Ethics, Technology, Sustainability, and Social Issues
BTM 7101, Assignment 5
DuBose, Justin Z.
Dr. Joe Direnzo
26 February 2017
A vivid memory I have involves a conference I attended at a very early point in my career. The gentlemen who was speaking to the assembled group was addressing the issue of the unparalleled importance of trust and communication in leadership. In his speech, he uttered a phrase which still echoes in my mind: "The currency of a leader is trust." He then went on to explain that trust, accompanied by clear communication, is of the utmost importance to the leader. As leadership is exercised, necessary decisions will be made which will not be received favorably by certain segments of employees. However, if trust has been established and intentions communicated clearly prior to the decision being carried out, the results will always be more favorable.
As the workplace environment becomes both more global and electronic, these challenges will only be felt more acutely by those individuals in leadership. Added to that is the stress of the workforce metaphorically shrinking as the markets become more global. With this fact in mind, issues of trust and communication will continue to be felt by more and more people, and the impact of individual leaders will only become more concentrated. When these leaders address the members of their organization, every word from their mouths, pens, tablets, or keyboards serves the purpose of informing employees and clients of the "state of thinking" within the organization. (Sarros, 2014) This "state of thinking" not only informs others of the direction in which leadership is headed, but also paints a mental picture for them of the identity and values of the organization itself. This, in turn, will influence their own "state of thinking" about their present and future as a part of the organization. In this sense, communication and trust must be a conscious priority for those in leadership.
Trust in leadership, and the communication of trust on the part of leadership, are vital not just to the bottom-line of the company, but also, and arguably more importantly, to the morale and "buy-in" of its individual members. One author places such a high degree of importance on trust and communication that he refers to it as the "emotional glue...between leader and follower" and, he adds, that the "form and quality of interactions between trusting parties" cannot be overstated. (Savolainen, 2014) It follows, then, that not only the quality of communication must be carefully considered by those in leadership, but also the form of communication, as this also impacts this "emotional glue".
As electronics become increasingly become a part of the workforce, they also become an increasingly relied upon form of communication between leader and follower. Therefore, leaders would be wise to utilize this resource in their communication as a mechanism of building trust between themselves and the organization. For example, an e-leadership survey conducted in 2011 concluded that e-leaders must develop "strong social networking skills, a global multi-cultural mindset, greater sensitivity toward followers' state of mind, and a 24X7 orientation." (Savolainen, 2014) For the modern leader and organization, e-leadership is a concept which must not and cannot be ignored.
The term "e-leadership" is itself an example of how technology has transformed the workplace, and the leader is certainly no exception. More and more workplaces in developed countries are transforming from physical to virtual workplaces which are entirely dependent upon technology. This, in turn, has greatly impacted the daily interaction leaders experienced with their employees in the past. As face-to-face interaction in virtual workplaces vanishes, this ever-important communication between leaders and followers is replaced by digitally formatted interaction which can facilitate the same purposes as those personal interactions. (Savolainen, 2014) In this sense, communication and trust are arguably more integral in e-leadership than in traditional settings as employees and organizations lose much of the personal interaction, which was itself foundational for communication and building trust between leaders, employees, and organizations.
This growing shift toward a virtual workplace also increases the importance of clearly articulated messages from leaders throughout the organization. As workplaces lose such important elements of communication as body language and other forms of non-verbal communication, clearly articulated messages are absolutely essential to building trust. One CEO aptly remarked that leadership is "communicating vision" and getting employees to "accept and adopt it as their own", and getting them to come together to work toward that communicated vision. (Sarros, 2014) The truth of this statement applies just as much to a virtual workplace and to the e-leader as it does to a physical workplace and the traditional leader. In the absence of personal interaction, however, that burden is felt to an even greater degree by the e-leader. Therefore, every word must be carefully measured to ensure that those most basic and essential goals of leadership are met in their digital communication.
