No matter the sphere nowadays, whether in education or business circles; the phrase ‘Culture of Excellence’ is tossed around as the desired target for our organizations. Doing a quick Google search using that phrase will reveal results such as:
-‘3 key steps for building a culture of excellence’
-‘5 ways a culture of excellence boosts your bottom line’
-‘top 10 factors in creating a culture of excellence’
While pursuing excellence sounds like a good and noble goal, the burning question that should cross our minds is: What excellence are we actually striving for? Excellence generally becomes distilled down to a set of measurable stats that get tracked by upper management and is utilized as both a carrot and a stick. Yet, what if the change we want our organizations to be a part of transcends those confining stats? What then? What if the excellence we press for and seek is not understood by our team or even worst does not advance or align with our purpose?
Too often deeper questions of purpose within our organizations are overlooked in our constant demand to address the issues bearing down upon us. We search for silver bullets and our pursuit of “excellence” is quickly becoming a quick fix, feel-good slogan.
Excellence does not make an organization great; rather, I would contend excellence is one of the fruits of a visionary, outward focused organization. Becoming that organization requires a tenacity that goes beyond striving for excellence. It requires a deep-rooted series of convictions (WHYS), the non-negotiables, that the entire organization buys into.
Next year we will begin an in-depth feedback, review, and updating process of our Blue Valley Agricultural Education program’s five year strategic plan. As we start gearing up for stakeholder conversations, formulating survey materials, and selecting focus groups; our leadership team is trying to keep in mind clearly our core non-negotiables that have arisen through conversations and retreats since our last five year strategic review:
- Prepare and equip all program students with qualities of self-leadership.
- Foster connections within the community through service-learning both inside and outside our classrooms.
- Provide courses and programming that cultivates a dynamic mindset (21st Century Skills) coupled with expansive career exposure for our students.
Program excellence is but one fruit we hope will come from these rooted convictions. We envision that our former students find themselves returning to our communities when they are prepared to settle and raise a family. We desire they bring with them a hunger to invest in our communities, a mindset that was planted and took root in their hearts through our program. These are just a few of visions we hope will come to fruition, years down the road.
In its essence, we intend our program to be a difference-maker for our community.
To do this, we cannot bet on excellence alone. We must strive for more.
As leaders and members in our respective communities/organizations let us see beyond excellence by engaging in a hard look at the convictions that guide us. It is then we can live and act on those with excellence, but if we don’t have a clue as to what we strive for than excellence will simply be another false fruit.
Excellence will speak, only if we find its voice and heart in our shared convictions!