Friday, June 18, 2010

Admitting Defeat

I need the wisdom of my wise and worldly readers on this one.

It falls somewhere between a political question and an etiquette question.

Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that your campus has identified a few key goals, and that there’s pretty good campuswide agreement on those goals. Let’s say that those key goals have been given a consistently high profile. And let’s say that several different projects have run over the past couple of years in pursuit of those goals.

And just to make life interesting, let’s say that one of those projects just isn’t working. Despite the concerted hard work of many smart and well-intentioned people, it just hasn’t succeeded. And you’re personally identified in many people’s minds with both the goals and the project.

Let’s say that you still think the goals are valid, but you think it’s time to change tactics.

How, exactly, do you communicate that without destroying your own credibility, and/or the credibility of the goals themselves? How do you admit defeat without throwing anybody under the bus, or unduly feeding the cynicism of those who live for that sort of thing?

Put differently, how do you communicate the concept of ‘experiment’ in a way that doesn’t register as flippant or evasive?