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Campus-Wide OKRs

Office of the President

Campus-Wide OKRs

Vincent Boudreau

Dear Colleagues,

I wanted to write to try to help clarify where we are in our various planning processes, and to describe where they are headed. I realize that we now have three separate planning initiatives taking place simultaneously on campus, and I understand that this can be daunting for any organization.  I think that they all fit together and mutually reinforce one another, but wanted to take a moment and describe what I think that looks like.

The three major planning initiatives are 1) The Task Force on the Future of City College; 2) our Middle States accreditation process, which in turn has required a strategic planning process, and 3) the development of a new management process, which you might have heard referred to as OKRs. As I said, I think these all hang together, and here's how:

The Task Force was designed to provide an empirical foundation for assessing risk and value against our budgetary realities.  I initiated the task force on the understanding that we would, as a campus, likely have some tough decisions to make, and I wanted the basis for those decisions to be a matter of public record. At this writing, some of the reports are more or less finished, others are not.  In this latter group, I've asked some to take on new questions, or address follow up inquiries.  Others are now working on issues that cross committee lines, and still others finding their areas of inquiry to simply require more time and deeper examination.

These reports, even those still in progress, are available online for your examination at: https://www.ccny.cuny.edu/presidentsoffice/sub-committee-draft-reports

These have produced (and will continue to produce) interesting results, both in terms of data and recommendations for action.  The Task Force's main role in the complex of planning initiatives is to provide the foundation or activity, and even where the Task Force recommends that we take certain measures (such as, for instance, moving student services in the direction of a One-Stop arrangement) the larger context of the Strategic Plan will give the recommendation a broader situational logic.

Members of the Task Force, and those who have agreed to serve on sub-committees have put in long hours of work trying to develop a picture of the campus that will help us more nimbly navigate the challenges that we face as a college community.  I'm deeply grateful for the work they put in, and will continue to contribute, to our efforts to make CCNY everything is should be.

The Strategic Plan (a necessary component of our Middle States Review) establishes a sequence of goals and priorities, and presents a framework for reaching college-wide, 5-year goals.  The strategic plan is strategic in how it prioritizes work, and establishes the proper sequence for the college to address one goal before others, or another.  It is a plan in the sense that it requires that we think clearly about how we accomplish a goal, working with the resources that we have, and mapping out what steps we think will lead to a goal that we establish for ourselves.  That will mean some real thinking about the reasons we're currently not reaching one of our goals. 

We have some foundation for the strategic plan in the Vision 2022 document, but I've never been fully satisfied that the document presents a strategy or lays out clear plans for how to reach our objective.  Also, I think we need a clearer approach to prioritizing our actions against budgetary realities. I'll be working with a small team to establish the basis for the strategic plan--using data from the Task Force and work already accomplished as a starting point, and then we'll open the process up for comments and bring it through the governance process.

The final planning process centers around a management system that we're adopting on campus, something you maybe heard about in reference to OKRs (meaning Objectives and Key Results). Ideally, the management system would work as a way of implementing the strategic plan.  Annually and quarterly, the college as a whole, and units of the college would set objectives for themselves, and map out the key results (the signposts for progress toward those goals) that we need to make progress towards our goals.  Breaking long term goals into shorter term plans should help us be more strategic, and also undertake whatever course correction we need along the way. We'll have (and I suspect that some of you are already having) some deeper discussion about this; my current purpose is to put it in relationship with the other planning exercises on campus.

Ultimately, OKRs will be the implementing and management methodology for our strategic plan.  In the current absence of a strategic plan, OKRs will serve as our short-term planning device.  In fact, the college wide OKRs for this next year will be written into the strategic plan as the initial steps in our longer-term strategy.  Over the course of the summer, I developed, in consultation with the Cabinet, 5 OKRs that I will use to guide my activity.  They reflect my priorities for the college and the areas where I think early work can produce substantial gains; you will in all likelihood be involved in setting your own such goals, aligning many of them with the college priorities but also developing some that are specific to your area of work.  You can see these OKRs at this link: https://www.ccny.cuny.edu/presidentsoffice.

(As I said, this isn't the place to map out the whole OKR/management strategy that we'll be adopting, and I know that many of you have already been talking through how this will work with your departments and divisions.  I made a fairly crude couple of videos that lays out how we will be using them, and they're up on the CCNY YouTube channel.  You can view them here:

  1. Introducing OKRs -https://youtu.be/BdNF8d3xnks
  2. How to Create an OKR -https://youtu.be/9rumG1qp7IU

So, to summarize:  The Task Force is producing an empirical record, and some recommendations, about where the college stands, including both a clear financial picture that we can all agree on, and information about where we're doing well, where we need and merit further investment, and where we do not. The strategic planning process will lay out a medium-term program for college activity, with some clear priorities and a strategy describing what we need to do in early, middle and later phases of the plan.  Our OKR management system will be a short term stand in for that strategic plan, and will eventually become the implementing, assessment and adjustment vehicle for our plans.

Sincerely,


Vince Boudreau
President