Wednesday, March 11, 2015

24. Sustainability needs reliable infrastructure.

1. I once heard David Drury describe the importance of reliable operations in an organization something like this, presumably alluding to Daniel 2: "Operational dysfunction eats at the feet of an organization until it falls under its own weight."

It's not enough for a movement to be exciting or for a pastor to be a spectacular speaker. People will come to hear George Whitefield preach. But it takes a Wesley to start an organization. The entertainer will bring the crowd, but they won't be there in a year if there isn't an organizer there too. There are people you will follow into battle, but wars are ultimately won with organizational skills.

But I knew precious little of project management coming into this thing and operated more in terms of "solve problems as they arise" than what would be a more built to last motto--"prevent problems from happening by putting good systems in place." I've already written a little on this topic.

2. In May 2010, Wayne moved Karen Clark's job from that of secretary to "Coordinator of Operations." This was a key indicator that the operational load was already ramping up significantly in less than one year. This said to me that the operations of the Seminary could not be contained within a 9-5 window. (I secretly think Wayne was also hoping that Karen would now go to some meetings he didn't want to go to ;-)

I think that, now, with a whole team working under her supervision, Karen's job has finally become manageable. I know there were some days where we were all really just barely keeping our heads above water, but I think infrastructure has finally evened out her load.

3. Tenley Horner has been serving as secretary to Wayne, Karen, and myself since June 2011. Like Karen, I think that, this last year, her job has finally evened out to something manageable. And we've learned that she was a travel agent in a previous life. She was not the first in that position, but the job stabilized with her. (I also finally convinced her that my books do not need alphabetizing... I know where they are.)

4. The "scheduler" job has finally stabilized with Becky Perry, who started as an interim in the position in March 2014 but soon became permanent. The scheduler job is incredibly important. This person sends out contracts, gets new adjuncts through the hiring process, pressures me to assign adjuncts for classes and manages our astore.

We try to keep the classes assigned six months out, but I surprisingly tend to work a little behind the goal (we're currently scheduled into August). Obviously we plan out the full-time faculty's load before the academic year begins. When we have a new venue, we will often plan out the professors for the whole two years of the cohort. But Wayne is always making new contacts. It's not bad to have a little slack in the system.

With Becky, the scheduler role has also finally stabilized. It's been a while since we've had an emergency last minute hire. It's been a while since we've banged our heads against the wall trying to figure out why things weren't going anywhere.

When the Seminary started, Karen did all these things. Then there was Karen and Tenley's jobs. Then there were student workers. Then there was Cecilia, but she was absorbed by the Spanish program. Bianca tried to fill in the gap for a short period.

The first hope for a more permanent scheduler was Juan Guerra (mind you, the position is still part time and was for Juan as well). Juan was our part time scheduler from April 2013 to February 2014. Juan is a wonderful guy from Venezuela with a business background. He is co-owner of La Charreada here in town, and I always wondered why in the world he was interested in doing part time business with us when he had multiple restaurants in Indiana where he was providing leadership. That world finally called him back full time. Thankfully, we can still see him at La Charreada!

With Becky, that position has finally stabilized too. Interestingly, both she and Tenley were originally secretary to the Graduate Dean, who with them was Jim Fuller.

5. While the work of the downstairs offices was slowly evening out, the faculty also saw two key places where our Seminary infrastructure was inadequate. One was that of the coordination of adjuncts. The other was the need for some sort of project manager for all the special projects the Seminary inevitably had going all the time.

It is ironic that, at Wesley, it has been the Dean that is less methodical and process oriented while many on the faculty are very process oriented. I know I have frustrated them from time to time.

For example, I used to hold ad hoc adjunct trainings for adjuncts on Adobe Connect. I should mention that I don't like going to training sessions or in services. I like to figure things out by doing them. Don't make me go to a training session on how to make a PowerPoint. That's death. Let me make a PowerPoint and be on call if I need help.

So it was the Seminary faculty that finally insisted that we appoint one of them as Adjunct Coordinator. This is someone who would not do an ad hoc training but would do a more formal training. This is someone who would check in on each adjunct while they were teaching, someone who could be a more normalized go-to person for the adjuncts.

So Colleen Derr is now going on two years as our Adjunct Coordinator, and she has done a splendid job. Our adjunct team is now more on top of things than ever. Colleen even directed the creation of an Adjunct Handbook for our adjuncts.

6. There had been an earlier attempt to distribute some of this load by assigning all the courses in the Seminary to various members of the faculty. For example, if an adjunct was teaching Non-Profit Management, then Bob would be the faculty member that the adjunct teaching that class would contact for help. At first, I thought that these lead faculty might also check in on the adjuncts teaching their courses, but this largely did not happen, thus leading to the idea of an Adjunct Coordinator.

We still add this "lead professor" as an extra professor to every live version of the course under their supervision. So Colleen serves as the pedagogical reference point, and the supervising professor for a given course serves as a content reference.

7. I mentioned that Colleen put together an Adjunct Handbook. She did this with the help of Tera Tietjens, who at the end of this month will finish her first year as faculty secretary. Tera has been an amazing help because now, when the faculty see a problem, they can work with her to get it fixed.

It is hard to express how much stress her presence has relieved among the faculty. She has also relieved stress from the office support downstairs because she can handle some tasks that inevitably used to fall to them.

Wayne also carved out funds at the end of last year for the faculty to have research/teaching assistants, pretty much undergraduate students. Their presence has also lightened the stress of the faculty considerably.

8. The faculty also believed in Year 5 that the Seminary needed something like a Project Manager. Although I'm now getting into Year 6, Kelli Clark, Karen's daughter, first came in as a student worker. But her organizational skills are so great that Wayne has been using her as a project manager. She has been doing a superb job of handling the schedules for special projects and making sure they keep on schedule. I haven't heard mention of the need lately.

9. There was another kind of organizational frustration that seemed to be rampant around August when so many of our classes were beginning for the Fall. But I'll save this one for tomorrow...

Previously on Seminary take-aways:

1. There are key moments of opportunity.
2. You need the right people.
3. Good leaders collaborate and navigate.

Year 1: Launch Year
4. Innovation requires some trial and error. (1)
5. Innovation requires some trial and error. (2)
6. Innovation requires some trial and error. (3)
7. New leaders bring new strengths. (1)

Year 2: Growing Pains
8. Administration never ends.
9. New leaders bring new strengths. (2)
10. New leaders bring new strengths. (3)

Year 3: The Year of Maturity
11. Complexity works against sustainability.
12. There are advantages to being embedded in a broader university. (1)
13. There are advantages to being embedded in a broader university. (2)
14. Our guinea pigs survived.

Year 4: The Year of the Faculty
15. Faculty share governance with administration. (1)
16. Faculty share governance with administration. (2)
17. Faculty share governance with administration. (3)
18. Faculty share governance with administration. (4)
19. Growth means addition. (1)
20. Growth means addition. (2)
21. Growth means addition. (3)

Year 5: The Year of Accreditation
22. Don't underestimate the power of a symbol.
23. A good reputation is much to be desired.

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