A few weeks ago, I attended a week-long institute on General Education and Assessment organized by the American Association of Colleges and Universities. My institution is in the midst of revising and updating their General Education program and the university assembled a team of faculty and administrators to attend this virtual institute. Ultimately, this team will develop a few different options and share them with our campus community before settling on a new General Education program that will go into effect a year or two down the road. Our group is really just at the beginning of our work. If this were a thousand-mile journey, our group and university would only be a dozen steps in. We have a long road (and a lot of work) ahead. Attending this institute was designed to be a kick start to our efforts.
In one of the sessions, an attendee commented that any reform effort needs to be mindful of campus culture and consider what the community values and how it operates. Sharing the famous quote from Peter Drucker, the attendee said, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.”
Without a moment of pause, the presenter responded, “You need to really focus on the process. Process eats product for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.”
I’ll admit that I’ve heard the Drucker quote a bunch of times and even used it in a few professional presentations. But the “process eats product” quote is a new one for me. As often happens, it’s been bouncing around my head the last week or two and I’ve shared in it a few conversations with colleagues. I know it’s not really that novel. The quote is just a repurposing of the “ends vs. means” and “journey vs. destination” debates. The quote is an important reminder, though. The road you take is just as important and as where you go.
While this reminder is critical to our group’s General Education reform efforts, it is also important whenever some new initiative or change is undertaken. I would argue that it’s important in how we teach our classes, how we interact with our colleagues, and … well, you get the picture. Process is important stuff. So, how do we focus on process in the work we do? For me, it comes down to a few simple mantras.
- Be transparent.
- Be inclusive.
- Be willing to listen.
- Be open to change.
I know those may sound trite, but they should be guiding principles for any organization or individual who values collaboration. When we focus on process, we demonstrate that we value the people with whom we work. We can’t be so blinded by some desired outcome that we sacrifice our relationships with our colleagues or our core values to get there.