Purpose of Strategic Planning
Most units are already planning, even if there is no formal plan in place, through daily decisions of how to allocate resources, time, effort, etc. The purpose of strategic planning is to provide the opportunity for units to self-reflect and re-energize; to innovate and capitalize on new ideas; and to articulate a path for moving forward. A strategic planning process allows units to make decisions and actions explicit and reflective of unit priorities, to intentionally position the unit to be proactive and competitive, and to more effectively use unit resources towards achieving unit goals proactively rather than reactively. A strong strategic plan connects, aligns, and integrates at all levels through the gathering of input to identify priorities, engagement with constituents and stakeholders, and alignment of unit goals with school and University priorities. A written plan is the culmination of the planning process and is used not only internally to guide the unit but also externally to inform its constituents and stakeholders of its goals and future direction.
Four-Step Strategic Planning Process
The Planning team works closely with units seeking assistance with strategic planning efforts and can provide an array of support and resources. On a very general level, the Planning team helps units get started with a planning process, offers context and insight into the larger University picture, assists units if/when they hit roadblocks, and provides an objective perspective. Specifically, the team can assist units in the following ways: preparing for or responding to recommendations from the institutional Program Review process; facilitating meetings and other types of interactions with key constituents and stakeholders; providing guidance on the activities and exercises associated with the four planning phases; facilitating connections with other relevant units, offices, and resources; and reviewing and providing feedback on draft plans.
Where is the unit now?
In this first phase of the strategic planning process, the unit reviews its current state, gathers information, and analyzes both internal and external data. This assessment is important because it provides a basis for the unit to understand where it is at this point in time which should help provide a clearer picture of where it wants to go in the future. The information is gathered from a variety of resources both internal and external to the unit. Moving through the activities described in this phase allows ample opportunity for constituents and stakeholders to be part of the process, leading to increased transparency and buy-in both in the short-term and the long-term.
The following activities conducted during the ASSESS phase of the strategic planning process can help the unit better understand its current environment: discussing questions to jumpstart strategic planning; conducting a self-study considering inputs from Program Review (if applicable), annual reports, and foundational documents; performing a SWOT analysis; conducting peer benchmarking; and soliciting constituent and stakeholder input through surveys, interviews, and focus groups.
Where does the unit want to be?
In the DEVELOP phase of the strategic planning process, the unit reviews the information gathered through the ASSESS phase to begin building out the eventual contents of the strategic plan. One successful approach involves the unit working through two half-day retreat-style meetings that ultimately result in the framework for the strategic plan. Through the first part of the DEVELOP Phase, the unit digests and synthesizes the constituent and stakeholder input gathered in the ASSESS phase; reviews its mission, vision, and/or values; and prioritizes its activities, programs, and services. In the second part, the unit agrees upon terminology, defines focus areas, and identifies more specific goals that will lead to the accomplishment of the plan, laying the foundation for the development of the focus and structure for the strategic plan. The unit then produces a draft strategic plan that is socialized and shared with constituents and stakeholders for feedback and input. As an end product, the strategic plan is written and finalized.
How is the unit going to get there?
In the EXECUTE phase of the strategic planning process, the unit creates an implementation plan, identifying deliverables, milestones, and responsible parties; determining the necessary support and resources; and creating timelines. This implementation plan, generally for internal use only, describes the actions the unit will take to realize its identified goals/objectives; it provides the roadmap for moving forward and ensures accountability for making the elements of the strategic plan happen. The EXECUTE phase also includes determining metrics and key performance indicators (KPIs), starting with baselines and then establishing targets for future change, growth, improvement, etc. and finally developing measures of success. The metrics and KPIs will actually be monitored and assessed during the MEASURE phase. The unit then officially launches the strategic plan with a visualization and/or physical manifestation of the document and considers publication/promotion of the plan. This promotion generally includes a range of stakeholders and a variety of mechanisms by which the plan will become known to the community. With the implementation plan in place, the work of advancing the strategic goals through the identified action steps begins.
How will the unit know if it is successful?
In this phase, the unit monitors the progress of the implementation of the strategic plan and measures success through the analysis of metrics and key performance indicators. Progress is shared with constituents and stakeholders through visualizations such as dashboards or narratively through reports and other mechanisms. As a final activity, the unit evaluates the entire process, including any external facilitation and support, and refines the process for the next round of planning.
Departments interested in exploring the possibilities for assistance from the Planning team are encouraged to contact Kristi Hubbard, Director of Planning, to discuss the strategic planning request and what assistance the department may need.