While technology presents unique challenges for the e-leader and business, research and studies have proven that certain benefits exist within the digital community as well. One recent study examined the benefits that technology brings to those with weak social connections within the workplace. Their findings indicate that not only is technology beneficial for leaders communicating with these individuals, but also that "frequent online interpersonal communication" has actually demonstrably transformed those connections into strong workplace connections. (Cheng, 2017) In a very real sense, technology can aid the leader in communicating and building trust with their employees and also facilitating communication between the employees to strengthen their own interpersonal communication, both of which benefit the company and its individual members.
For as long as leadership has existed, and for as long as multiple people have needed to come together to work toward a common goal, communication and the building up of trust have been a cornerstone of this leader-follower relationship. In many ways, this truth is only magnified in the world of global economy and virtual workplaces. The term "rock star leadership" addresses this new dynamic of leadership, communication, and trust in a digital world. People are drawn to personable leaders with charismatic personalities, and the importance of communication from these leaders is not only under more of a microscope than ever before, but it also presents unique opportunities to communicate vision, mission, and build trust within an organization.
While in graduate school and enrolled in a class on public speaking, the professor quipped, "When there is a mist in the podium, there is a fog in the pews." This short phrase best encapsulates the importance of clear communication with an aim toward building trust between leaders and followers. Through articulate speech which clearly communicates with the organization and builds trust within its members, the leader is responsible for ensuring that the vision is grasped and owned by the individual members, and that those members are willing to look "beyond self-interest to organizational interest." (Baker, 2016) If the leader himself or herself is unclear on what is being communicated, then it is almost a certainty that those receiving that message will be confused to the point where the intended message is never received or acted upon. When this occurs, not only is communication actually working against the intentions of the leader, but it also serves to possibly destroy trust due to the constant breakdowns in communication.
With technology leading to virtual workplaces, social media, and a variety of means of digital communication, traditional means of communication and trust building are disappearing at an increasing rate. As mentioned above, this places an even greater emphasis on the leader and his or her ability to communicate effectively with those in an organization. The use of technology for the e-leader can be a communication tool which either builds trust within an organization or, if misused, misunderstood, or misappropriated, could prove to be detrimental to the purposes of the leader and the organization. With research indicating that followers are far more likely to model a leader with whom they identify and in whom they trust, the importance of communication and trust from a leader to the members of an organization cannot be overstated. (Baker, 2016) Every leader or aspiring leader of organizations of any size would be wise to continually develop and cultivate these characteristics in light of the demonstrated benefits which they provide.
Baker, S., Mathis, C., Stites-Doe, S., Javadian, G. (2016). The Role of Trust and Communication in Fostering Followers' Self Perceptions as Leaders. Journal of Managerial Issues, 28(3/4), 210-230. Retrieved February 26, 2017.
Cheng, X., Fu, S., de Vreede, G. (2017). Understanding trust influencing factors in social media communication: A qualitative study. International Journal of Information Management, 37(2), 25-35. Retrieved February 26, 2017.
Sarros, J. C., Luca, E., Densten, I., & Santora, J. (2014). Leaders and their use of motivating language. Leadership & Organizational Development Journal, 35(3), 226-240. Retrieved February 26, 2017.
Savolainen, T. (2014). Trust-Building in e-Leadership: A Case Study of Leaders' Challenges and Skills in Technology-Mediated Interaction. Journal of Globa Business Issues, 8(2), 45-56. Retrieved February 26, 2017.
Ethics, Technology, Sustainability, and Social Issues
BTM 7101, Assignment 4
DuBose, Justin Z.
Dr. Joe Direnzo
19 February 2017
Creativity and innovation are two of the most integral characteristics which twenty-first century businesses must embody in order to achieve success in the modern markets. These two characteristics can often make the difference in subsistence and vitality. Corporations, both large and small, are discovering outlets for creativity and innovation through social responsibility and sustainability initiatives. There is a growing correlation between businesses putting the muscle of their resources behind these initiatives and achieving success in ways both tangible and intangible. In the following paragraphs, you will find a recommendation for one social responsibility initiative and one sustainability initiative, how the deployment of technology can assist you in these endeavors, some anticipated challenges associated with these initiatives, and who within the organization should be involved with this project.
