted approach for how the budget will be cut, being anxious and imagining possibilities will do no good.  In fact, this is energy that we need each day to inspire the growth of our students.  Focusing on the unknown will drain energy we need to be our best for our students and colleagues.  I remind you of a quote from Margaret Wheatley that I’ve shared before, “The primary way to prepare for the unknown is to attend to the quality of our relationships, to how well we know and trust one another.”

I appreciate your hard work and remain open to your communication.

(EHHS Shared Values targeted in this blog: Professionalism and Honesty)

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