“Mrs. Logan: For some time I have had in mind having some one come to Tuskegee with a view of looking thoroughly through our class room work and reporting on its condition. I have not however up to the present, arranged with any outside person to do this. It occurs to me that perhaps you might be able to take a week or ten days in making this investigation. At the outset I am trying to say that it is very difficult to find person to do such work for the reason that there are such few persons who can entirely separate themselves from the individual whose work she is looking into, such an examination means nothing unless the examiner is strong enough, I might add has a heart hard enough to shut her eyes against everything except facts…I want to know just whether or not we are doing the best work, and the only way to know is to have it thoroughly looked into by an outside person once in a while.”-“March 7, 1895,” Booker T. Washington
Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson
It is often difficult to receive objective and impartial facts regarding functions within a vast organization the size of Tuskegee Institute (University). For all too often-feelings, not facts and functions-are the paramount concern for administrators and employees alike who might not reveal or disclose areas of non-strength within the current institutional environment. All the same, its founding principal and president, Booker T. Washington, employed then in the late 19th century, what is now a common practice in higher education. He brought in an external consultant. Now, external consultants are in abundance, and they hover around institutions seeking to secure contracts for their services. Many of these add immediate value while others not so much. Yet, Mr. Washington did not simply want another consultant seeking proverbial “bread” or salary. Instead, he desired someone who would help him to ascertain in no uncertain terms “just whether or not we are doing the best work…” And such a person would need to be both “strong enough” and “heart hard enough” to provide such an examination without regard to intimate associations with employees within an organization. (How can any external examiner impartially and objectively assess an institution’s on the basis of personal relationships, and feelings as opposed to functions?) Here again, it is the function not the feeling when administering organizational change management, and external reviewers are often used for such purposes. For these external men and women help ensure institutional integrity. And “integrity” is the greatest 9-letter word.
Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.