Writing on the Faith and Leadership blog, Nathan Kirkpatrick notes two ways that institutional goals can fail:
1. "The mundane can defeat the audacious." That is, the unending grind of everyday work can make vision statements and strategic plans, which boards work so hard on, seem irrelevant to the staff.
2. "Institutional ADD." Kirkpatrick describes the problem as "the cynicism created when leaders so anxiously cast about in search of the next vision that they never invest fully in the present one."
The author suggests solutions to both of these challenges, which you can read in the full blog post. But the hardest problem for boards may be identifying these problems at all. As Kirkpatrick reminds us, "Creative leaders (and creative institutions with them) tend to thrive on idea generation, not idea implementation." Dreaming big dreams can be more enticing than making the old dreams into reality.
One of the great gifts that a board can give to an institution is insisting on brutal honesty in the boardroom. If old plans and visions are being ignored as newer plans take their place, then the board and president (and faculty and other governance partners) need to acknowledge this reality and speak forthrightly about it.
Board and staff alike need to feel confident that their work on behalf of the current strategic plan will be worthwhile and won't be superseded by the next big dream.