Changing the Culture: Digital Transformation & Vision Statements
What are the key elements needed for setting an effective vision for using technology?
In all honesty, I do not usually set vision or mission statements for initiatives I work on. I do have a vision of how I think of customer service and support that’s been refined over the years, but for technological directives I do not. I think that’s because my goals are dictated by a strategic plan or by other areas of the university, which then in turn, direct what my team works on, as well as my personal professional development plan and what I work on. It’s not like I don’t believe that vision statements and missions are important, but I think I more often I get wrapped up in the day-to-day “busy-ness” that I end up either not having time or I forget about the reason why I am doing what I’m doing.
What’s in a Vision Statement?
I said earlier that I believe in vision statements, even though I don’t follow them. Why is that? It’s because vision statements bring people together, it creates a connection and purpose in the workplace, it can also identify how we are going to bring the vision into practice. Where I work, we’re not just here to work, but to “engage the culture and change the world.” When I was looking for a university to attend for my undergraduate work, I was on board with that vision statement and still am today. It’s probably why I’ve never left. I feel rooted in this place, and it wouldn’t be possible without a mission and vision statement.
According to Dr. Shelley Kirkpatrick (2008), an effective vision statement includes the following characteristics: “brevity, clarity, abstract and challenging, states the organization’s purpose, future focused, sets a desirable goal, and matches the organization’s success measures.” However, she goes on to write that “there is no proven path that formula exactly which specific combinations of characteristics are required for any given organization” …and that the challenge is to “blend art with science by attempting to follow prescribed, proven rules yet having the insight and creativity to know when to break those rules.”
I think this is one of the reasons why in our day to day lives, we don’t default to using visions statements to guide our work. We know the characteristics of good work, and can go about our daily lives, but without purpose, it’s hard to make change. So, how would you get people onboard with new initiatives, especially technology-based initiatives where technology is more often seen and thought of as a resource, think “pipework” instead of a strategic initiative or direction.
One way I have heard of technology being used as a strategic initiative is in conversations about Digital Transformation (Dx). This is different from using technology to enhance school vision and values. Digital Transformation at its core, is an overhaul of culture, workforce and technology – a metamorphosis if you will, that digitizes information, digitalizes processes, and ultimately digitally transforming an institution. (Reinitz, 2020)
Educause outlines the journal to digital transformation as three phases. The first is to learn what Dx is, the second is to Plan and prepare for Dx and the third is to put the plan in to action. I want to focus on the second phase, which is about planning. This is where a vision for an institution would be set and I think this is where a vision becomes operationalized into strategic direction. There are six recommended steps for designing a Dx strategy. They are in order: Purpose, Context, Impact, Outcomes, Outputs, and Inputs (Educause, Slide 5).
In some ways, I prefer Dx over using technology to strengthen existing vision statements because Dx recognizes the intertwining of life that technology will continue to have in our lives and is meant to transform an institution, not just reinforce or enhance what an institution does well. I don’t think it’s wrong to think of a technology in that way, in fact in the article linked above the author notes that technology needs to be integrated and not seen as an add-on and I think that’s true too. There are times where I think of technology as a tool or resource that helps me complete a task or enhances a process I use at work, but I also think there will be a time when the combination of physical and digital is blurred and that I should be proactive instead of reactive regarding technological enhancements and changes.
I think like Dr. Kirkpatrick wrote in her article about how to build a better vision statement, I too am not sure the right formula. I do know that without a vision and strategic plan in place, that culture and way we do things won’t change…that is, we’ll keep doing the same things, enhancing things, adding tools here and there, but we won’t flip things on their heads until we must.
I know for myself, rather than waiting for a pandemic or some other global issue, I’d prefer to be ahead of the game, so I think a vision statement is needed, so my team can better plan and think about what the future of EdTech will look like on campus. There’s already a Dx initiative in place where I work, and while I’ve
read *cough* skimmed it, I haven’t thought about how my team and the work we do intertwines with the initiative. It is time to set a vision and the best place for me to start is the purpose, the heart of the vision statement and the first step in developing a strategic plan.
Kirkpatrick, S. 2010. Academic Leadership Journal. How to build a better vision statement. https://scholars.fhsu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1231&context=alj
Reinitz, B. 2020. Educause Review. Consider the three D’s when talking about digital transformation. https://er.educause.edu/blogs/2020/6/consider-the-three-ds-when-talking-about-digital-transformation
Educause. A pathway for designing your dx strategy. Presentation. Slide 5. https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/14wTv2P35NZlJsd_tQ2eg0jfqHAnIbtSw/edit#slide=id.p1