Chapter Nine

Conclusion: Avoiding Pitfalls/Final Comments

The steps described in this book have been used successfully by colleges and universities of all sizes. If you are going through the common sense management process the first time, the experience of those who have gone before you has shown that there are some pitfalls you should try to avoid:

  • Abandoning strategy in a crisis. Competing activities and crises can distract attention from implementing strategies. Once a crisis develops, the institution may desert its strategy and revert to its traditional operational mode. You can avoid this by turning your plan into the college's day-to-day driving force and by recognizing and deliberately avoiding the tendency to desert the strategy in a crisis.

  • Shelving the strategic plan. A major pitfall is shelving the plan. Often an institution will expend considerable resources in developing a strategic plan, and then will not implement it.

  • Failure to integrate common sense management with day-to-day operations. A major pitfall is failure to integrate common sense management with the institution's ongoing operations. In such instances, it is viewed as an "add-on," and not related to routine daily operations. To avoid this, position your strategic plan as the driving force of your institution, and make sure your annual operational and individual performance plans are derived from it.

  • Underestimating the time you need for implementation. Often leaders do not plan enough time to carry out various implementation tasks, downplay the likelihood of potential problems, and fail to recognize the problems that do develop. You should allow time for unexpected problems and be prepared to use more staff time to implement important strategies, especially when unexpected problems emerge.

  • Failure to coordinate implementation effectively. Another pitfall is failure to effectively coordinate implementation activities that are carried out by different committees, task forces, and individuals. To avoid this, clearly specify areas of responsibility in written plans and promote ongoing communication among groups and individuals.

  • Lack of personnel with sufficient skills. An organization may develop a plan and then not have personnel with the skills and abilities that are necessary to carry it out. To ensure that personnel have sufficient skills and abilities, you should take time in your strategy development process to understand what will be required. Then, plan either to acquire individuals with the needed skills, to train present staff in these skills, or, if these skills are impossible to obtain, to adjust the strategy.

  • Failure to plan for contingencies. Unexpected developments may upset a strategic plan. It is possible to plan for many eventualities or outcomes using the method of contingency planning.

  • Allowing the plan to become outdated. You should avoid allowing the plan to become outdated. Committing the institution to a regular run-through of the strategic management process will help avoid this pitfall.

To conclude, keep in mind that common sense management is:

  • An ongoing, dynamic process, not a plan "cast in bronze"
  • An imaginative look at future possibilities for your institution, and not just an extrapolation of present conditions
  • An examination of trends affecting your future so that you can make better current decisions, not an attempt to make future decisions today
  • A process that any school, regardless of size, can implement, and not something that is only for large universities

Final Comments

Throughout this book we have stressed that common sense management is a flexible process. You can start with any segment of the process bearing in mind that you need to do all the segments. You can use any group process that works best for you and the culture of your institution. The key to recognize is that its flexibility is what makes common sense management enduring.

You add to the basic segments the newest process methods, the newest technology, the newest research, and the newest management methods as you desire. Always remembering that the future is not set in concrete. There will be unexpected happenings and you and your institution will need to adjust your plan, strategies and tactics accordingly.

You need to also understand that common sense management can be applied in various ways by size of institution. For example a small college would probably apply the process for the whole institution and develop a comprehensive strategic plan to guide all its departments. On the other hand, a large complex university might conduct the internal and external analysis, set broad institutional vision and goals and then charge each college and department with doing their own common sense management process. The outcomes of the individual colleges and departments would then be reviewed by the university’s common sense management team for institutional conflict resolution, priority setting and resource application.

In the final analysis, use your common sense! Look outside the institution for threats and opportunities. Look inside for strengths and weaknesses. Match the two for the best fit and move forward.