July 11 2017

The recent edition of the Chronicle of Higher Educations's “Presidents Share What Works” surfaces several themes, which we see daily in our strategic planning work—e.g., faculty involvement, transparency, new ideas—but what caught our eye was one of the subtler themes and its implications: strategic planning as an iterative process.

Iteration is the progression toward a closer-to-perfect outcome. It brings with it the necessity of time (as evolution requires), the wiliness to trust others (nothing iterates in a vacuum), and the belief that improvement brings results (iteration is optimistic). These principles surface in the article and play out in the best planning processes.

Strategic planning, after all, is an evolution; more than a single retreat, it is a continual process that requires commitment and collaboration. In the Chronicle, the presidents talk about how buy-in is important (not surprising) but note how they achieve this aim: through an investment of time in actual conversations, inclusive processes, and successive wins, i.e., an iterative process that celebrates involvement and alters the outcome as it goes.

Iteration does not occur in isolation; it feeds on connection. Strategic planning within an institution is not about seeking out and establishing “strategic” relationships to advance insular goals, but fostering real relationships, where the fullness of the community is solicited, valued, and honored. (The realness of these relationships gives them their strategic value, not the other way around.) Lastly, iteration pulls us towards our strengths.

While we at Credo seek to be a catalyst to institutional partners, we know that catalytic reactions only occur with whatever ingredients are already present. Without using the word “authentic,” the authors highlight the power of elevating what is already successful on a campus—take what is strong, honor it, and, in the language of President Cauce, “amplify” it.

These three processes of evolution, inclusion, and elevation are keys to planning and, indeed, to institutional success. The best strategic plans after all do not end with a period (.) but with a blinking cursor, always inviting the next iteration.

Find out how the Credo strategic planning process builds on existing momentum on your campus and creates inclusive, iterative change by visiting our Strategic Planning and Implementation page.

Continue Reading