Making choices, achieving focus

Choices exclude. But they’re also essential in order to reach a position where you have a clear, focussed identity to communicate to your stakeholders.

Focus1b

Added by Anna Myers, March 2011.

The extent to which an organisation has a clear sense of its own identity – ‘we are this, we are not that’ – makes strategic choices more self-evident. This clarity of vision does, however, have a potential down-side: it implies a degree of focus which shuts off certain strategic options and will exclude some segments among the various stakeholder groups (staff, students, partners). Accepting this limitation is justified if the value of the outcomes of this focus exceeds the value of the options foregone. However, such focus requires strength of leadership and is likely to test commitment to the organisation’s identity, as the following examples show.

University X decided that it needed to focus on academic excellence. Over a 2-year period around one third of its academic staff left the institution. Over 5 years it moved at least 20 places up the rankings and its UCAS applications increased by 20%.

University Y decided to close down one area of its science programmes. Applications had been falling and there was a prestigious institution nearby which was the more obvious choice for students of that discipline. At the same time it focussed its resources on the faculty which most represented its core identity. Some people were unhappy at the degree of focus but no-one could argue that the institution isn’t stronger as a result.

Choices exclude. But they’re also essential in order to reach a position where you have a clear, focussed identity to communicate to your stakeholders. Our resources aim to help you to identify the choices you need to make and to provide you with the tools to make those choices and communicate them well.

Here are some comments from people within the HE sector who’ve faced those choices:

"Be wary that some people will have their noses put out of joint, if the focus on certain aspects of the institution is not carefully managed."

“I told my senior management team, we cannot continue to claim that we are excellent at absolutely everything.”

 

Topics: Establishing your distinctiveness.