Creating and Implementing a Purposeful Strategic Plan

with Ashli Grabau, Michelle Murphy

About This Course

Starting with the end in mind, strategic planning is the key to true innovation for any organization. This program will allow attendees to lead a strategic planning process grounded in theory and assessment. This session will emphasize successful implementation strategies to keep the plan alive and the process moving forward. Participants will leave with tools and lessons learned that can be applied to their institution to help transform the vision and direction of programs and services, even in times of limited resources.

In Learning Reconsidered 2, Richard P. Keeling (2006) addresses the importance of strategic planning as “highly contextual; it is sensitive to current expectations, perceptions, and pressures, and to the availability and flow of resources during any given period of time.” In times of limited resources it is critical to evaluate current practices and explore new and enhanced ways of providing programs and services to meet the needs of an ever-changing campus population.  Strategic planning is crucial to leading institutions to new levels of success, where innovation is the key to transforming the student experience.

In building a culture of evidence that impacts student success, student affairs professionals must be able to link planning and assessment at both the macro level of strategic planning and the micro levels of program development and student learning outcomes (Culp & Dungy, 2012).  Therefore, a comprehensive strategic planning process must include intentional assessment and evaluation practices.  One aspect of an in depth strategic plan requires a multifaceted approach in order to fully comprehend the needs of the students and campus stakeholders. An example of a strategic planning process at Mizzou included a CAS self-assessment, but also conducted an internal program audit, campus partners and leadership programs audit, benchmarking study with peer institutions, SWOC analysis and needs assessment.  This process resulted in a three year comprehensive plan that is student-centered. The office is currently in its third and final year of implementing its strategic plan.

Through our presentation we plan to share the key fundamentals of this strategic planning approach grounded in assessment and evaluation; a strategic plan blueprint. In Creating Your Strategic Plan: A Workbook for Public and Nonprofit Organizations, Bryson (2004) outlines an “ABC” model of strategic planning which includes A) figuring out where you are (data gathering and self-assessment), B) figuring out where you want to go (SWOC analysis, needs assessment, synthesizing the data and visioning), and C) figuring how to get there (involving stakeholders, team approach etc.).  This session will provide participants with an understanding of the formation of a successful strategic plan which illustrates the ABC model. By sharing lessons learned and our process, participants will be able to adapt this strategic plan blueprint in order to successfully lead strategic planning in their areas at their respective institutions.

Strategic planning is crucial to leading institutions to new levels of success, however, challenges with navigating the process and implementing the plan can limit that success.  Keeling (2006) further explains “In many colleges and universities, strategic planning has a bad name.  Its legacy is often one of high effort with little return – and, therefore, of low value.”  This session will specifically address how to implement a strategic plan managing the effort needed while at the same time ensuring its value. These strategies include identifying metrics that inform the process and designate success, quarterly review processes, and marketing the plan to name few.  Furthermore, through this session the role of strategic team members as well as stakeholders will be explored as key components of the plan’s success.

It is important to remember “Strategic planning works when it has purpose, focus, and follow-through; when it has a balance of broad participation and effective leadership; and when it reflects a practical vision that links it at once to aspirations and grounded realities (Keeling, 2006).”  It is evident that strategic planning is a unique process because of variations in institutional culture; however, there are key components that can be applied to all institutions that can help to guarantee success.  By sharing lessons learned and our process, participants will be able to adapt these approaches in order to successfully create and implement strategic planning in their areas at their respective institutions. Overall, our goal through this presentation is to demonstrate that effective strategic planning is a necessary component in enhancing the student experience and advancing programs and services in higher education.




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