Monday, October 27, 2014

Organizational Implications: Getting Ahead of the Future That’s Already Here

I have written in previous posts about the parallel between the healthcare industry and the postsecondary industry and I continue to be fascinated how trends in healthcare remain about ten years ahead of postsecondary education.  From increased accountability to big data applications, analyzing healthcare trends is like looking into a crystal ball of sorts when it comes to preparing for fundamental changes to the political and operating environment for colleges.

Consumerism is the newest trend appearing in the healthcare field.  A number of signals are demonstrating that the only way to bring the rising costs of healthcare under control is to put more responsibility on the consumer – and that is happening at an accelerating rate.  The same is likely to be true with the costs of a college education.  As federal financial policies are under greater scrutiny and states grow increasingly frustrated with the lack of outcomes (i.e., healthcare industry circa 2010), new mechanisms may appear that put the power and responsibility in the hands of the student (consumer) in even more significant ways.  For example, in Colorado, the state aid revenue doesn’t go to the community college, it goes with the student in the form of a voucher.  For now, it sounds like a lot of paperwork, but the principle is a tangible message of things to come in the future of public higher education in this country.

The changing dynamics of the external forces require us to anticipate trends before they’re even identified as such – as the famous hockey player Wayne Gretzky is quoted as saying, “I skate to where the puck will be, not where it has been.”  So too must community colleges go to where their community will be; and where the students will be; and where the funding will be; and where the accountability will be – that is where we must go.

The future is here.

As change becomes more rapid and more acute in our external environment, we must become that much better at change in our internal culture.  Peter Drucker is credited with saying, “culture eats strategy for breakfast” and I believe he is right.  We all must work on our culture.  The recent development of a new core values statement is very exciting.  Having a set of core values provides us a foundation to develop a common vocabulary and hold each other accountable, but it also provides a steady and stable force for our organizational culture in the midst of great changes all around us.