Social responsibility and sustainability initiatives fall under the umbrella of corporate social responsibility (CSR). CSR is a growing trend which is continually being embraced by a wider variety of businesses. In fact, CSR "is a priority item on the agenda of almost every business organization." (Babin, 2011) One of the primary factors driving this business priority is "society’s rising demand for corporations to be more environmentally and socially responsible." (Persons, 2012) With this in mind, I would strongly urge you to consider adopting a corporate sustainability initiative. One example of this, which I would recommend for your business, is a sustainability initiative centering around African villages with little or no access to clean water. Your corporation should target a specific village and site to install two clean water wells, and then "engage its employees actively in all of its sustainability initiatives." (Thorpe, 2013) Across the entire organization, from top to bottom, every employee should be actively engaged in the sustainability initiative. This provides the necessary spark which will not only motivate your own employees, but also inspire the local community as well. One business leader, speaking of such sustainability initiatives, said, "we believe that setting a good example is the greatest benefit in that we inspire other organizations, companies and individuals to 'up their game' when it comes to social and environmental responsibility, which in turn encourages further inspiration in the community leading to a more enlightened perspective on how to run ones business or lead one’s life.” (Thorpe, 2013)
In a similar fashion, the adoption of a social responsibility initiative has proven tremendously successful when paired alongside a corporate sustainability initiative. Many companies are donating a portion of their profit to local and national charities and provide a growing presence at local volunteer events. If the recommendation of this "Wells in Africa" sustainability initiative is adopted, then I would urge you to strongly consider donating a portion of your company profits to a reputable non-profit organization which excels in the area of clean water initiatives. Fellow businessmen who oversee companyies of similar size and structure to your own are discovering that adopting such CSR initiatives has attracted clients who "want to work with us because we are focused on a healthier and more productive world." (Thorpe, 2013) Furthermore, these same business leaders are discovering that these initiatives not only have a positive impact on the surrounding community and their clients but also, and, arguably, most importantly, on their existing personnel. In a recent survey of fifty-nine business owners, the results about the benefits of CSR on their own employees were quite impressive. The individual conducting the research noted that, "while each company I interviewed had varying responses for the benefits of CSR and cause marketing for the company, 51 of 59 believe that they have happier employees and 45 of the 59 believe they end up with better employees, either as a result of being able to attract better talent or that the CSR programs help to develop better employees." (Thorpe, 2013)
As for the implementation of these initiatives, a reasonable timeline of anywhere from six to twelve months would be advisable. This provides plenty of time to formulate a workable implementation plan and coordinate approval with the agencies and organizations involved. Additionally, this allows for provisions to be made for what will prove undoubtedly to be the greatest obstacle: the use of technology and appropriate training for technological staffing.
Technology provides you the greatest means of communication and dissemenation of your adopted CSR initiatives. Take, as an example, many of today's most successful Global Information Technology Outsourcing (GITO) companies. Research is proving that most of the world's leading GITO providers are striving to "meet emerging global CSR standards and many have produced elaborate CSR documents that can be downloaded from their Web sites." (Babin, 2011) In other words, the GITO providers of the world are deploying technology to their advantage by making their initiatives – and the degree to which those initiatives are being accomplished – widely distributed, easily accessible, and readily available.
