“Tradition is what you resort to when you don’t have the time or the money to do it right.” Kurt Herbert Alder (1950 Nobel Prize for Chemistry, b. Chorzow, Poland, 1902 -1958.)
With apologies to Mr. Alder, a lot of wonderful things have been accomplished in the name of tradition. UBC’s strong academic and cultural traditions have served us well over the last 100 years and have helped propel us into becoming one of the world’s leading universities. Just because something is deemed to be “new” or “improved” does not necessarily mean it will contribute to instant success. The secret lies in knowing whether the traditional ways of doing things help or hinder you in reaching your new objectives.
We have embarked on a very ambitious strategic planning initiative, one that will require a shift in our perspective. We are moving away from the aspirational document we started to build upon, to an operational one that will transform the way we do things at UBC. We need to become more than just the sum of our parts, because we are a cohesive environment rich in learning, research opportunities, and scholarly activities. Our strategic plan must reflect that reality. But is that enough?
Why do some strategic plans work while others fail?
Strategic plans can be very challenging projects. A university might spend countless hours of research, information gathering and strategic thinking to come up with the most relevant, revolutionary approach to the future, but without the appropriate funding of the right projects at the right time, fail to accomplish the most basic of intended goals. If we do not link UBC’s strategic planning and academic priorities to our budgeting process we will not successfully reach our new goals and objectives. The appropriate allocation of resources is paramount to creating a successful strategic plan.
With this in mind, the newly completed draft of the Aboriginal Strategic Plan places primary responsibility for identifying priorities and developing and implementing many of its aspects, with individual units. Unit funding is linked to progress in defining, developing and implementing initiatives in support of the plan. In this way input is generated from the bottom-up as well as the top-down and resources are targeted where they are felt to have the greatest impact.
But this is only one example. Our budgetary process will be linked to the strategic planning of all our initiatives, such as aboriginal, international, sustainability and others now being identified as cross-cutting themes. With funding linked to every step of the planning process, there will be accountability built in to each faculty’s business plan. While there may be some reallocations of resources, there will be an equal responsibility to ensure alignment with goals and objectives within units, departments and faculties.
It’s vitally important to remember that this strategic plan is a “living” process, not an inflexible document; an interactive dialogue, not a rigid course of action. In this way our plan can be responsive to change and able to take advantage of new and unexpected developments whenever and wherever they occur.
Getting back to Mr. Alder’s quote, UBC is fortunate in the fact that we are taking the time necessary to do this right and we will not compromise our ideals in the funding process. We are building on the tradition of this great place, not replacing it. There is no limit to where this strategic plan can take our university – as long as we have the will, the resources and the vision.