Fall 2008

Innovation Extracts provides a quick look at current thought regarding leadership and management of planning and improvement initiatives.

If you have any questions or comments about what you read here, or if you would like to suggest items for future Innovation Extracts, please contact Louise Sandmeyer, Executive Director of the Office of Planning and Institutional Assessment, at 814-863-8721 or psupia@psu.edu.

Quality Endeavors Issue No. 115 December 2008

Innovation Extracts:
The Silent Killers of Strategy Implementation and Learning

Michael Beer and Russell A. Eisenstat

Sloane Management Review
Summer 2000 Vol 41 Number 4
pp. 29-40

What does it take to successfully implement a strategic plan? From an employee perspective, it requires leadership, teamwork, and strategic direction. Michael Beer and Russell A. Eisenstat found this, and were able to expand it further in their profiling of 150 units in 12 companies, and a detailed analysis of 12 of those profiled units. They identified six ‘silent killers’ of strategy implementation:

  1. Either a very directive top down or a non-directive laissez-faire management style with a focus on administration rather than strategy
  2. An unclear strategy or conflicting priorities
  3. Lack of teamwork from the senior management team – rather, a focus on individual areas, protection of individual power, and little cooperation
  4. Lack of open communication and poor vertical communication – little of listening on the part of senior management, and an unwillingness by those in units below to make suggestions to upper management
  5. Poor coordination across units or functions – organizational silos
  6. Middle management not ready or without the skills to lead change

Beer and Eisenstat also provided alternatives for each of the killers.

From the 'silent killers' To the alternatives for successful implementation
Top-down or laissez-faire leadership Top-down direction with input and feedback from those in units below
Unclear strategy, conflicting priorities Agreement among the leadership team about priorities, and time spent sharing the strategy or priorities with those in units below
No teamwork from the management team A leadership team whose members have an organizational, not just a unit, perspective
Poor communication

Dialogue up and down through the organization

Poor coordination Organizational integration across units or functions, focusing on services or those served
Unready middle managers Managers who have had developmental opportunities and have needed skills, authority, and accountability

In summary, for successful implementation of strategies, leadership should set direction, delegate authority for specific projects, and hold implementation teams accountable.

Quality Endeavors Issue No. 114 November 2008

Innovation Extracts:
Cost Containment: A Survey of Current Practices at America's State Colleges and Universities American Association of State Colleges and Universities

What approaches are public institutions of higher education taking to reduce costs? The American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU, http://www.aascu.org/ ) asked 430 member institutions (including Penn State) to respond to an online survey between November 2007 and January 2008 and 114 institutions responded. Based on the responses, AASCU identified five patterns within cost containment and made several recommendations.

According to trend data on revenue and spending, public institutions have been ‘in a budget cut mode for the better part of the last decade’. However, the report noted that, based on the data, efforts are primarily:

  • focused on business operations
  • ad hoc rather than strategic
  • not fully engaging academic and administrative leadership
  • not well documented
  • not publicly communicated

AASCU recommended that institutions continue to look for savings in energy management, business and facilities services and processes, and the use of purchasing consortia, strategies that are currently some of the most commonly used means for cost reduction and savings.

In addition, AASCU recommended that:

  • Institutions more widely quantify, document and publicize savings initiatives, and use clearer cost related language, such as :
    • cost cutting – reducing unit costs of production
    • cost containment – reducing growth in spending
    • cost management – finding ways to systematically reduce spending for non-essential areas and reallocate resources to high priorities
  • Institutions look for savings opportunities in academic programming, including course loads, course offerings, departmental mergers, program consolidation or discontinuation, and use of technology in course and program delivery. AASCU noted that the National Center for Academic Transformation ‘technology-enabled’ course redesign model not only increases the use of technology and reduces the per-student cost of course delivery, but also improves student learning (http://www.center.rpi.edu/). AASCU also suggested looking for savings opportunities in student services, benefits, and athletics.

Finally, AASCU noted that inviting ideas from faculty, staff, and students, as well as outside experts, in cost reduction initiatives led to greater satisfaction with the results.

The full report is available at http://www.aascu.org/policy/media/cost.pdf

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