Emory Report

April 27, 1998

 Volume 50, No. 30

Next Steps

Leadership, communication, and effective governance are keys to successful future

The objectives and recommendations set forth in this report are linked by our belief that academic strength, fiscal economy, and institutional distinctiveness can be found in working and building collaboratively. It is far easier to articulate such general objectives and recommendations than it is to be specific about the steps that should be followed to achieve such goals. In large part this is because the needs, culture, and professional environments of the individual schools upon which much of the onus of implementation must fall is so varied. Nonetheless, it is clear that a program of implementation must work on several fronts at once if we want to achieve a balanced result.

  • The costs must be estimated and funding strategies developed, and the budget must be managed in a manner that is consistent with these goals.
  • An institutional perspective and leadership support must be cultivated, and clear lines of responsibility and accountability must be established.
  • The linkage between the goals of the units and the university as a whole must be clarified.
  • Stronger communication and governance structures must be created that support awareness of goals and participation in decision making at all levels in the university.
  • Policy and practice throughout the university must be rendered consistent with and supportive of our goals.

With these observations in mind, an implementation strategy should be developed based on the following steps.

Unit response
Each dean, vice president, director, and department chair should review this report carefully with his or her faculty and staff colleagues and prepare a preliminary statement of impact upon the unit. This statement should project the likely consequences of these recommendations for the unit, including the principal changes they will effect, the requirements for and barriers to implementation, and how the unit's goals and plans will be integrated with the objectives of this report over time. As units develop their annual budgets, they should routinely both identify the impact of these recommendations upon their budgets and show how their budget proposals advance the recommendations.

The purpose of this recommendation is to encourage units to interpret the recommendations in terms appropriate to their own situation and goals. In this sense, this plan is more formative than directive.

Reporting progress and establishing accountability
Perhaps it is a reflection of the timelessness of scholarly pursuits; but in any case, many academic programs typically do not set specific timetables for the attainment of their goals, if indeed their goals are stated in specific terms! Motivation, accountability, and a sense of accomplishment suffer as a consequence. Therefore, each responsible officer-in consultation with faculty and staff colleagues-should prepare a three-year, rolling agenda of actions to be taken and establish annual goals and criteria for assessing progress toward those goals. The provost should establish guidelines to aid the units of the university in reviewing and reporting annual activities, progress, and problems within the framework of these objectives. Among other things, this work might include appropriate reconfiguration of the annual budget conferences and the annual report to the president in order to give greater centrality to the objectives set forth here. To avoid an undesirably distorted emphasis on some objectives over others, care should be taken to use qualitative and subjective instruments of assessment, such as surveys, opinion polls, and interviews, as well as the more customary quantitative measures of progress.

Linkage to the budget
Although the focus of this plan is not limited to resource issues, full attainment of its objectives will depend upon both increase in resources and a consistent sense of priorities in the use of existing resources. Therefore, the following three actions should be taken to bring financial- and budget-planning processes of the university into closer alignment with the philosophy and specific objectives of this plan.

First, the costs associated with these recommendations should be estimated by the budget staff and potential funding sources identified. Based on these estimates, the Program and Budget Committee and deans should establish an order of priority, distribution of responsibility, and funding strategies for implementing these recommendations. Some recommendations will involve no obvious costs, and some will fall within the choices and priorities that are established routinely in our three-year, rolling budget process. Other recommendations will require significant new resources or changes in our priorities. The order of priority should take into account a reevaluation of current commitments. It is very important that this process take into account all funds-not just the education and general fund-and that programmatic and capital priorities be established concurrently. Only thus can a balanced sense of institutional resources and priorities be achieved.

Second, some important changes in our budgetary philosophy are needed to support this (or indeed any) plan for the future. A good budget system should serve, not set, the educational and scholarly agenda of the university. It should foster a healthy balance between stability and change as the institution's goals and priorities evolve.

Our current budgeting process is based on a philosophy of incremental budgeting. It has the virtues of relatively easy management, predictability, and apparent fairness. Such a system works well when-as has been Emory's good fortune-the level of resources is growing fast enough both to support the historical commitments that are established in the base budget and to provide discretionary capacity for growth and new initiatives. However, as the level of commitments has become ever greater and the level of discretionary funds has begun to fall, the limitations of incremental budgeting have become apparent: it tends to protect the status quo and to favor automatic allocation of resources to support historical commitments. It curtails our capacity for changes such as those called for in this report.

Therefore, the university should rethink its budget process with an eye to achieving a better balance between historical commitments and new priorities. We should consider a budget strategy based on three elements: a careful allocation of the annual growth in operating revenues to support a schedule of priorities that takes into account both the needs of the individual unit and shared objectives; fund-raising programs aimed at the principal goals of increasing the endowment base of the individual schools to make them less dependent upon university resources, and supporting both the programmatic and the capital priorities emphasized in this report; and a program of internal program review and budget reallocation to determine where and how funds might be shifted in order to support our current goals and priorities better.

