Annual Address 2011
David C. Hodge
September 29, 2011
By taking on significant issues we also better connect the university with the world outside. This is an increasingly important point. Universities are expected to contribute more directly to our communities, our state, our nation, and beyond. By focusing on big issues, we find it much easier to develop meaningful partnerships with organizations outside the university, leveraging our resources, opportunities, and impact. At the same time, these partnerships can vastly expand the number of high impact experiences for our students.
Finally, let me suggest that all of Miami is exceptionally devoted to the pursuit of one very significant goal: the creation of the best outcomes-based learning environment in the nation. While our actions and research of today directly impact the world around us, the biggest impact of our actions has been and will always be the development of graduates who are exceptionally well-prepared for their careers and lives. This goal is at the heart of everything we do and, together, we will create the very best outcomes-based learning environment imaginable.
- It values both innovation and execution. By this point, the importance of innovation to an entrepreneurial mindset and to a forward-looking university should be obvious. Innovation is to be sought out and celebrated. It should be part of our DNA and a motivating force in our relentless pursuit of excellence. Innovation is change with a purpose. It is a positive energy that inspires us to ever greater accomplishments.
However, as Thorp and Goldstein perceptively point out, "innovation without execution has no impact, and academic communities are less comfortable with the day-to-day blocking and tackling required to turn innovation into reality." They go on to note, "The culture of an entrepreneurial university embraces and even celebrates great execution and the processes that accompany it. It welcomes objective measurement and benchmarks, it strives for continuous improvement, and it understands that seemingly minor mid-course corrections can result in high-impact innovation."
A key point here is that innovation and execution are both important for success. And the more that the two are combined in the right way, the bigger their impact will be. Consider a key conclusion of the Strategic Assessment of Support Services (SSAS) analysis. In comparing Miami today with other universities as well as businesses, our consultants found that we have an exceptionally high emphasis on transactions rather than value-added support service practices. In other words, our focus has been on making sure that a transaction is properly executed. Improvement, within this set of expectations, is to seek steps that will improve the accuracy or the cost of the transaction, good goals to be sure.
But a value-added approach has a more expansive mindset, looking at the issues from a broader perspective and asking more fundamental questions about the need for the transaction or alternative approach towards transactions. Take procurement, for example. We purchase thousands of items and services, more than $80 million per year. With a transactional approach our staff is expected to, and does, work diligently to make sure that the purchase orders are processed in a timely manner and that they are accurate. In a value-added approach, our staff will be trained and encouraged to spend more time looking for better prices, alternative products, and connections with other purchases across our campuses. Such an approach takes execution to a much higher level of impact.
The importance of execution is no less important in academic matters. Indeed, the underlying premise of outcomes-based education is to continually evaluate the effectiveness of our approach to teaching and learning. Similarly, the effort to increase interdisciplinary activities on campus is predicated on using existing resources more wisely, of breaking down barriers, rather than propagating new structures.
- It places culture ahead of structure. This final point underscores the direction Miami is taking in forging our future. If all we were to do in these times would be to cut and/or rearrange specific activities, we might meet our near-term needs, but we would only be "kicking the can down the road." For Miami to thrive—and believe me, we will thrive—we need to strengthen and develop those parts of our culture that will leverage our commitment, our ideas, and our efforts to maximize our effectiveness.
While structure is important, we must not let it re-enforce silos, or encourage the defense of turf, or be wrapped up in our egos. Rather, as an institution unequivocally committed to excellence, we must develop those "attitudes, beliefs, goals, and practices," that is, a culture, that brings us together in common pursuit of significant issues and extraordinary outcomes. Just as we stress collaboration, teamwork, and innovation for our students, we must seek ways to focus more on issues that unite us without letting structure stand in the way of collaboration and creativity. We must be more intentional in linking our individual activities to the common purpose of academic excellence and extraordinary outcomes. We must be more nimble and innovative. We must have a sense of urgency, an urgency that comes not from a sense of fear, but from a sense that "there is so much we want to do and so little time." So let’s get on with it and not be fettered by organizational structures that inhibit entrepreneurial thinking and innovation.