Monday, September 15, 2008

The Strategic Horizon

The future is now and things are changing. We need to change, but we are an organization of more than 400 full-time faculty and staff and hundreds more adjunct faculty and part-time staff. How do we develop the capacity and the will to change, and keep changing, to remain relevant? The short answer is any way we can. A longer answer would involve multiple strategies and one of those is joining the Strategic Horizon Network - a collaboration of 15 community colleges from around the country. MVCC recently joined the Strategic Horizon Network as a community college interested in preparing itself for a complex current day and an ever-changing and emerging future.

The Network is coordinated and facilitated by Dr. Richard Alfred and Patricia Carter from the Center for Community College Development in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The presidents of the network colleges work with the facilitators to provide direction and determine the organizational curriculum and priorities for the Network. One of the important emphases of the Network is that leadership exists throughout the college. Twice a year the colleges bring teams (usually around 5-7 staff and faculty) for a colloquium event in addition to optional learning site visits. Two are being proposed for 2009: one with the National Coalition Building Institute (that focuses on building capacity through inclusivity) and one for faculty to preview research being done by Network college faculty on alternatives to textbooks using public domain sources. I would characterize the colloquia and site visits as common learning through uncommon experiences.

For example, in June the Colloquium was in Annapolis, Maryland and focused on Entrepreneurship and the ways community colleges can become more entrepreneurial and help their communities become more entrepreneurial - that was the common learning part. The uncommon part was the fact that we heard from a very funny economist (seriously) and experienced a behind the scenes tour of a defense industry leader and learned about many of their entrepreneurial strategies to prepare their organization for the future. We then had an opportunity for our college teams to process our experiences and have some conversation about what we saw and heard and the implications for our colleges. In the past, the colleges have learned about strategic human resources practices by visiting the headquarters of a major airline and customer service with a behind the scenes experience at the headquarters of a major hotel chain in addition to many other remarkable experiences. The fall colloquium will take our team to Ann Arbor to hear from leading academics in the University of Michigan Business School about abundance theory and positive organizational psychology with site visits to businesses and organizations putting those theories and ideas into practice.

On October 1st and 2nd, Richard Alfred and Pat Carter will visit the College to join the MVCC Board of Trustees in a workshop before meeting with members of the College Senate, followed by time with the Strategic Planning Committee and finally with the President's Cabinet. The intent of their visit is to help them get to know us and us to know them. They will likely prompt many conversations that we have yet to have here. Our time with them and our participation in the Strategic Horizon Network will likely surface glimpses of our own collective strategic horizon and help us reflect on new ways of thinking that will allow us to serve our students and community in significantly new and different ways.

Please share your thoughts with me at presblog@mvcc.edu.