While technology allows for expedited success, greater dissemenation, rapid communication, and increased corporate participation, the implementation of technology with data storage and transmission is accompanied with challenges. When technology is used to store and transmit sensitive data, the need for ethical oversight and operation of the data is paramount. Examples of such data might include the amount given toward a CSR initiative by a given individual, or sensitive communication with clients and donors about the initiatives. In any case, "problems like data security and privacy are more than technical questions or issues of potential liability; they demand that people handling sensitive information have a sense of doing the right thing." (Brooks, 2010) While in some instances, the mishandling of technology and data is not carried out with malicious intent but, rather, is an act of ignorance on the part of the employee, many times the anonymity afforded by technology lends itself to knowingly unethical handling of technology and data. As one author noted, "with computers and networks being so ubiquitous and accessible in today's workplace, the numbers of people who might knowingly perform an inappropriate act with them has grown rapidly." (Brooks, 2010) This fact highlights another recommendation associated with the implementation of CSR initiatives: mandated ethical training for employees who will be handling or overseeing technology within your company. Employees educated and trained in information technology will be highly skilled and competent, and "with the power and the skills to access such large amounts of data comes the need for ethical employees." (Brooks, 2010) Possibly even more concerning, evidence and data suggest that such acute knowledge and technological prowess seem to lend itself to deception. One study concluded that "it appears that the more savvy the population becomes in developing and using technology, the greater the risk that it will be used in a detrimental way against individuals, organizations, or society in general." (Brooks, 2010)
In an international context, China has recently experienced a rise in the frequency of crime regarding willful mishandling of data and technology. Their solution: the implementation of ethics education and training. In Chinese universities "faculty from both Chinese and non-Chinese universities are increasingly recruited to help teach ethics and to give advice on incorporating ethics into existing professional programs; this is especially true in disciplines where recent public scandals have demonstrated a pressing need." (Murphy, 2016) These scandals also highlight an additional, and very practical, challenge for the business in that ethical failures are not simply remedied or resolved with additional training. "While additional training may be appropriate for quality violations, ethical violations often require a different kind of response, including the loss of a job or certification." (Spector, 2016)
If an existing information technology outsourcing company already has ethical training and education that has proven successful, this may be a more advantageous option for the company as opposed to trying to develop your own training. One additional potential benefit of outsourcing information technology is that "buyers and providers who collaborate on CSR initiatives create strong business value in the outsourcing relationship, and create social value for the communities in which they operate." (Babin, 2011)
As discussed, the implementation of CSR initiatives in the form of sustainability and social responsibility initiatives provide tremendous benefits to the company, its employees, the surrounding community, and new clients. The adoption of the above recommended projects in the next six months to one year would create a huge boost in ways tangible and intangible; an increase in profit margin as well as a value-driven corporate culture which results in increased employee morale. The deployment of technology for the purpose of information dissemination, rapid communication, and wider participation will be advantageous as well. However, the risk associated with technology will potentially outweigh the benefit of utilizing its capabilities without also implementing ethical education and training for technological employees.
My recommendation is to take full advantage of these initiatives outlined above. As John G. Taft, great-grandson of President Taft and CEO of RBC Wealth Management-USA stated, "Employees and customers want to work with a company that they respect." (Thorpe, 2013)
Babin, R., Briggs, S., & Nicholson, B. (2011). Emerging Markets Corporate Social Responsibility and Global IT Outsourcing. Communications of the ACM, 54(9), 28-30. Retrieved February 19, 2017.
Brooks, R. (2010). The Development Of A Code Of Ethics: An Online Classroom Approach To Making Connections Between Ethical Foundations And The Challenges Presented By Information Technology. American Journal of Business Education, 3(10), 1-13. Retrieved February 19, 2017.
Murphy, M. J. (2016). Ethics Education in China: Censorship, Technology and the Curriculum. Teaching Ethics, 16(2), 233-241. Retrieved February 19, 2017.
Persons, O. (2012). Incorporating corporate social responsibility and sustainability into a business course: A shared experience. Journal of Education for Business, 87(2), 63-72. Retrieved February 19, 2017.
Spector, M. J. (2016). Ethics in educational technology: Towards a framework for ethical decision making in and for the discipline. Educational Technology Research and Development, 64(5), 1003-1011. Retrieved February 19, 2017.
Thorpe, D. (2013, May 18). Why CSR? The Benefits Of Corporate Social Responsibility Will Move You To Act. Retrieved February 19, 2017, from http://www.forbes.com/sites/devinthorpe/2013/05/18/why-csr-the-benefits-of-corporate-social-responsibility-will-move-you-to-act/#3fb05e775e1c
Examine Trends in Business
BTM 7101, Assignment 3
DuBose, Justin Z.
