Keeping Your Division’s Strategic
Priorities Current

Student Data: Man looking at a chart
Member Exclusive

Picture this scenario. Your institution undertook a lengthy and arduous strategic planning effort, to which your division responded with an operational plan, identifying a list of core initiatives intended to help meet the institution's strategic goals.

It is now two years later. Your division's operational plan or action plan sits on a shelf (whether physical or digital). Some of the initiatives were pursued and met with varying success; some were not. Few attempts are made to refer back to that operational plan for your division -- not because the initiatives outlined in it were ill-considered but because the environment and your awareness of what is on the horizon for higher education and for your institution has changed. Much of what was proposed in the plan is no longer relevant to the demands under which you work and the opportunities that are most critical to address.

This is a fairly common scenario, and a symptom of an episodic, reactive approach to planning, in which identifying and resourcing strategic priorities for the division is treated as a completed process once there is a documented plan. Five years later, the process has to be repeated again in order to arrive at a substantially different plan. That is a reality at many institutions, but it is also an inefficient approach that prevents a division from reacting with speed and agility to rapid changes in student demographics, federal and state funding, the regulatory environment, trends in philanthropy, and expectations around the design and delivery of courses -- to name just a few conditions that can impact your institution's ability to stay current and competitive.

But what if the plan were a living document, and the process was ongoing and proactive? What would this look like?

We spoke this week with Pat Sanaghan, president of The Sanaghan Group and author of Collaborative Strategic Planning in Higher Education (NACUBO, 2009), to explore specific steps for achieving just that. Here is what Sanaghan proposes.


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