It’s a big day.
Today is the official start date of our new consulting practice focused on strategic planning, vision and goal setting, communications, leadership and organizational development for higher education and related institutions. This moment is exciting on many levels. We have enormous respect for each other—the intellect, creativity, and ambitious thinking that has characterized our work both together and as individuals will now directly benefit our clients. Our work with colleges and universities is both inspiring and satisfying. In addition to our expertise in higher education, we partner with a range of organizations that advance the world’s knowledge, including research institutes, foundations, nonprofits, start-ups, and other entities with a related mission.
We are motivated by the power of these organizations to transform the world through research, analysis, education, and the development of human and intellectual capital. No other set of institutions in the world has generated as much societal benefit and impact over time. Yet this is a time of enormous change and challenge. Every day we talk to colleagues and read headlines about the competitive pressures that these organizations must address. The public compact and business models on which such institutions have relied face numerous threats: wavering demand, diminished public funding, questions about cost and value, ever-growing community expectations, and increasingly polarized beliefs about the roles of data and science in shaping policy.
We cannot rest on the assumption that we are providing a valuable public good, and that—of course!—thoughtful leaders, funders, policymakers, and parents will understand and appreciate that value. We need fresh approaches to better connect the dots between our institutions’ values and the stakeholders we serve.
As counselors to some of the nation’s leading universities, we understand higher education’s culture and complexity in the midst of this shifting landscape. Charting an ambitious and effective strategic course is critical but far from easy or straightforward. Successful leaders must analyze the competitive landscape, see clearly their organization’s strengths and vulnerabilities, design intentional change management processes, foster the culture and leadership practices that support change, and invest in the messaging and communications work that inspires the entire organization to head willingly toward the destination. Leadership teams need ever-more-sophisticated approaches to carve out a distinctive position, convey the value they deliver, and build positive, long-term relationships with their stakeholders. It is rewarding when we have the chance to help leaders develop both their vision and their voice, because we see the powerful role that leaders play in motivating their organizations to create new pathways and make bold, strategic moves.
We began our careers in marketing and communications, and we know that an institution’s public reputation is driven first and foremost by what it chooses to invest in and how it prioritizes leadership attention. How does an institution best deliver on its promises to stakeholders and for the greater good? What decisions will it make that build momentum, spark investment, inspire partnerships, and increase demand? What distinctive characteristics and programs? What exciting future vision? What new knowledge and new value? What compelling leadership voices?
Armed with this fantastic raw material, we are also expert at helping organizations build support for their vision and win positive attention from their stakeholders and the broad public. The environment for communication and marketing has grown increasingly complex, but the silver lining is that there have never before been more avenues for leaders and organizations to get their message out. We have had success navigating in this wild new frontier, and we believe it is only going to get more exciting as we all work to stay on top of fast-changing tools and trends.
We are looking forward to using this blog to share our expertise, observations, victories and stumbles. There is so much to learn and so much work to be done!