About a month ago, Georgia Tech AD Mike Bobinski sat down with his Athletic Association’s staff and presented a new Strategic Plan he had worked with them to develop during his time on the Flats, to provide the GTAA with direction moving forward for how to enhance its performance in the classroom, on the field, and beyond. Its mission statement reads "Georgia Tech Athletics inspires and empowers student-athletes to be champions in academics, competition, and life." You can view the 28-page document here.
The Strategic Plan defines four core values: Teamwork, Character, Excellence, and Innovation. Those core values are then applied to several different areas of focus, including Academic Excellence, Competitive Excellence, the Student-Athlete Experience, Culture, and Community. All told, the plan contains 13 goals that range from maintaining optimal academic support structures to developing first-class athletic facilities to ensuring consistency in branding and communication.
The driving idea behind the Strategic Plan is to create more of a collaborative environment where the different teams and coaching staffs within the athletic department work together to achieve a bigger set of goals — something Bobinski said wasn’t the case when he first arrived at Georgia Tech:
"One of the consistent themes was that we were an organization that contained a lot of really hard-working and well-intentioned people who weren't aligned," he said. "There wasn't a recognition that we have an opportunity to be a whole lot better if we work with and for each other, and we weren't leveraging our collective strengths. And the other main areas for improvement were communication and clarity."
Now, there are a few different pieces of all of this that seem like they should be addressed.
How was there no strategic plan or unifying vision in place before?
Obviously this doesn’t fall on Bobinski, but rather on the likes of former Athletic Directors Dan Radakovich and Dave Braine who came before him. While we, as fans, see the athletic department as a lot of sports teams with players and coaches, the AD is called upon to run the department from a business perspective. The AD is required to manage fiances, personnel, facilities, media relations, and several other pieces of the department — not unlike executives at any major company would be called on to do. In a way, each individual sport within the athletics department is like a different department within a company; sure, they all have different functions, but ultimately they should be working together towards common goals. To find out that cooperation between different teams under the same roof is going to be a new focus for the athletic department is very surprising and disappointing to me.
Major credit should be given to Mike Bobinski for recognizing the need for change and doing something about it.
It should be emphasized here that the disappointing piece of this Strategic Plan, to me, is that it’s something new, rather than something that was pre-existing. That said, Bobinski deserves a lot of credit for observing the need for change and working to make a difference. These types of changes figure to help each of the programs around the department as they drive for success, and they also figure to help make each of the student-athletes around the department the best they can be.
For those unaware, a related movement has been started recently and spearheaded by volleyball player London Ackermann called "GTA4A", or "Georgia Tech Athletes for Athletes". The idea is for athletes within different programs to support each other, primarily through attendance at games. That means football players attending softball games, volleyball players and swimmers attending basketball games, and basketball players attending tennis matches. It’s highly likely that this movement is related to the new Strategic Plan at Georgia Tech, and ultimately is a display of how teamwork, collaboration, and supporting each other can make everyone’s experience at the Institute better.
Why did this take three years to develop and install?
Mike Bobinski was hired as Georgia Tech’s eighth-ever director of athletics in January of 2013, and officially took the reins on April 1 of the same year. From that point, it took a little over three years to fully develop and roll out this plan. My question is — why? I mentioned earlier that athletic departments should be run like any other business, and I don’t profess any experience with running any businesses in my life so far. That said, I’ve worked for a few companies (of varying size, between a few hundred and a few thousand employees) that have been able to display more agility in making large-scale organizational changes than what we’ve seen here.
I also understand that, truth be told, this Strategic Plan is heavily based on changing culture within this larger organization -- something that doesn’t change overnight. It requires establishment of buy-in from lots of individuals across various levels of the organization that can then spread to others, which takes lots of time as well.
And yet, my question remains the same — this took three years to develop and release? Even considering the statement within the original article that Bobinski spent his entire first year in an observational role (which feels a little extensive to begin with), I fail to understand how the remainder of the process took over two years to complete. This seems to be an example of something that many Georgia Tech fans have felt over the last year-plus of the Bobinski administration, in that there seems to be a lack of a sense of urgency around the department. In today’s "arms-race" that is collegiate athletics, there’s no time to waste in making changes and improving the state of the program wherever it’s necessary.
Where do we go from here?
It will be interesting to monitor the outcome of this new Strategic Plan. Will facilities be renovated? Will attrition rates change? Will the rising tide lift all of Georgia Tech’s boats? Time will tell. As I mentioned, this change seems to largely be culture-driven, and those changes take a while to really take root — and the results take even longer to see.
That said, the Strategic Plan seems to be a step in the right direction for the Athletic Department on the Flats. Here’s to hoping there are more of those steps in the coming months and years.