Monthly Archives: November 2016

Fourth and Inches

Fourth and inches: the point in a football game where they’re almost over the goal…but just need that final push to get there.  And the crowd goes wild when it works as planned, but just as often the punter is brought in, after the goal isn’t attained.

Many things need to happen on the field to get to this point:

  • Knowing each player’s, and the other team’s players, strengths and weaknesses
  • Calling the correct plays
  • Having the right people where they need to be
  • Consistently moving forward, with everyone’s eye on the same goal.

The Long-Term Financial Sustainability Workgroup at Minnesota State has been moving towards the goal of making our system sustainable for the future.

They’ve kept going by strategically identifying, then listening to and involving, all stakeholders, right from the start; communicating with everyone, clearly and consistently; figuring out who needs to be where and when, and moving steadily forward toward their goal.

The workgroup’s next move is a study session presentation to the Minnesota State Board of Trustees on Tuesday, November 15, at 3:15 p.m.  You can listen to streaming audio here.

Cindy Schneider

Serving those who serve

vetSince today is Veterans Day, I’ll step away from our November topic to thank those who have served in our military and to acknowledge that Minnesota State has a strong history of supporting veterans. Check out more information here.

Our system office staff had a workshop earlier this week where we had an opportunity to hear from a panel of students who are veterans, as well as staff from several of our colleges and universities who support them. I came away with a new appreciation of the challenges that face our students who are veterans, and proud of our commitment to them.

As leaders, we can:

  • Visit the veterans center at your institution and learn more about the students they serve
  • Volunteer to assist at an event sponsored by the veterans center or a student veteran group
  • Be familiar with our policies and procedures for supporting student veterans and promote them at your campus

Dee Anne Bonebright


Who would have predicted that!

dewey-winsOk, I admit it. This post is a day late. I stayed up until 3:00 a.m. on Tuesday night watching the presidential electoral college vote results and the commentators trying to explain how all the predictions were wrong. Then on Wednesday, more analysis and exploration of what happened. I promise, this will not be a political post, but the election of president-elect Trump highlights how hard it is to predict the future! And we have a long history of getting predictions wrong.

So, how do leaders build organizational capacity to meet future challenges when it is so hard to see what will happen in the future?

Gary Hamel encourages leaders in his book What Matters Now (2012) to go back to the basics and focus on values to prepare for an uncertain future. He lists the following as “pivotal, overarching concerns” for leaders:

  1. Values – act as a steward and take actions that demonstrate concern for your people and organization.
  2. Innovation – provide opportunities for all your people to contribute their ideas to meet your customers’ needs.
  3. Adaptability – “future-proof” your company by relentlessly pushing for internal change to match external changes. Hamel stresses the need to “seek out the most discomforting facts you can find and share them with everyone in your organization.”
  4. Passion – clearly demonstrate that your people are affecting the outside world with their work. Highlight the importance of each and every person’s day-to-day work.
  5. Ideology – examine, discuss and challenge the status quo. Make it safe for people to express their opinions and concerns.

We may mess up predicting the future but Hamel implores leaders to speak up for “the good, the just and the beautiful” to better prepare for the uncertainty ahead.

The following link provides a detailed summary of What Matters Now.

Todd Thorsgaard

Mind the Gap

HardMind the Gap sign in subwayly anyone claims that building capacity is simple or easy – because it’s not!  Building capacity often means big changes to an organization.  You’ll encounter moving targets, shifting priorities, and trouble spots you may not notice right away.

The chart below can help you think things through, and “mind the gap” (or pay close attention to where you’re going, as it’s said in England).  If your plan to build capacity is Missing one or more of the gaps as shown below, it may not end well.

For instance, creating an Action Plan without full input from all your stakeholders (or not having an Action Plan at all) could delay the launch, and likely result in follow-up communications to correct prior communications.


The links below give an introduction to this model, and offer tips for using it.  Are you able to spot any gaps in your plan that you may need to mind?

More Information on the Knoster Model

Tips for Implementation

Cindy Schneider



Risks and leadership

riskOne way and another, risk-taking has been on my mind a lot recently. As we’re looking at building organizational capacity, part of the definition is “engaging and supporting appropriate risk-taking.” Here are a couple examples of what that might mean for day-to-day leadership.

From a project management perspective, leaders need to identify potential risks, decide how likely they are and how much impact they’d have, and then decide what to do about them. Avoiding all risks isn’t practical, or even possible. Appropriate risk taking means deciding on the right approach:

  • Avoid – take intentional action to ensure the situation does not occur
  • Transfer – hire someone else to manage the risk (for example, ask a third party vendor to complete the project)
  • Accept – acknowledge there is nothing to be done and deal with the situation if it occurs
  • Mitigate – take steps to minimize the likelihood and/or severity of the situation

Another way to look at risk-taking is part of the hiring process. The human tendency toward a zero-risk bias means that leaders might not be willing to take an appropriate risk on a candidate who could bring new viewpoints, background and perspectives to the role. There can be a tendency to look for a candidate who is similar to the previous successful incumbent, or to others on the work team.

Where have you encountered risk-taking in your leadership, and how did you decide what was appropriate?

Dee Anne Bonebright



The future is now!

the-future-is-nowWell, by definition that may not be true – (Merriam-Webster definition of future\ˈfyü-chər\: coming after the present time) –  but leaders need to take action now to ensure that their people and their organizations are successful both tomorrow and further down the road.

The leadership competency we will be discussing in November is Builds Organizational Capacity to Meet Future Challenges. Specifically what actions do you need to take now to understand the challenges you and your people will be facing in the future and how to take action now to tackle those challenges.

The colleges and universities of Minnesota State define this leadership competency as:

  • engaging and supporting appropriate risk-taking
  • identifying and removing barriers to innovation
  • rewarding and supporting innovations advancing excellence and effeciency
  • promoting accountability for self and others
  • collaborating across educational and governmental boundaries in the system, nation and world
  • networking with innovative thinkers, developers and donors

We will use that definition as a starting point for our conversations with you.

The future is full of opportunity and uncertainty but one thing we know – it will be here soon!

Todd Thorsgaard