Monday, September 22, 2008


No organization, certainly no federation, has engaged in such a serial process of so-called "strategic planning" as has UJC since its formation. Since Howard Rieger's employment, four long years ago, UJC has done not one but two "strategic plans" and, according to Howard's View Friday September 12, UJC is doing another one. This reminds me so much of those Mickey Rooney-Judy Garland musicals of the late 1930"s -- the kids are all sitting around in a barn, bored, with nothing to do, when Mickey yells: "I know, let's do a musical," Judy agrees and they all break into song!! Unfortunately, the outcomes of the Rieger-driven UJC "strategic Plans" have produced no music...and won't.

Shortly after Rieger became CEO, he, Bobby Goldberg and Sonny Plant, z'l, appointed a strategic planning "committee" -- it was a two-person committee as I recall consisting of, who else, Joe Kanfer and Kathy Manning. (Bet you guessed its membership before I typed it.) Now, we never saw that product, if there was any, but I will wager that our own UJC version of Mickey and Judy sat around with Howard and planned...their election as Sonny's and Bobby's successors. So, that was Strategic Plan 1. Strategic Plan 2 was the dictated and dismal Organizational Strategy, promising much, delivering little. That 2007 Strategy by 2008 had morphed into what was characterized by the CEO in his Views as a "Strategic Plan" upon which UJC's last two Budgets have been built -- and has led to the deconstruction of UJC brick by brick.

Now, building on an inarticulate restatement of "UJC's vision, mission and values," typically announced by Rieger in a View, but never processed anywhere within UJC, UJC "...has launched the Strategic Planning Work Group." Its goals are broad but boil down to a diverse group of lay and professional leaders who will create "...a broad consensus system-wide around our role, strategies and vision that will ensure UJC becomes a truly effective and dynamic organization." Fantastic (with emphasis on the "fantasy" part)!! Does the CEO realize that he has announced his retirement? Does any thinking person believe that a new CEO and new Chairs will be any more bound by this Mickey Rooney-Judy Garland exercise than Rieger felt himself bound by the actions taken by his predecessor? In this instance it is as if the UJC Board Chair told the retired CEO: "Sure, you go off in the corner and do your annual strategic planning thing" while we go down the path we've chosen. (Whatever that is.) Buh-bye." This is Alice in Wonderland stuff.

I want to get this straight: Strategic Plan 1 -- disappeared; Strategic Plan 2 -- the Organizational Strategy -- trumpeted to the heavens for two years as the seamless alignment of UJC's functions and directions moving forward, was dictated by UJC leaders without input or even permitted debate before its implementation, will now be succeeded by a "planning process" which "includes four key sub-groups consisting of lay and professional leaders..." and will report out in February 2009, before Rieger is gone and his successor hired. Dysfunction restated and restated again.

Some will ask: what's wrong with a serious strategic planning process? My response would be equally simple: nothing (even though my federation has been driven to unequaled success without a strategic plan, building our success on hard work, commitment. incredible creativity and "extreme" financial resource development), nothing at all. But such a process led by a credible lay and professional leadership working together. If you agree with my premise, then you can only conclude that a lay and professional leadership that, by their acts, have spent their credibility on the tragic deconstruction of UJC are no way capable of planning UJC's future course. That planning can only be led by the next generation of UJC's lay and professional leaders -- let's see them put in place now to lead us forward.

Yet, we will now have, if all goes according to "plan," the third UJC Strategic Plan in five years. This one...this one...unlike the prior two, will assuredly " our Jewish communal future. For details contact UJC's Rob Hyman." OK, this is the one; forget those that have gone before and forget those that will come after. There have been so many examples of dysfunctional management at UJC these past few years, I don't know where to rank this Mickey/Judy effort, but if it's not at the top, it's close.


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