20 Questions for Strategic Planning Readiness
When is the right time to undergo a new strategic planning process? Is it when the old plan expires? Or perhaps when a new president arrives? Or should it be when the environment shifts so much that instability forces change?
Deciding on the right time for a new strategic plan isn’t easy. At Credo, we talk about how the "new normal" in higher education requires institutions to double down on the following key areas:
- Clarity to our stakeholders (e.g., students, faculty, board, etc.) on our direction and priorities
- Agility to move strategically and quickly to leverage emerging opportunities
- Alignment of our focus, people, work, and resources
- Accountability to stakeholders
- Transparency with our campus stakeholders
- Increased revenue and reduced expenses through greater effectiveness and efficiency
When we are trying to determine if a campus is ready for strategic planning, these expectations generate 20 questions (more or less) to consider. If your campus community is unable to answer many of these questions in the positive—or is unable to clearly articulate the reasoning behind their answers—it is probably time to update your plan, your communications, or both.
Clarity to our stakeholders on our direction and priorities
- Does our campus community know our top institutional priorities?
- Do we have community buy-in on our most important priorities and initiatives?
- Do we spend team meetings talking about strategic items (versus constantly putting out fires)?
Agility to move strategically and quickly to leverage emerging opportunities
- Are we more proactive than reactive in our operations?
- Are we responding to changes in the higher education environment fast enough?
- Are we set up institutionally to move rapidly regarding new needs and possibilities, both in academic programs and student success efforts?
Alignment of our focus, people, work, and resources
- Do the structures supporting our daily actions and operations pull us closer together around the work that is most important to the institution?
- Do we work to transcend silos and perform interdisciplinary operations in a holistic, integrated manner?
- Do we have many clear examples of successful cross-divisional teams across our campus?
- Do those in academic positions work well with those in student affairs and other student-support services?
- Do all units view each other as equal partners in the success of students and of the institution?
Accountability to stakeholders (students, faculty, board, etc.)
- Does everyone have a similar picture for what success looks like in one year, three years, or five years from now?
- Is it clear what measures we are taking to mark progress?
- Are the majority of our efforts going into initiatives that will move the needle on those measures?
Transparency with our campus stakeholders
- Do we communicate frequently and meaningfully? Do strategic messages bookend most presidential statements, messages, and meetings?
- Are we communicating all that we do, and do we show how our accomplishments connect to each other and to our goals?
- Is the community consistently apprised of the rationale for priorities, changes, and progress?
Increased revenue and reduced expenses through greater effectiveness and efficiency
- Are our plans directly connected to resources? Does our plan redeploy current resources for more strategic purposes?
- Do the metrics selected accurately represent the financial health of the institution?
- Can we clearly connect strategic initiatives to outcomes that improve the financial condition of the institution?
How did you find yourself answering these questions? If you didn't have a clear, resounding "yes" for each question, it may be time to revisit your institution's planning process.
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 Score Card.