key transition Challenges
➊ Promote;yourself. make the mental break from your
old job and prepare to take charge in the new one.
col. The vice president’s office should play a central role in
responding to student emergencies and communicating with
students and parents. Be crystal clear about how campus
emergencies are handled and the expectations of the vice
➤;Identify;the;institution’s;priorities. What are the most
pressing institutional priorities—student retention, campus
life, safety and security, health and wellness, research, leadership development, finances, or accreditation? Spend the first
year talking with and listening to academic deans, students,
faculty, board members, and staff to identify the institution’s
top priorities. Make these priorities part of the division’s strategic plan. Position the division as central to helping to resolve
pressing institutional priorities.
➋ Accelerate;your;learning. Climb the learning curve
as fast as you can in your new organization.
➌ Match;strategy;to;situation. Diagnose the organizational situation accurately and clarify its challenges and
➍ Secure;early;wins. Early wins build credibility and
create momentum. In the first few weeks, identify
opportunities to build personal credibility.
➎ Negotiate;success. Figure out how to build a productive working relationship with your new boss and
manage his or her expectations.
➏ Achieve;alignment. Determine whether your organization’s strategy is sound, bring its structure into alignment with its strategy, and develop systems and skill
bases necessary to realize strategic intent.
➐ Build;your;team. Evaluate team members and
perhaps restructure to better meet demands of
➑ Create;coalitions. Build coalitions to influence people
outside your direct line of control. Both internal and
external alliances are necessary to achieve organizational goals.
➒ Keep;your;balance. Work hard to maintain your equilibrium and ability to make good judgments.
In the first year, learn the university and division budget process. Understand how every unit in the division is funded—
student fees; bond funds; or state, private, or grant funding—
and terms and conditions of various funding sources. Become
familiar with debt balances and sources of payment. The budget is the area of highest vulnerability for a new vice president.
Failure to understand how the division is funded could lead to
inappropriate use of funds, overspending, or lost opportunities. Take note of the following budget-related action items:
➤ Request;an;audit. Request the budget office conduct an
audit of the division’s revenues and expenses. Look for irregularities in expenses such as cell phone overuse, travel reimbursements, meals for meetings, office supplies, and technology. When irregularities are discovered, take corrective action
and assign someone to monitor compliance. Do not inherit or
fail to correct inappropriate spending practices of a predecessor. These irregularities now belong to the new vice president.
➤ Conduct;periodic;meetings. Conduct periodic
meetings with the division’s budget personnel to understand
revenues and expenses. Insist the budget staff share everything,
including fees, discretionary money, hidden revenue, informal
agreements, and questionable spending practices. Learn how
student fees are collected, allocated, and accounted. Conduct
these meetings as frequently as needed.
➤;Identify;inequities. Look for positions and departments that are underfunded, and learn the history. If it is an
easy fix, fix it. Otherwise, take the year to explore creative
solutions within the existing budget, or determine whether
additional funds are required. Look for wasteful spending in
non-mission-critical areas, create a plan to reduce or eliminate
that waste, and bolster resources in mission-critical areas.
Before asking for additional resources, be sure available funds
are appropriately utilized.
Source: the First 90 Days: Critical
Success Strategies for New Leaders at
All Levels by;Michael;Watkins;(Harvard
➓ Expedite;everyone. Help everyone in the organization
accelerate their own transitions. the quicker everyone
is up to speed, the more you will help your own
The office is a place to check e-mail and return phone calls.
Get out of the office and be visible on campus. visit the student center, the main administration building, and the library.
Eat in the dining halls. Walk through the residence halls, and
visit every department in the division. Attend meetings of the
faculty senate, staff senate, student government, and board
of trustees. The vice president for student affairs needs to be
highly visible on campus, especially in the first year.