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That’s right. Your job is not about you. It is about much more than you because many things you do impact many other parts of your institution. This post is going to be pretty simple and straight forward because I don’t think it takes much time to explain. However, the implications of this post are far-reaching.

Quick Explanation

Let me try to beak this down quickly. In today’s world, change is inevitable and the rate of change is only increasing. I don’t see this slowing down any time soon. One of the results of this change is that institutions need to move dynamically and maintain a high “nimbility” quotient. In order for institutions to move quickly, the staff and faculty need to have a deep understanding of the institution and how each function is connected. Individual tasks are often interdependent like the gears in the picture above. If one things moves, everything moves. Nothing happens in a vacuum. Nothing happens in isolation. Should decisions be made without thinking about the entire system?

Think about it. Program design is impacted by financial modeling. Financial modeling is impacted by financial aid structures. Donor development is related to enrollment marketing. Church relationships are connected to and impacted by everything from enrollment to giving to program design. Program development can be tied to an understanding of federal loan processing and accreditation standards. While many would say they understand things are connected, how many of us actually let this understanding impact daily decision making? In order to be nimble, we must move from simply recognizing that everything is connected and toward truly implementing decision making processes that take advantage of this fact.

What about your institution?

At your institution, who is responsible for the development of new programs? How are they developed? Who is involved in the initial stages of program development? A new program impacts every aspect of the institution in profound ways. When creating new programs, does your organization get information from people in the advancement department in order to hear what alumni are talking about? Does your admissions office have a say in the academic requirements of the program or the process for application and admission? Do the financial personnel have an opportunity to create a financial model that is sustainable or is the program created with the assumption that it will just “fit” into what you have always done? Who is going to teach and are they just switching responsibilities or are they adding new work? You can see where I am going here.

Who is responsible for creating the fundraising goals? How are they created? Does the director of advancement simply bring a number to the budget planning process? Does the CFO give a number using a percentage-based calculation?

If a student calls your financial aid office and has a bad experience with the service provided, who else is impacted by that experience? What if that student is actively involved in a ministry led by an alum? What if that student has 1,500 friends on Facebook? What if that student attends the church of a major donor?

I ask these questions because they are all real questions I have heard asked at real institutions with real decisions to make. Students do attend the churches of major donors. CFOs, CDOs, and Presidents do make decisions without consulting others. Programs are developed in silos without thought being given to how they impact responsibilities throughout the organization.

Beyond an Understanding

Can it be done differently? There are many schools working to act on this understanding of interconnectedness. Large schools, small schools, denominational schools, and nondenominational schools. Asbury Theological Seminary calls it the “systems” approach. I refer to the need for a cross-knowledgeable and “cross-thinktional” staff at Northern. The key is to move beyond an understanding. We must act upon that understanding.

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