In order that the budget process better reflect our educational and scholarly goals, primary responsibility for the general and education budget and budget planning should be assigned to the provost. Responsibility for all aspects of institutional finance, financial policy, management, and accounting should remain with the executive vice president. Such a complementary distribution of responsibility for budget and finance between the chief academic officer and the chief financial officer of the university will contribute much to the efficiency and consistency of the budget process and will create a constructive balance between good financial management and strong academic leadership.

Third, given the highly decentralized nature of our budgets, means must be established to enable and encourage the income-generating units-primarily the schools and colleges-to participate in the universitywide objectives that are brought to the fore in this report. There are at least two parts to this.

The provost and executive vice president for health affairs must have access to a pool of resources analogous to the Capital Matching Fund to support universitywide objectives and to provide the deans and department chairs with incentives for collaboration (for example, to share in the cost of joint appointments, to provide core support for interdisciplinary programs, or to subsidize teaching incentives in units heavily dependent upon sponsored-research revenues). In part, this goal already has been accomplished in that the Program and Budget Committee has authorized some discretionary funds for implementing Choices & Responsibility. Nonetheless, the size and priority of the pool needed should be reassessed in light of step one above.

Mechanisms must be found to support this discretionary central pool. This responsibility is a challenging one, but if we are to avoid stagnation and seize our opportunity to become a more balanced and collaborative university, the effort is necessary. There are a variety of ways by which this could be accomplished. For example, some part of the incremental income and reallocated resources suggested above could be designated for this pool; units could be taxed in proportion to their participation in or benefit from shared programs; university subsidies to the units could be frozen, allowing growth in university income to flow into a central discretionary pool; the Woodruff Fund can function increasingly as a discretionary pool, as it has historically, as current commitments against it are fulfilled; and-not to be underestimated-agreements could be developed among the units and central administration to support joint programs through in-kind contributions (e.g., joint courses, a share of faculty time, etc.).

Review of policies and practices
A great array of policies, standard practices, and assumptions have accrued throughout the university over the years, and inevitably these are not always consistent with current goals. Without creating an undesirably structured and inflexible environment, these policies should be reviewed and justified or revised in light of the objectives of this report. Three steps will be required to accomplish this. First, the provost's staff, working with unit administrators, should assemble in one file a compendium of all written policies, regulations, and standard practices that are perceived to have a bearing upon these recommendations. Second, these materials should be reviewed to assure that they are useful as well as consistent with one another and with institutional goals. Finally, a compendium of essential policies should be prepared in a form that is readily accessible to revision and dissemination.

Leadership support and development
In order for these objectives to be implemented effectively in concert with the further development of the schools and departments, a strong base of common knowledge and expectations must be established. Two peculiar customs of research-university administration work against this goal: the high degree of autonomy that tends to isolate deans and chairs, and the prevalent practice of assigning leadership roles to faculty with little training in university affairs. Steps should be taken to prepare these individuals more fully for their responsibilities. First, following distribution of this report, a retreat of the proposed Council of Chairs (see recommendation 16) and the Deans' and Directors' Council should be held to discuss the plan and its implications. The purpose of this retreat should be both informational (clarifying goals, expectations, and responsibilities) and instrumental (team building and exploring how best to achieve our objectives).

Second, in view of the frequent comment that complete and reliable management information is unavailable to chairs and deans, a mechanism should be established to determine what information and avenues of communication would most improve the efficiency and quality of decision making in the future.

Third, the recommendations in this report concerning training and orientation of faculty and administrative heads (see recommendation 14), communication (see recommendation 16), and governance (see recommendation 32) should be further developed and implemented. They are crucial to the change in institutional culture that must underlie a stable commitment to the philosophy reflected in this plan. In addition, means should be established to institutionalize, on an ongoing basis, campuswide conversations about our aspirations, difficulties, and plans. The greatest gains in strengthening and supporting leadership within the university over the long run will, of course, come from regular familiarization and acculturation of faculty and staff to one another and to university-wide plans and goals through such programs as the Faculty Town Hall meetings and the annual faculty convocation sponsored by the provost.

Finally, the duration of academic administrative and leadership appointments varies by custom from as little as one year (for University Senate president) to indeterminate or permanent (for chairs of departments in the School of Medicine). Excessively short administrative terms in some academic programs undoubtedly result in a failure to accrue the kind of information and experience that are associated with longer-term institutional development. Such units are encouraged to reevaluate their practices and determine whether the university policy adopted in 1995 encouraging five-year, renewable terms might better serve the interests of the unit and the university.

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