While the Strategic Plan itself is of critical importance, the process is at least equally important. The development will be:
The Strategic Plan committee representation is even more overarching than the current Strategic Planning Committee, and its composition communicates Schreiner’s commitment to the principles listed above. Therefore, the membership includes:
The President will chair the committee, with the Provost and the Vice President for Administration and Finance serving as Co-chairs.
Strategic Planning Process
The strategic plan development process will begin with a kickoff message where we establish clear guidelines and parameters for the format and content of the final product, and we communicate expectations of the process. This will begin with the President’s “charge” to the Schreiner community to undertake the challenge of creating a new strategic plan to take us to the university’s centennial. This public kickoff will happen at the Convening, and will be a primary part of the President’s program at that event.
On the same day, we will begin in earnest the Strategic Planning Committee process, with a more focused session in what will be the Committee’s initial meeting. This session will serve as an orientation and training for the Committee. New paradigms will be established as to what is meant by Strategic Planning. This discussion will also provide some assurances about the “rules of the game,” including:
The meeting will delineate the timeline, the format and structure of the deliverables, the methodology to be employed, and the tasks and deadlines for completion of the work.
Then, in the weeks following (through mid-October), the Committee will engage in several tasks to establish a foundation for planning. In the broadest sense, these are assessment activities, but they need not start from scratch. Instead, the process will begin by being informed by the work that precedes it, including the Environmental Scan, and the Economic Impact Study, along with the final report from the 2017 Strategic Plan – including existing mission and value statements, and the SACS 5th year report, as well as shortfalls against the current decennial standards.
Much of this information will be provided in the form of a compendium of critical institutional data (Schreiner University Fact Book) to be completed in August 2017, which will include:
These foundation sessions will be conducted much as a seminar course, with a syllabus, with the data compendium as a textbook, and learning objectives. By the end of the foundation sessions, the committee members will be armed with a thorough working knowledge of the data that objectively define current strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.
The Strategic Planning Committee will also be informed of stakeholder perspectives through a series of focus group sessions, organized both within and across constituencies. That is, one focus group might be theme-based, and composed of a combination of students, faculty, administrators, and community members. Another session might engage only faculty, or faculty and students in a variety of topics. In each case, the “rules of engagement” and the objectives of the session will be clearly established at the outset, and the sessions will be facilitated and documented. These focus group sessions will be completed in September, 2017. Although we will also need to vet the Strategic Planning Committee deliverables later (by reviewing them with stakeholder groups and in town hall meetings), these focus groups provide input to the Committee at the front end of the process, and – as the name implies – help to “focus” the Committee’s consideration of ideas and issues. They also serve as a means to increase the visibility and the credibility of the process.
A key component of the Strategic Planning process will be visible and direct Presidential involvement, along with critical communication to all stakeholders – beginning with a Strategic Planning Retreat to be conducted as part the Board of Trustees meeting in October 2017.
Then, informed by that direction, along with the foundation of review and discussion of existing documents, and the compilation of information acquired from focus group sessions, the Committee will to move to the documentation of mission-critical issues and priorities. From these, strategic goals and objectives will emerge. Concurrently, the Committee will identify a sense of logical sequencing of strategic initiatives. It is important in any planning activity to identify both relative importance and relative urgency – and to recognize the difference between the two. It is likely that some of the most critically important strategic goals of the University will not be achieved first. It may be that required resources will need to be allocated or accumulated, or it may be that groundwork must be laid through preparatory actions to ensure the ultimate success of the most critical initiative. In some cases, certain issues simply require a more urgent response than others that – ironically – are more strategically important. The key to effective planning is to consciously recognize both factors. In that way, we may avoid the frustration of stakeholders who otherwise do not understand why the most important goals are not tackled immediately. At the same time, by keeping this dichotomy in our sights, we can avoid the trap of being precluded by the urgent from addressing the important.
It will be important to maintain open and accessible communication with the broader constituency throughout this process. A link will be established on the front page of the Schreiner website to a Strategic Planning digital “newsletter” that is updated at least every two or three weeks. At the same time, we will maintain a continuous stream of news releases on the deliberations of the Committee, and its progress. Concurrently, draft sections of the plan documents will be posted to a Sharepoint site for stakeholder review, and a link established for feedback. The President might also schedule periodic video “chats,” where he introduces strategic topics as they emerge. There is no reason to get to the end of the plan development and either surprise the campus community with its content or be surprised by community reaction. If we maintain an honest dialog throughout the process, “buy-in” is not such an insurmountable task.
It is critical that the vetting process is visible and has integrity. This will involve meetings with individual shared governance organizations (Faculty, SGA), as well as the broader campus community in town hall meetings. In these sessions, we will walk through early drafts of plan components and priorities before they are inextricably woven into the fabric of a complete plan document. We should recognize that dissenting opinions will exist, and – while we need not invalidate the preceding process by abandoning strategic consensus in the face of a small but vocal opposition – we should be willing to examine our findings, and to honestly respond to their opponents. If we adhere to these principles, we will find much greater success in achievement of our strategic goals.
The timeline mapped out for the actual plan development indicates that the bulk of the work will occur between October 2017 and February 2018. We will complete the Strategic Plan in rough draft by Christmas Break, 2017. At that time, it will be submitted to a few “readers” (including the planning consultant) for their review and feedback. Adjustments will be made in January and early February, as needed, and we will commit to delivering a smooth draft plan to the Board in time for the February Board meeting, with the expectation that they will deliberate over it, and give us timely feedback, so that we can make any necessary revisions and get their formal approval and adoption of the Plan at the May 2018 meeting.
To that end, we will append a Strategic Plan Review session to the February Board meeting. We will have the facilitator lead a structured walk through of the draft plan, with various “owners” responsible for illuminating individual sections of the Plan, responding to questions, and capturing feedback. In that way, we can reasonably expect the Trustees to have ownership of the Plan (without requiring the full Board participate in blue sky sessions or succumbing to the trap of becoming overly directive.)
The communication of the approved plan will also be thorough and thoughtfully coordinated. We will hold news conferences and issue press releases. We will meet with city and county leaders, public school leaders, teachers, and counselors in key market areas, the chamber of commerce, a statewide forum of business leaders, key donors, and – of course – the Board of Trustees. The announcement of the completion of the Strategic Plan should serve notice to all our stakeholders that we have identified our path, that we want their support, and that we will share with them the success of its achievements. To those ends, we will communicate clearly our intent and methods of capturing and reporting plan progress on an annual basis.
Linkage with the SACSCOC accreditation Process
While the Strategic Plan development will precede the decennial process for SACSCOC, not only will the SACSCOC requirements follow immediately behind, the two activities are inextricably linked. This is a logical occurrence. Universities are dynamic organizations, and planning must be ongoing and continuous. The accreditation methodology provides an external yardstick for our progress both in establishing planning priorities and in the accomplishment of those goals. The fact that those goals will undoubtedly change over the accreditation lifecycle is not a contradiction; it is a confirmation of the relevance of the continuity of planning and assessment.
The Certification report (due September, 2018) will be informed by both the final reporting of the achievement of the current Strategic Plan (Plan cycle ending May 31, 2017 and the report completed in September, 2017), as well as by the content of the new Centennial Strategic Plan (to be published in smooth draft in February, and approved and formally adopted by the Board of Trustees in May 2018.)
The ongoing effort to improve the budget procedures should be completed, and it should address not only the submission of budgets, but also the improvement of timely and accurate unit-level budget reporting to facilitate responsible and proactive management of current operating budgets. We need to implement a straightforward monthly “dashboard” that informs the Cabinet of current budget status.