Thursday, January 24, 2008

it's a leadership thing

What is it about working in higher ed that bugs me so much? Is it how, at every turn, I'm bumping into people that have the business acumen of a rock? No, I met plenty of them through 15 or so years of real work. Could it be my daily frustration with an institutional decision-making mentality that awards sloth-like movement toward anything closely resembling a command decision? No, even the slowest moving of decisions are decisions nonetheless and should be embraced by those of us who act on action. I think what bugs me the most is how people in decision-making positions presume to make their problems your problems. And it's not that the turn is unique to higher ed. What is unique is the atmosphere in which the turn is made; the attitude of presumption and air of importance which demands (not commands) your immediate and utmost attention.

Look, I've spent an entire career making other people's problems my own. Solve the problems in a timely and cost-effective manner, and you improve your value to the organization. Do that time and again and you're in damn good stead with the principles. Here in the world of "let's play business like we know what we're talking about," the way in which the problem transaction goes down is, quite honestly, starting to disgust me. The God-damn presumption that I could give a rat's ass about some project that was cluster-fucked from the start is down-right maddening and just this side of demeaning. The move to lay that turd project and my desk and demand answers -- a demand for accountability in an environment where accountability is as understood as quality, cost, and value. Holy crap is all I can say.

I'm having too many of these days lately to feel focused - to feel like I'm continuing to make the organization a better place for students, staff, and faculty. I'm starting to recall some of Anita's warnings about the pitfalls of working in higher ed -- about the non-business nature of the business. I'm starting to miss the real work of the real world. Really.

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