Every college or university in the country has gone through the ritual of producing a strategic plan. For some, the process is repeated every few years. But all too often, the value of the plan in moving an institution forward hardly justifies the time and effort it takes to develop the plan.
There are exceptions, however. Some institutions have developed strategic plans that have enabled them to make rapid and sustained progress, revamping and revitalizing their programs and enhancing their reputations, their enrollments, and their fiscal health.
The plans that do succeed often follow a set of operating principles.
- Promote broad engagement and ownership: Implementing an ambitious plan requires committed participation from faculty and staff. Those who helped to develop the plan will be more committed to its success than those who are asked to implement a plan developed by others.
- Use design criteria to set the direction: Ensure that plans won’t take you in the wrong direction by articulating directional boundaries up front.
- Get the right people on the bus: Planning processes can be sabotaged by senior administrators who have their own agendas. Ensure that your administrative team is fully on board before you begin.
- Create a sense of urgency: Developing and implementing a plan can take forever. Underscore the importance of the plan to your school by insisting that it stay on a fast track.
- Maintain momentum: Major initiatives don’t come to fruition overnight. But without signs of visible progress, attention and support can dissipate. Make sure to celebrate each small victory along the way.
- Expect a long distance race, not a sprint: Along the way, conditions change, mistakes happen, people tire. So nurture participants, acknowledge missteps, welcome new ideas, and keep your eye on the larger goals.