Office of Culture and Experience

Don’t Forget to Share

August 30, 2017 • Leadership

I work in an administrative office. I don’t teach, I don’t do research, I rarely interact with students. When the See 2020 plan was first released, I remember looking it over to find out where I contribute and feeling my little balloon of energy fill with lead and drop as I read through the goals. No one had thought to write in a goal for increasing the number of days between proposal submission to OGCM and the Sponsor deadline! Can you believe it? Okay, but in all seriousness, I was struggling to see how my team could help increase research expenditures. We aren’t the ones deciding what opportunities to apply for or what sponsored projects a researcher should perform, our researchers do the heavy lifting there, right? And that was the only obviously sponsored-project-oriented goal on the plan. So now what? Well, we discussed it briefly in a staff meeting, then I tucked the plan away and moved on with the million and one projects and contracts on my desk. I know, not a great answer, but honest.

Fast forward to early 2017, and our interim Vice President for Research has pulled together the division leadership team to work on the 2018 strategic plan for the Division of Research and Innovation (DRI). She laid out goals and priorities for the division. We all contributed ideas and discussed different ways to reach those goals. We made significant progress towards a real plan for the division, though we didn’t come to a final decision on which ideas to pursue. So this is the part where I go back to my team and share the vision for DRI and tell them how they can contribute to reaching our strategic goals, right? Nope. Well, I suppose I should give myself some credit here. There were ideas discussed in that meeting that I took back to my team, but not in the context of the overall institutional strategic plan. I still didn’t feel like we had a solid plan for how we would reach our goals, and I was waiting for someone to tell me what it was – until we did a couple of exercises in Fellows last month.

First, we were asked to interview multiple individuals on campus about our institutional vision and strategic plan and share that feedback with others in the group. The common theme we found was that individuals across campus were struggling to see where they fit in the plan.

The second exercise challenged us to explain how we contribute to the goals laid out in the SEE 2020 Roadmap. So I pulled it out and studied it, looking at the list of goals in the last column. And as I thought about it, I found that I could answer that question much more clearly than I expected. Here are the goals I identified as items my team and I can contribute to:

Nationally recognized as a Best Place For All: Every single person on campus can work toward this goal every day. The map may list this under the Chief People and Performance Officer, but we are collectively responsible for its success or failure.

Living by our Our Values: Much the same as above, we are all contributing to this.

Have thriving Leadership Institute: Are you coaching or being coached? Have you participated in Inspire, L125, or HSC Fellows? If you’ve answered “yes” to any of these (like I have) you are contributing.

Known for our extraordinary service experience: Our office has both internal and external customers. We have the opportunity every day to provide extraordinary service.

Total research increased – expenditures to $55,000,000: Our office works every day to help our researchers balance administrative demands with research demands. We work to ensure that their proposals get past the administrative hurdles in order to be reviewed on their scientific merit.

The education & research partner for health systems of Tarrant County: When working with these organizations, our office recognizes that the relationship has greater value than the single transaction. Every interaction has the potential to strengthen the relationship.

At long last, I’d had my “ah-ha!” moment; I realized that I did not need a prescriptive instruction to take back to my team, I just needed to clarify which goals I thought we could contribute to, and ask my team and myself to take ownership of how we can work toward them. Yes, the strategic plan is developed at the top level, and it has to be clearly and repeatedly communicated down through the organization. Here’s the thing, though: I didn’t need to wait for the how-to manual to come out. It is so easy to get caught up in the pile of day-to-day work, but we all need to be moving in the same direction if we are going to reach our goals.

So now I have taken this back to my team and challenged them to think about what they do every day and how it contributes to these goals. We’ve discussed the division priorities, and we’ve set aside a team meeting for further discussion after they’ve had some time for reflection. I am looking forward to hearing their perspective.


Andrea Anderson

Director, Grant and Contract Management

HSC Fellows Candidate 2017