Mission statements and strategic planning

Frederick J. Peabody fpeabody at SUNFLOWR.USD.EDU
Thu May 2 13:47:27 CDT 1996

Very well stated, Harvey.  I agree completely.  Thanks for your
thoughtful contribution.

F.J. Peabody
University of South Dakota

On Thu, 2 May 1996, Harvey E. Ballard, Jr. wrote:

> Since I resumed an academic career after serving in the "conservation
> biology" work force outside of academia for several years, I've concluded
> that we biologists do ourselves a disservice in many ways by not
> approaching the maintenance and development of our scientific programs and
> institutions (such as university-related museums and herbaria) as a
> non-profit business venture.  I'm convinced that museums and herbaria can
> benefit immensely by reevaluating their multiple roles to both the academic
> and non-academic communities (users, one could call them), their current
> and potential programs that contribute to the garnering and dissemination
> of scientific information, and the maintenance of important scientific
> collections and accessory resources.  In this context--I differ with one of
> the comments regarding mission statements recently posted on Taxacom in
> this regard--a concise and somewhat specific mission statement should
> "drive" the remainder of the strategic planning process.  I don't believe
> it's possible or even desirable, given that none of us have complete
> objectivity or can think of all possible, useful angles on a topic all by
> ourselves, to develop "mission statements" or do strategic planning to
> overhaul and reevaluate the purpose, programs, resources and users of a
> museum/herbarium.  I believe it's best done with a small committee of
> professional academic systematists, museum/herbarium staff, other
> curatorial/director staff of outside institutions and some representative
> user groups.  Doing such "visionary" work in a vacuum ensures that the
> university and outsiders have no vested interest in museum/herbarium
> programs.  I think of botanical institutes with their associated museums
> and herbaria in Europe and how these academic institutions are an integral
> part of the community as well as the university.  Like it or not, I believe
> that as scientists in museums and herbaria, we cannot afford to maintain or
> separation from the surrounding academic and non-academic communities any
> longer; by doing so, we promote the idea that we contribute in no tangible
> way to the greater good of the academic and non-academic community of which
> we should be a strong part, and we also cut ourselves off from potential
> sources of political and financial support.  I'm sure it was delightful at
> the turn of the century to be left alone to do research for its own sake,
> with no responsibilities to the greater community.  That's not now.
> Once again, it seems to me more than late enough for museums and herbaria
> (indeed, entire departments) to take--to overuse a distasteful 80's
> buzzword--a "proactive" approach by reevaluating the purpose, programs,
> resources and users of a museum or herbarium, in the context of a
> full-fledged strategic planning process with a committee of insiders and
> outsiders, professionals and users from other agencies.  Only through this
> process will one arrive at a complete picture of what the museum or
> herbarium has to work with, the direction(s) one has decided on both in the
> immediate and long-term, which programs are top priority and which would be
> nice in the ideal world, what resources in personnel, supplies and
> equipment and finances are available and what needs to be fundraised, etc.
> The talents and contributions of personnel (faculty and staff) should also
> be reevaluated in light of the strategic plan as it develops--and that
> often makes people very nervous.  But if the goal is to get a clear idea of
> how a museum/herbarium might not only survive but flourish into the next
> 50-100 years, ALL factors potentially affecting the short- and long-range
> objectives of the institution should be reconsidered.
> That's my two cents--and I'll fundraise for more!
> (Thanks for your patience with my rantings.)
> Harvey Ballard
> --
> Harvey E. Ballard, Jr.
> Department of Botany, University of Wisconsin-Madison
> 132 Birge, 430 Lincoln Drive
> Madison, WI 53706-1381
> phone: (608) 262-2792 (Rm. 161, Herbarium); fax: (608) 262-7509
> e-mail: hballard at students.wisc.edu

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