BY MATTHEW TRENT TRAINUM, ED.D.
When is the right time to undergo a new strategic planning process? In the past, this was a (deceptively) straightforward question, even if it didn’t always feel that way. Plans were routinely updated when a new leader arrived, an old plan expired, or accreditation requirements edged closer. Then, our world changed. A global pandemic upended campus work and uprooted long-held conventions, leading to instantaneous survival planning across the country.
At Credo, we talk about six keys to strategic action:
• Clarity on our direction and priorities
• Agility to move strategically and quickly to leverage emerging opportunities
• Alignment of our focus, people, work, and resources
• Accountability with real actions and measures
• Transparency with our stakeholders on all of the above
• Increased revenue, reduced expenses, and improved student outcomes, i.e., that the planning positively impacts key performance indicators
Consider the pandemic through the lens of these six areas. This past year brought possibly the greatest moment of clarity for campuses across the country – we must first keep our community safe and next keep instruction going. Agility and alignment were front-and-center as cross-functional teams formed and moved quickly to achieve those two top goals. Accountability was driven by the calendar and news cycle, which in turn drove transparency to historical highs for many schools. The challenges of student outcomes and revenue were never far from campus members’ minds.
Even with the pandemic still reaching our campuses, those same six areas can be used to audit your campus’s strategy. Consider the questions below through these lenses as you assess your institutional readiness for strategic planning.
Clarity on our direction and priorities
1. As we emerge from the pandemic, do we know what’s most important for us to be doing right now?
2. Does our campus community know and buy-in to these top institutional priorities?
3. Do we spend cabinet meetings talking about strategic possibilities to pursue (or are we still putting out fires)?
Agility to move strategically and quickly to leverage emerging opportunities
4. Are we moving rapidly regarding new needs and possibilities emerging post-pandemic?
5. Are we launching new strategic initiatives, both in academic programs and student success efforts?
6. Are we responding to changes in the higher education environment fast enough?
Alignment of our focus, people, work, and resources
7. Are we institutionalizing pandemic lessons to continue working deeply and collaboratively?
8. Is our return to normal campus operations introducing a reevaluation of organizational structure (or just a return to old business-as-usual)?
9. Are we disproportionately funding our top strategies? Put another way, does our plan redeploy current resources for more strategic purposes?
10. Do all units view each other as equal partners in the success of students and of the institution?
Accountability with real actions and measures
11. Does everyone have a similar picture of what success looks like one year, three years, or five years beyond the pandemic?
12. Is it clear which measures we are monitoring to mark progress?
13. Is the majority of our effort going into initiatives that will move the needle on those measures?
Transparency with our campus stakeholders on all of the above
14. Do strategic messages bookend most campus meetings and presidential statements, messages, and meetings?
15. Are we communicating frequently and meaningfully, and do we show how our accomplishments connect with our goals?
16. Is the community consistently apprised of the rationale for priorities, changes, and progress?
Increased revenue, reduced expenses, and improved student outcomes, i.e., that the planning positively impacts key performance indicators
17. Do we clearly connect new strategic efforts to outcomes that improve student success and the financial condition of the institution?
18. Do the metrics selected accurately represent the financial health of the institution?
19. Do we have strategic initiatives that will actually matter for long-term success?
Planning In Hope
Finally, one last question as we are all navigating uncertainty and still working our hardest to build the future:
20. In this fraught moment, are we positioning strategic planning as a way to rejuvenate campus energy by focusing on possibilities for the future?
How did you find yourself answering these questions? If your campus community is unable to answer most of these questions in the positive, it may be time to revisit your institution’s planning process.
The possibilities are endless. As we seek to graduate tomorrow’s leaders, how are we concurrently building our own institution’s resilient future? Are you ready? Let’s plan together.
If you’d like to learn about what sets the Credo strategic planning process apart, please download your complimentary Strategic Planning & Implementation Guide, including key benefits, outcomes, process milestones, and a Sample Strategy Map based on the Balanced Scorecard.
Did you miss Matt’s original blog 20 Questions for Strategic Planning Readiness? Check it out, and then let Matt know what else you would add for the post-pandemic world.