Sometimes, we just get busy. Busy weeks turn into busy months and the next thing you know, a year has flown right by. It’s during these times that institutions can let valuable opportunities slip away. In higher education’s rapidly changing environment, not keeping up with institutional procedures, changing regulations, or best practices can result in falling behind. Sometimes institutions can fall so far behind the students' and the public’s most basic expectations that recovering is almost impossible.
In the middle of being busy, we start to settle. We look around and know the things that need to get done to stay ahead of the game, but we fall into the trap of saying “it’s close enough” which then turns into “we’re good enough.” Unfortunately, as in business, institutions who adopt a culture of settling realize before too long that they can no longer be competitive with a “good enough” attitude and as a result no longer exist.
However, there are three steps every institution can follow to ensure close enough doesn’t become good enough.
- Re-establish Why: Every institution should be able to communicate why they exist and who they were created to serve. Sometimes this “why” gets pushed to the back in order to keep up with day-to-day business operations, but it’s the why that inspires performance. As Simon Sinek says, “people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.” So the first thing an institution needs to address is the why before the good enough takes over.
- Return to Processes: The disorganization of any institution will ultimately be its ruin. Processes are necessary to ensure what needs to get done is being done and it’s being done effectively. When running an institution within a heavily regulated environment, it’s often the effective processes that will provide essential structure when things get busy. They allow every team member to know the job that needs to get done while providing for continuous improvements along the way. Processes enable employees to see the connections between the work they perform and the work within other departments that lead to institutional success. These processes provide the comfort needed to know that day-to-day business tasks are getting done freeing the institution up to allow for creativity and innovation.
- Regroup: If institutions are going to continue to meet the growing demand of students and employers, there needs to be a rebalancing of resources. Institutions need to reset expectations and ensure that employees are provided with the tools they need to not only accomplish their goals, but continue to support the growth of the institution. During the busy times, it’s easy to let the burden of work fall on a few individuals as long as the work is getting done; however, institutions are made weaker when all individuals are not held accountable.
There will always be times when busyness takes over and we become numb to all that is not getting accomplished, but institutions cannot allow busyness to become a “good enough” crutch. Institutions must constantly be focusing on the students they serve, the quality curriculum they deliver, but mostly on their why. Oftentimes an institution’s worst mistake is to lose their student-focus and allow busyness and the short-term bottom-line to drive operations.
In three steps, institutions can regain their focus by re-establishing their why, returning to processes, and regrouping. Institutions shouldn’t settle for good enough when they can achieve great.
“Greatness is not a function of circumstance. Greatness, it turns out, is largely a matter of conscious choice, and discipline.” ~ James C. Collins
What’s your why?