Four years ago when I interviewed for the vice president position, I challenged the participants in my open forum to think about ISU Extension and Outreach five years in the future and imagine failure. Why? Because it’s a way for an organization to prevent its own death. The participants in my forum provided six consistent reasons ISU Extension and Outreach might fail. (See my blog post, Pre-mortem for Organizations.)
As you know, I got the job and now I am beginning Year 5. So I’d like to take another look at those reasons for potential failure.
- In 2011 my forum participants – these were ISU Extension and Outreach faculty and staff, mind you – said the first reason we would fail would be poor communication both internally and externally.
- Second, they said our inability to change would do us in – our unwillingness to let go of familiar programs as well as irrelevant programs.
- The third reason was isolation from constituents and critical partners, as well as field, campus, and upper administration.
- Fourth, we were suffering from an unclear vision and mission – we weren’t in sync with the values of Iowa, constituents, and the university.
- Number 5 was poor leadership – leaders who don’t motivate others, solve problems holistically, or build public support for the public good.
- The final reason was insufficient resources, since the participants were concerned about continuing decreases in funding.
I think we have made gains in some of these areas, and in some we still struggle, but we are trying to figure out how to more fully address them. So what do you think? I challenge you to respond – and please be honest. Over the next three weeks, add your comments to my blog. Then I’ll summarize your comments, add my own, and get back to you with an update on where we are now. See you there.
P.S. You can follow me on Twitter @cathannkress.