Dr. Joe Direnzo
12 February 2017
Small businesses constantly face some of the steepest challenges present in the business world. Financial concerns are ever-pressing, but there are also personnel issues, stiff competition in saturated markets, and the dynamic issue of relevance in a changing culture. A recent study of business trends in 2016 affirmed that "big engagement swings by a number of countries and the lack of stability at the individual employee level are just a couple of examples of the volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity that businesses face on a daily basis." (AON Hewitt, 2016) While these are challenges that organizations of any size must confront, they are felt to a much greater degree by small businesses. As small businesses across the country face these same challenges, there are several trends that have surfaced which, if implemented in your business, can help overcome these obstacles. There are three trends in particular that I would suggest your business embrace and, while the implementation of these changes is not devoid of difficulty, committing to them should greatly aid and expedite your success.
Small businesses across the country are increasingly investing in their own employees, and this investment in paying dividends in multiple ways. Firstly, we are discovering that the corporate embrace of this single trend is markedly changing workplace culture in a positive way. These companies, now being identified as "culture-driven companies," demonstrate to their employees that their most valuable and cherished asset is the employee. As one author phrased it, "culture-driven companies explicitly put their people first." (Bersin, 2015) How are companies communicating this value to their employees? Many small businesses are increasingly investing in their people not only in their business practices, but in providing tangible benefits to the employee directly. One business, HubSpot, "gives their staff free books and education and believe[s] so strongly in transparency that they post their board meeting notes and culture manifesto online." (Bersin, 2015)
In implementing this value, one practical concern many businesses have is the financial feasibility of such a trend. This challenge is understandable, given the financial pressure and demands of owning and operating a small business in the volatile markets of today. However, after evaluating these culture-driven companies, "people now believe that culture has a direct impact on financial performance." (Bersin, 2015) In other words, the businesses investing in their employees and workplace culture in this way are experiencing greater employee satisfaction and increased productivity. This, in turn, translates directly to an increase in profits and drop in turnover, lowering the costs of recruiting and training new staff members.
In addition to small businesses investing in their employees and culture, more businesses are inviting employees to have both a voice and a hand in engaging and changing the culture in which they work. As with the aforementioned trend of investing in employees, simply listening to employees and responding with action has produced positive results for the business. This shift in perspective is driving companies to the conclusion that "the way forward to drive productivity and profitability is to re-think the way they lead and manage their people to create a more engaging work experience." (AON Hewitt, 2016) How does one begin to create a more engaging work experience? Trends indicate that this happens at every level of the work experience for the employee, which experts are now labeling as the "total employee experience." Of this experience, one expert clarifies that "everything from the coffee in the coffee machine to the quality of management plays a role." (Bersin, 2015) This changing of culture based upon listening and responding to the total employee experience goes much deeper than simply aiming at making employees "satisfied" or even "happy" with their workplace. Rather, as one study recent study formulated, "the concept of employee engagement is often confused with satisfaction or happiness, however, the true definition is deeper in meaning. Employee engagement is defined as 'the level of an employee's psychological investment in their organization.'" (AON Hewitt, 2016)
One anticipated and expected challenge accompanying this trend is the time commitment involved in changing an entire workplace culture. This must be a commitment where employees routinely experience the act of being listened and responded to. One author equates the execution of this value to muscle memory, or a commitment to such a steady routine of repetition of a motion that it becomes second-nature. "By creating the muscle memory to listen and act, the ability of leaders to hear more and more will evolve into the execution of the organization's desired version of 'continuous listening.'" (AON Hewitt, 2016) This "continuous listening" is not only a long-term habit, but also is only accomplished with consistency and an active encouragement on the part of both managers as well as employees. However, the benefits of a commitment to this value of employees actively engaging and changing workplace culture far outweighs the cost of neglecting it altogether due to the challenge of time commitment. Companies can invest in policy and strategy as much as they are able, but "as the saying goes, 'culture eats strategy for lunch.'" (Bersin, 2015)
A final trend among businesses small and large is the focusing of workplace environments on a particular project or corporate goal. This idea of "nesting" every function of the company within a particular value has proved to be beneficial both to the "bottom line" of companies as well for morale and employee engagement and empowerment. More companies are demonstrating this value in their commitment to environmental causes. For example, PepsiCo Canada is "committed to achieving business and financial success while leaving a positive imprint on society." The company's president is "delivering what [they] call 'performance with purpose.' It's at the heart of every aspect of [their] business.'" (Smyth, 2015) Similarly, L'Oreal has embraced this same idea in its aim "to source 100 percent of renewable raw materials from sustainable sources with a commitment to zero deforestation." (Smyth, 2015)
One challenge that every business faces is the ability to filter its values down to every aspect of the company. While it is easier to have a "token" project or aim, it will not pay the same dividends as truly embracing a value and weaving it into the fabric of the entire organization. Intel, one of the world's largest corporations, demonstrates and encourages this commitment to every individual even down to their pay structures. "To ensure staff participation, Intel's employee bonus and compensation structure is tied to the company's overall environmental performance." (Smyth, 2015) To go with this idea of being an integral part of the company, one author phrased it by saying that "[corporate social responsibility] isn't just becoming part of the CEO and board agenda; it is the CEO and board agenda." (McPherson, 2014) A full embrace of this trend is necessary in order to experience the full benefit of corporate social responsibility at every level of the business.
