Agile Faculty Manifesto – Quality

This post is part of a summer series looking at the Agile Faculty Manifesto. Read the Manifesto in this series preview post or in Chapter 1 of the book. This post explore what it means to focus on quality.

Agile Faculty value quality of work-life accomplishments over quantity of achievement.

As I write this post, we are a week past Elon’s graduation ceremony and heading into the summer. And also as usual, I’ve been creating, planning, and overthinking my summer productivity goals since early April. My backlog of possible projects has been staring at me for months now. This is common for me. I’m not sure if it comes from a need to see all the projects I could possibly work on, required or not, in one place so I can make better decisions about my time or if it comes from that place inside me that says I must always be working, striving, achieving. Maybe it’s both. Regardless, this preliminary project backlog clearly focuses on a quantity of professional projects. It says nothing about how I value of any of these projects…or about the life part of work-life accomplishments.

I think we each have a tipping point, the point where quality goes down as quantity goes up, and that point is different among faculty*. The Agile Faculty Manifesto includes this point as a reminder that I/we cannot do everything at once, so we must prioritize and, when possible, follow the flow with the projects we value most while still meeting goals and deadlines for projects less in our control. The piece about “work-life accomplishments” is also an intentional reminder that work is part of life and vice versa.

Quality and quantity might be adversaries for many of us, especially if promotion guidelines are unclear. Faculty in arts and humanities disciplines, as well as social scientists who rely on observation-heavy qualitative methods such as ethnography, might less on quantity due to the very nature of their research or artistic products. Those in highly collaborative environments, like labs, might produce more research with more hands to undertake the writing.

This point in the Agile Faculty Manifesto also includes an intentional nod to life quality. I personally have trouble with the phrase “work-life balance” because work is a key part of my life and life impacts my work. In the book, I use the term “work-life integration” instead. Regardless of whether you think in terms of balance, integration, or even alignment, this frame of references will impact your valuing of quality and quantity, which will certainly flex over time during a semester, academic year, careers, etc.

Do you know where your quality/quantity tipping point is? If so, how did you come to that realization? How do you think about the balance between quality and quantity in your work and life? Do you think about work-life balance or integration? How does that impact your approach to your work?

*I recognize I come from a place of privilege as a tenured, full-time, childfree faculty member who has the luxury of not having to teach in the summer. Those of us with this privilege must work to better support our peers without this luxury.

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