Dealing With Institutional Weaknesses

Every institution has a weakness or two.  But many fail to recognize them or talk about them – and they are missing an opportunity to improve.

It’s About Improving, Not Blaming

If your institution is going to improve, talking about weaknesses needs to be something that everyone is comfortable with doing.  The focus should be on improving and making things better for staff, faculty, administration, alumni, students, prospective students, and the other audiences your institution serves.

And once those weaknesses are on the table, you can begin to prioritize them and decide what action the institution should take, if any.

The other benefit of acknowledging weaknesses is that in many cases, the perceived weakness is an outcome or a symptom of the actual weakness.

Talking About The Weakness Increases The Potential of Strengthening The Weakness

Not that long ago, a large for-profit university was struggling with its CRM and telephone system technology.  These struggles were causing the enrollment team a lot of headaches as they tried to serve prospective and current students.

During the review of their strengths and weaknesses, tensions were high, and several department directors started to point the finger of blame at the IT department as a whole and the CIO in particular.

Only during those discussions was the actual cause of the problem identified.

The cause was tied back to the processes for allocating resources, which prioritized acquisition over internal investments, especially in technology.  Some people knew about this – but it turned out a few key people weren’t aware of this process, so once this issue bubbled up to the surface, the leadership team made adjustments and then communicated the outcome to everyone in the organization.

The moral of that story is if you ignore it, you miss chances to make improvements that can benefit many.

All About Managing Change, avoiding silos

The cause of many weaknesses is change.

Your CIO or CFO leaves for another opportunity, taking some unique expertise that is valuable to the institution but now no longer in-house.

The economy slows, causing enrollments to fall, leading to less capital available to run operations.

The federal government amends a law that places new burdens on your staff that require expertise not found internally.

Change makes market research incredibly important to the success of your institution, and this research doesn’t have to be expensive or time-consuming to be effective.  All it takes is a little planning and an efficient process for monitoring what’s going on around you and evaluating the changes to determine if these changes require action.

But be careful about the decision you make because, in many instances, people make decisions without fully understanding the impact on the entire institution.  And that ‘ripple effect’ can cause even greater harm to the institution.

For greater success, create a process for monitoring, and analyzing developments internally and externally, then have the right people in the room to discuss the possible options and the potential impact of those options so that the final decision is one that helps the institution.

Written by

Strategic turnaround consultant and writer.

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