In the context of higher education, then, redefining mission statements to reflect this wide range of influences requires a balancing act between the interests of all of the stakeholders involved. This not a static, one-time analysis, either, but requires constant reevaluation to ensure that the educational institution is delivering the type of graduates with the skill set needed in the 21st century workplace. For instance, Berg et al. (2008) emphasize that, "It is out of the complex set of alignments as well as realignments in response to changing conditions, that institutional missions are created and, when necessary, transformed. For example, the goals of the external stakeholders and those of the institution must constantly be realigned" (p. 44).
Properly developed in this fashion, some proponents of mission statements maintain that the payoff is worth the effort. According to Bartkus, Glassman and McAffee, "The aim [of the mission statement] is to publicly declare the purpose, goals, products, markets, and philosophical views of the organization" and even suggest that, "Mission statements can be motivating and inspiring" (p. 23). Although every institution is unique, of course some of the common advantages of developing timely mission statements include the following:
1. They communicate a sense of the organization's direction and purpose;
2. They serve as a control mechanism to keep the organization "on track";
3. They help in making a wide range of day-today decisions; and,
4. They inspire and motivate employees (Bartkus et al., 2008, p. 24).
In reality, it is reasonable to suggest that real-world employees who are actually inspired and motivated by an organization's mission statement are few and far between. Moreover, it is also reasonable to suggest that a mission statement alone will not do much to change employee behavior in any substantive way unless it is matched by corresponding changes in the organizational culture (Bartkus et al., 2008). Notwithstanding this consideration, though, Morphew and Hartley (2008) confirm that mission statements can serve to motivate and inspire, but limit the other benefit of mission statements to the following:
1. Mission statements are instructional. A clear mission helps organizational members distinguish between activities that conform to institutional imperatives and those that do not.
2. Mission statements provide a shared sense of purpose has the capacity to inspire and motivate those within an institution and to communicate its characteristics, values, and history to key external constituents (p. 457)
The danger exists, though, that even the most well-designed and carefully crafted mission statement will be viewed as just so much academic lip service paid to the community and other stakeholders and does not truly reflect the core values and goals of the institution (Bartkus et al., 2008). This point is also made by Morphew and Hartley (2006) who caution, "Mission statements are normative -- they exist because they are expected to exist, much the same way that students expect colleges and universities to award credit in the form of hours and persons inside and outside higher education expect college campuses to include "quads," well-landscaped gardens, and football stadiums" (p. 458).
To help avoid this perception of irrelevancy, Bartkus and her associates suggest that a useful approach to developing a mission statement is to conduct a conventional SWOT analysis to ensure that all of these perspectives are included in the statement development process. According to these authorities, "The mission is to create a 'fit' between available resources and external opportunities. Such a process is undoubtedly beneficial to most firms because it requires that they examine and clarify their operations and goals" (p. 24). Taken together, the several benefits and advantages of crafting a timely mission statement appear to be worth the time and effort that are required, but these same arguments have been applied to the utility of succession planning in higher education and these issues are discussed further below.
The marketplace today is characterized by an environment in which organizations of all types and sizes are faced with opportunities and challenges with respect to their leadership development, most especially succession planning that represents an particularly challenging enterprise given the pace of current baby boomer retirement and a dearth of qualified candidates to replace them (Groves, 2007). Moreover, analysts such as Kleinsorge (2010) argue that time is of the essence in implementing and administering a succession planning program and organizations that wait to do so will fail to fill leadership gaps when the occur in a timely fashion. In this regard, Kleinsorge emphasizes that, "The rapid organizational restructuring required to survive in the global economy strains the capability of succession planning to quickly fill the large number of leadership gaps that are created. Companies do not have the time required by traditional succession planning to close these leadership gaps" (p. 67). Consequently, for-profit organizations have increasingly resorted to a pragmatic solution by taking more aggressive steps in identifying and grooming replacements for their aging leadership cadre in more efficient ways.
Unfortunately, though, many public sector organizations have either been unwilling or unable to plan for leadership succession, a failure that can cause a loss of irreplaceable tacit knowledge and the increased costs that are associated with recruitment and training. Nevertheless, the argument can still be made that the costs associated with any type of human resources-related initiative will receive severe scrutiny from top management, but it would appear that there are some valuable lessons learned from the private sector that can help convince even the most skeptical academician of the value of planning ahead for succession in the executive ranks.
One such lesson is the need to include appropriate leadership development training to help new leaders become effective in their new roles. When people are simply plucked out of one position and thrust into another, they may lack the requisite skills that are needed and their effectiveness -- and morale -- will inevitably suffer as a result. In this regard, Kleinsborg (2008) emphasizes the need to include leadership development as part of a comprehensive approach to succession planning: "New leadership roles are not usually given any training before they begin working in their new role. Traditional succession planning models do not incorporate leadership development and therefore cannot address the knowledge gaps created by frequent restructuring efforts" (p. 67). As calls for accountability and improved governance in institutions of higher education continue to increase, competition for qualified executive candidates will likely increase in ways that detract from its core values of contributing to the community by resorting to cutthroat recruiting methods, also borrowed from the private sector.
Based on this spotty record of effectiveness in the private sector, academic leaders can be forgiven for their lack of enthusiasm for succession planning, perhaps, but some authorities argue that the process deserves reevaluation in view of the numerous positive outcomes that are possible. In this regard, Abdullah, Samah, Jusoff and Isa (2009) report that, "Succession planning has not been a distinct initiative undertaken by educational organization in their strategic planning [but succession planning] has been clearly established in several high profile profit organisations to ensure smooth transition of leadership in their respective departments" (p. 129). Likewise, Bornstein (2010) reports that the need for effective succession planning in institutions of higher education has never been greater for many of the same reasons that apply to the private sector's need. In this regard, Bornstein emphasizes that, "The public holds college and university governing boards accountable for selection and performance of institutions' presidents, and the simple truth is that boards will not find the leaders they need in the coming years without changing how presidents are prepared and selected" (p. 29).
Although the fundamental missions of educational organizations are different from their commercial counterparts, it just makes good business sense in any setting to identify best industry practices and apply these where they are needed but this is where it can get tricky. For example, Dooris, Kelley and Trainer (2002) cite the profound gap between higher educational organizations and their for-profit counterparts to make the point that succession planning as part of a larger strategic plan for action is far different from strategic planning for profit. According to these authorities, "Strategic planning in a college or university occurs in a complex, dynamic, real-world environment. It is difficult to parse out the measurable effects of strategic planning from the influences of such other important factors as institutional leadership, demographic change, fluctuations in state and federal funding, politics, the actions of competing organizations, social and cultural forces, and the like" (p. 9). This observation suggests that in order for succession planning to receive the top-down, ongoing support that is needed in terms of allocation of sufficient resources and the creation of an organizational culture that embraces leadership development, there must be firm commitment from the educational institution's leadership team -- and this may not be forthcoming absent further evidence that there is a real and pressing need. Indeed, as Dooris et al. conclude,…