Editorial – Planning to Achieve

Let’s face it. As critical scholars we don’t like the corporate language of achievement and success. We understand the hidden motivations and power structures in play. Witness the Australian popular debates recently with a less-than-gold standard in our country’s Olympic performance in London; before the welcome home parades. On the radio, television, and internet blogs, it seemed everyone had a pet theory on why Australian sports men and women were under-performing. There was plenty of blame to share around and the assumptions were over-bloated within the expectations of the Australian Olympic Team and organisers.

For those few Australians for whom sport is not a sacred cow, the experience was rather nauseating. If only the country cared about the humanities as it did about sport! A few of our members would be very well off indeed, and the rest of us wouldn’t be doing too badly either. However, the public expectation of the history profession would have dramatically increased in such a strange turn of events. And herein, is the clue to our own failings. Perhaps in the rush to be critical of the corporate language of achievement and success, we have not paid attention to the truth in that nauseating cliché: ‘planning to achieve’, or ‘planning to succeed’.

A certain flexibility and serendipity is required for a successful professional career, but so too is the ability to strategically plan. There is no avoiding the fact that we do strategically plan in our work as professional historians. A member is not going to achieve the successful completion of private contract or government project if there is no detailed plan to work-by.  It sound simple today, but it wasn’t so easy to understand in the recent past for many of us.

It was a disgrace that there was no formal training in project or business planning at the former history department during my postgraduate studies. It was ironic that I only picked up these advanced skills in a Vice-Chancellor’s Office, the part of the university that was reducing the flow of resources to the department. Problems are rarely due to just external or just internal factors, and often involve a combination of both. In the last twenty years, as academic historians, graduate historians, and professional historians, we have to share some of the blame for our predicament. In early 1990s, most postgraduate /graduate historians expected to have a future career in the university, and with a few exceptions, we paid little attention to getting a handle of the emerging market, what we then called, “applied history”. Many of us wanted to work as historians but we didn’t know how to plan a niche career, and frankly, the universities failed also to invest in its graduates by not giving them the business training we would need as professional historians.

Now, here’s the rub. As a professional association, we have an extremely valuable asset for ourselves and every member. If things got bad for the humanities twenty years ago, we currently find ourselves in a very constrained market with the state government slashing funding opportunities left and right. It is a very important time to think strategically and the best strategic action is to pull together collaboratively while maintaining good competitive practice. In difficult times we can strengthen our own position in the marketplace by each increasing their participation in the effort to promote and build-up the Association.

Tomorrow, a draft strategic plan for the Professional Historians Association (Queensland) in the coming year, 2012-2013, will be sent to every member. The heart of the plan is asking each member to participate in the work of the Association a little bit more, and at minimum, to have a say in the Strategic Plan and to be willing to profile yourself as a professional historian and a member of our Association. Please give the draft plan your serious consideration. If you have requests for significant additions or other changes, please email the e-bulletin editor (e-bulletin@qldhistorians.org.au) by Wednesday, 12 September 2012.  The membership will be asked to discuss and endorse a final version of the draft at the AGM. This approved version of the Strategic Plan will be drafted and taken to the following Management Committee meeting for its endorsement for publication. The published document will then be sent to all members.

The 2012 Annual General Meeting on the 26 September will be a watershed moment. Have a look at the AGM Notice. Ensure your membership dues are up-to-date. Consider nomination for positions across the Management Committee or volunteering your time and effort in another ways within the Association.