Laackman’s Theorem

Laackman’s Theorem states: “80% of the world’s problems are caused by role confusion.” I have yet to be confronted with a problem for which I cannot find a root cause tied to role confusion. Throughout my career, I have striven to clearly define the roles of team members and organizations. I think deeply about the role of Harold Washington College in the lives of our students. The role faculty play with our students and in leading the college, along with the role my administration plays in supporting faculty and students, has guided my actions as President.

I now find myself in a world of potential role confusion. CCC announced that I will serve as the Interim President, Wilbur Wright College, which I will do while retaining my role as President, Harold Washington College. In this blog post, I will attempt to clarify how I plan to fill those roles.

I remain the President of Harold Washington College. During my twenty months at HWC, I have grown to love this institution. I am proud of our accomplishments, thrilled with our faculty, in awe of what our students overcome and achieve, and energized by the changes ahead. I cannot imagine a better job in the world for me. I love HWC and love being its president. I will remain actively engaged at HWC by relying on my senior leadership team to keep me fully informed, handle day-to-day activities as appropriate, and seek my input. Once Wright’s new President is confirmed, I will return to devoting all of my time as President of Harold Washington.

I am honored and happy to accept the added responsibility. And in my discussion with the Chancellor about taking on Wright, I applied Laackman’s Theorem and worked to define my role at Wright College to ensure clarity and success.

CCC is undertaking a search for a new president for Wright. My role is to oversee Wright College until that new President starts. I expect to have two main priorities while serving this role. The first is ensuring that we continue the focus on ensuring every student who ought to graduate does graduate. The second is to oversee the budget process so that the new President has a solid foundation upon which to begin her or his presidency.

I will have a unique opportunity to learn a great deal about another City College. I will observe first-hand what works well at Wright. I will shamelessly borrow good ideas that I can use at HWC, as I will offer ideas of what I think is working at HWC to my Wright colleagues. I anticipate this role will make me a better president of HWC.

The biggest downside is my time. I hope to spend two days a week at each college, holding Fridays (and, if needed, Saturdays and Sundays) in reserve to spend as necessary at either college. I will have to give a few things up, though, for the time being. I like being accessible to people at HWC. People who wander up to the 11th floor sometimes see my door open, and many have taken the opportunity to wander in to chat or ask a question. For the next few months, there will be fewer of those times.

This arrangement also places new demands on the administrators at both HWC and Wright. I thank them in advance for their support and patience as we work together during this time of transition. I will be as responsive as I can be, but I am also setting the expectation that I may not be as responsive as I or they would like.

To the faculty of Wright College, I promise to listen, engage, and be honest. I will tell you what I think it is appropriate for me to take on, and what issues should be deferred until your new President starts. I encourage you to reach out to colleagues at HWC if you want insight into my style and how they have successfully managed me. I will make mistakes, and ask in advance for your understanding.

Setting aside the lack of sleep I expect to endure, this opportunity excites me. I look forward to the challenge, and feel privileged and grateful to have the Chancellor’s trust to take on this role. I am well aware of Wilbur Wright College’s proud history and considerable success. I hope to honor that history, while leaving very light footprints of my own in the sands of Wright’s affairs. One of my core values is stewardship. Stewardship is about leaving an institution better than when you entered it. That is the role I hope to fulfill, in a small way, during this short time of transition.

Published by Don Laackman

Leader with higher education, non-profit and private-sector consulting experience.

4 thoughts on “Laackman’s Theorem

  1. Don, congratulations on your added responsibilities. I believe that you will be highly successful in this new endeavor and will be supported by your Harold Washington staff, your family and friends. And I agree that you will grow in this role and enhance your leadership skills.

  2. President Laackman, although this adds to your responsibilities, it is also due to your leadership virtues. I wish Wright College the best, and Godspeed in your new role there.

  3. Congratulations! I still quote the Laackman theory … we used it just this past week with our favorite client.

    All the best — MK

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