Constructive Turbulence: Driving Vision through Virus and Volatility

  1. Budget Cuts: The funding that was dedicated to planning, development, and implementation suddenly becomes much more difficult to access. Declining revenues mean hard decisions and budget cutting. Public institutions often opt to invoke an across the board percentage cut, leave it to the department head to decide where the cuts occur, and move on. Also, there are often limits — procurement contracts, collective bargaining agreements, public opinion — to where spending reductions can be made.
  2. A New Normal: The more our lives are upended, the more we feel the urge to return to normalcy. Getting back to a comforting routine means some calm is emerging from the sudden chaos, so restoring the former processes that existed in the classroom is the default response. This crisis has far-reaching implications that will undoubtedly affect long-term plans. Now is the moment to ask how education can be more effectively delivered.
  3. Culture Shifts: Changing culture in a longstanding system where people are struggling to hang onto any familiar routine will never be easy. Yet often a complete upending of routine life forces people to work in different ways for a solution. The old axiom “when the ox is in the ditch, everyone jumps in to push it out,” applies to crisis management, even in tradition-heavy higher education.
  4. Donor Delay: A rapidly declining economy means individual, corporate, and foundation donors will have lessened portfolios that fund their contributions. Projects already in the funding pipeline can be hard to maintain; new projects may be delayed. Grantors and grantees need to work together to understand the current crisis while identifying where to invest in the future they jointly envision.
  • Reviewing any existing vision for the institution’s future, and the steps already taken for implementation. Is it still relevant and how can the immediate stabilizing actions further the progress?
  • Reviewing any basic concepts that might have been under consideration and evaluating their relevance in light of changes that are being seen now.
  • Supporting and recognizing the current successes from “stretches’ made by faculty and administration. Positive reinforcement now will encourage future stretching.
  • Convening a regular working group responsible for confronting the institution’s future realities, communicating across the campus, and assisting in the implementation of longer- term direction.
  • Communicating constantly the current reality so that all members of the higher education community will understand decisions made for future operations.



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Bob Wise

Bob Wise

Working for social impact & improving student learning outcomes at Bob Wise LLC. Former West Virginia governor, congressman & president of @All4Ed. @bobwise48