Additionally, businesses are taking advantage of the benefits or technology in their communication and implementation of each of these trends. Technology, while dynamically evolving and changing at increasing rates, consistently allows for these values to be disseminated and embraced at historic speeds. This allows for business to not only communicate regularly with their employees, but also to improve their overall work experience by granting them access to information and resources geared toward their success and empowerment. The use of technology in this way could greatly counterbalance some of the recent negative trends in business. For example, a 2015 study showed that "employees' net satisfaction with their work experience plummeted 28 percentage points in 2014." (PR, 2015) In particular, "employees'...perceptions about the resources and programs that enable them to grow and perform" was a huge contributing factor to that negative work experience. (PR, 2015) Any use of technology in investing in employees, encouraging their feedback in the business, and communicating corporate social responsibility will only benefit you in the implementation of these trends.
In conclusion, the world of business is wrought with challenges and difficulties, and the world of small business only magnifies those challenges. However, by embracing and implementing these trends – in spite of their own challenges – your small business should begin to see an upward trend in the areas of culture, productivity, and, ultimately, in profits. As employees are invested in, engaged, empowered, and communicated with, their physical, emotional, and psychological commitment to your business will mutually benefit both parties.
AON Hewitt. (n.d.). 2016 Trends In Global Employee Engagement. Retrieved from http://www.modernsurvey.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/2016-Trends-in-Global-Employee-Engagement.pdf
Bersin, J. (2015, March 13). Culture: Why It's The Hottest Topic In Business Today. Retrieved February 13, 2017, from http://www.forbes.com/sites/joshbersin/2015/03/13/culture-why-its-the-hottest-topic-in-business-today/#616eec69b6e2
McPherson, S. (2014, December 31). Eight CSR Trends To Watch Out For in 2015. Retrieved February 13, 2017, from http://www.forbes.com/sites/susanmcpherson/2014/12/31/five-csr-trends-to-watch-out-for-in-2015/#1222293a4d37
PR, N. (2015, June 3). Global Employee Engagement Levels Have Plateaued, and Average Employee's Perception of the Work Experience is Deteriorating. PR Newswire US.
SMYTH, J. (2015). The bottom line: be good. Maclean's, 128(23), 42-48.
Introduction with Professional and Educational Aspirations
BTM 7101, Assignment 2
DuBose, Justin Z.
Dr. Joe Direnzo
5 February 2017
Completing any Doctor of Philosophy program will require not only a significant measure of internal fortitude and resilience, but also a comprehensive plan of action which dictates the course I plan to maintain for the duration of the program. As a new Ph.D. student just beginning my program of study, it will be my endeavor in this paper to define my own course of action to seeing this program through to completion.
The most important part of this planning process is understanding the academic requirements involved in the degree program. As a Ph.D. student pursuing a degree in the field of Organizational Leadership, Northcentral University already has a degree program laid out for me with an anticipated timetable. According to the academic degree plan and the timetable agreed upon with my academic advisor, my degree program is as follows.
