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Strategic Planning: Stop the Madness

Dog-chasing-tailA.jpgIP-Provost Carol Folt has never had an original idea in her life as a College adminstrator, and there is absolutely no need, especially at this point in time, to have the strategic planning machine further prove that proposition. We’ve written about strategic planning efforts before: how in the academy they are considered to be useless exercises, and how in Hanover their recommendations are promptly forgotten. However, now that we are in the process of choosing a new President, the last thing the administration needs to do is waste time and money developing a plan that will almost certainly prove uncongenial to our new leader. Certainly the Trustees are not about to tell the next President that Interim-President Folt’s strategic plan is all wrapped up, and all the new occupant of Parkhurst has to do is execute Carol’s program. Come on.

Beyond that, there are other fundamental problems with the whole shebang. First of all, is the strategy that will be defined anything more than a vague set of aspirations? Or is it a confirmed set of steps that the College will follow? Will the faculty vote to approve all or part of it? One thing that the leaders of Bain & Company learned in consulting is that recommendations that don’t have serious, ongoing follow-up are are often as not forgotten. To date, there seems to be no indication that the product of all of this committee work will be anything more than a pretty binder that is not binding on anyone.

This point leads to a second observation. If the College’s senior-most and highest achieving faculty members were involved in strategic planning, we’d stand a chance of getting serious ideas that would be acted upon. Is that the case here? Good for you for recognizing a rhetorical question and already knowing the answer.

Of course not. The members of the Faculty Strategic Planning Advisory Committee (F-SPAC for hip insiders) include 17 faculty members (plus Professor Anthony), but only nine are from Arts & Sciences. Of those nine, six are just associate professors. And why is this a problem? For two reasons: the first is that associate professors should be working to establish national reputations in the hope of earning full professorships; they are in the most critical and productive part of their scholarly lives. The second reason is that these professors are vulnerable to the application of pressure from senior administrators (yes, this means you, Carol), and therefore their independence is open to question. A more experienced group of professors — for instance, one that included even a single full professor from the sciences — would do a better job. They are not worried about being promoted.

But the latter arguments are just gilding on the the lily that was my initial point. Let’s stop a flawed process that is stillborn anyways. There are better things to do.

Addendum: Undoubtedly inspired by President Kim’s recent world-wide listening tour, Carol Folt will be in London to talk to the Dartmouth Club on Thursday, May 24. Watch Carol make the most of her time in the sun. Useless expense be damned. After all, we can expect the next President to make the same journey soon enough.

Addendum: A senior member of the faculty comments:

Carol will certainly not let this hobby horse of hers die, and there have been lots and lots of people working on it (all to no effect so far, it seems to me). But it was a doomed enterprise anyway, and the new president will accept the report with “enormous gratitude” and then place it on a shelf with its predecessors. As of yet it has no faculty buy in, and I’m reasonably confident that everyone will soon want to wash their hair of any Kim-Folt reminders.

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