What Does Collaborative Strategic Planning Actually Look Like? An Informal Case Study

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If the case study below intrigues you, you can learn the 5-phase Collaborative Strategic Planning process that Anoka Ramsey Community College undertook in Pat Sanaghan's book Strategic Planning: 5 Tough Questions, 5 Proven Answers.

Case Study: Anoka Technical College & Anoka Ramsey Community College
by Andrew Aspaas, Patrick Sanaghan, Donald Lewis, and Kent Hanson

"Collaborative" Strategic Planning (CSP) has a nice ring to it, sounds a little like mom and apple pie, inclusion, and lots of participation. Who wouldn’t want that?

In reality, authentic collaboration is a difficult process for leaders to undertake and do well.

The challenges of conducting a collaborative planning process are many: you can get lost in too much process, where seemingly endless loops of engagement become confusing and exhausting for stakeholders; in an attempt to be inclusive, way too many people are informally involved in the planning effort, with no real ownership for the outcomes; the process can lose focus quickly, or people become overwhelmed by all the data that is gathered, and sense making becomes almost impossible.

In this informal case study we want to show how you can actually conduct a large group collaborative planning meeting with 200+ faculty and ensure the meaningful engagement of all participants.

We were able to manage the challenge of information overload and emerged with a collective “agreement” about the most important strategic themes that would inform our strategic planning process going forward. This particular faculty meeting was part of a 5-phase Collaborative Strategic Planning (CSP) process that the colleges undertook in 2014.

This case study will give you insight into how we carried this out -- and what we learned. In this article, we'll walk you through:

  • Our guiding principles
  • The situation when we started
  • The process we undertook
  • The practical takeaways and lessons learned

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