Colleges, universities, and other organizations are increasingly turning to strategic planning as a tool for determining future direction and building broad-based commitment to goals and strategies.They discover that the planning process helps institutions anticipate the future, respond to opportunities and threats, and increase overall effectiveness and efficiency.Institutions have even transformed themselves from decline to growth conditions as a result of the process.
Our approach to strategic planning uses a seven-step model for examining key issues and developing optimal strategies for institutional strengthening.These include: assessing the mission and services of the organization, identifying probable and possible futures, forecasting external environment trends, assessing resource requirements, identifying strategies, and developing action plans.This model has been refined over a fifteen-year period and implemented in more than twenty-five institutions of higher education.
The process is highly participatory, involving a wide range of institutional representatives and constituents.After a period of preliminary preparation, the planning team is engaged in laying a foundation of research.Next, the external facilitator conducts an intensive planning session designed to capture the best thinking of many participants in a retreat-type setting.This is followed by a period of prioritizing, refining, and preparing the particulars of the final plan.The duration of the planning process may vary from six months to a year or longer.
Having facilitated the strategic planning process for many years, we have found the most important outcomes to include:
• Common understanding of institutional goals and direction
• Compelling interest and motivation for implementing results
• High level confidence in the plan for the future