Doctoral Studies in Business
January 23, 2017
March 17, 2017
Scholarly Literature Review
March 20, 2017
May 12, 2017
May 15, 2017
July 7, 2017
Building Organizational Capacity
July 10, 2017
September 1, 2017
September 4, 2017
October 27, 2017
Theory & Practice of Organizational Leadership
October 30, 2017
December 22, 2017
December 25, 2017
February 16, 2018
February 19, 2018
April 13, 2018
Qualitative Research Design
April 16, 2018
June 15, 2018
June 18, 2018
August 10, 2018
August 13, 2018
October 5, 2018
Leader as Coach/Consultant
October 8, 2018
November 30, 2018
December 3, 2018
January 25, 2019
January 28, 2019
March 22, 2019
March 25, 2019
May 17, 2019
May 20, 2019
July 12, 2019
Components of the Dissertation
July 15, 2019
September 6, 2019
The Dissertation Proposal
September 9, 2019
November 1, 2019
Institutional Review Board (IRB) and Data Collection
November 4, 2019
December 27, 2019
The Dissertation Manuscript and Defense
December 30, 2019
February 21, 2020
If the circumstances of my own personal and professional life cooperate with the schedule constructed in this timetable, my anticipated completion date for my Ph.D. program is February of 2020. This would make the entire length of my program at just over three years. My own anticipation and expectation is that the above timetable will be strictly maintained until the "PhD-OL Portfolio" and subsequent portions of my program, at which time I will likely stretch the dissertation and defense beyond the anticipated timetable out of necessity.
Between my personal and professional life, there could be numerous obstacles which, if not anticipated, could certainly derail or adversely influence my completion of this program. My wife and I have four young children (ages eight, six, four, and two) who require a tremendous amount of physical and mental energy. Additionally, my wife is currently pursuing a BSN at Western Carolina University, and I am overseeing a church and Christian school. I am also an Army Reserve Chaplain, which occupies at least one weekend per month and two weeks per year. Realistically, I could be deployed at any time, which could dramatically effect the ability to complete the program in a timely manner. Any of these factors could be enough to cast doubt on a realistic program completion plan, and this is without considering other possibilities like illness or other major life events which cannot be foreseen. The cumulative weight of these factors is most definitely enough to consider disruption in the planned course of study to be likely.
The coursework portion of the PhD-OL program is certainly straightforward enough, but the research and construction of the dissertation merits a plan of action in and of itself. Luckily, my current residence is very well situated for academic pursuits at the highest level. I am within one hour of two universities with extensive libraries and within two hours of the "Research Triangle" of Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill, North Carolina, well known for its concentration of research capabilities in such a concentrated area. In particular, Duke University, known as one of the premiere academic institutions in the United States, is also a religious institution, which aligns with my intended focus on religious, non-profit organizations. The resources available at Duke University, along with UNC-Chapel Hill, NC State, UNC-Wilmington, and Coastal Carolina University will provide much of the necessary research required for the composition of a dissertation.
Another significant contributing factor to a realistic program completion plan is the ever-present issue of time management. As a self-employed professional, I have the fortunate benefit of a very flexible schedule. When I was completing my Master's degree, I had the ability to rearrange my working hours to free up one workday per week to focus exclusively on educational pursuits. This flexibility over scheduling and appropriation of time to prioritize education was essential to the completion of my Master's degree and, in similar fashion, this formula will be both necessary and equally applied in my current pursuit of a Doctor of Philosophy degree.
Although this realistic program completion plan was conceptually present in my mind, it was extremely helpful to be required to think through the actual timeline and process of completion. And, more importantly, to construct this timeline on paper to be referred to when needed will be valuable to me as I go through the dissertation coursework. I can anticipate such obstacles as discussed above, but when those obstacles are weighing on my mind in real-time, it is helpful to reflect and have something tangible as a reference point for needed motivation. In my own journey through this PhD-OL at Northcentral, I will continue to look back upon this realistic program completion plan as a benchmark of where I am, where I am going, and the rate of progress, especially in those inevitable seasons of self-doubt or overwhelming fatigue.
NG, LR, & NCU
My collection of personal papers written over the years