Current estimates are that there are roughly 20,000 colleges and universities worldwide. Each renews or refreshes its strategic plan every 3 to five years. That means on average every year there are between 5,000 and 6,667 institutions worldwide that are in the process of reviewing their mission statements and developing a strategic plan. Each faces a daunting task. Each must plan the process of planning (called the plan to plan). Each must inventory, invite, and convene their constituents and engage them in the process. Each must labor over process design; methods used, committee structures, wordsmithing, concept development, and visions. In the end, it will engage thousands of person hours and provoke virtually everyone. In each case just getting the planning work done and fitting it into the everyday routine work plan is a major challenge.
In the meantime, the world continues to evolve rapidly. For example, MOOCs came on the higher education scene achieving levels of scalability never before imagined. Online learning continues to grow, national and state investment in higher education have become strained to the limit, (in the U.S. federal student loans have accumulated to a trillion dollars in debt). As a result the public is demanding more flexible options, higher levels of accountability, greater efficiencies, proof of value of the higher education experience and evidence that outcomes are achieved by learners.
Trying to understand the dynamics of the changing environment while constructing a flawless blueprint for the future (not what the plan is, but we hear planning team participants echo this sentiment frequently) is a daunting mission impossible. One method is to slow down in order to speed up. That means let the leadership team practice. In order for the planning team to more fully understand the fundamental changes and the impacts emanating from the paradigm shift currently underway we recommend the development of a rapid prototype strategic plan. Such a plan is done in preparation for the development of the plan to be enacted.
Prototype Strategic Plan
A rapid prototype helps frames issues, draws contrasts, proposes emerging solutions and recognizes new realities surrounding the emerging global digital learning environment. The approach permits the development of a comprehensive picture that looks and can reach farther into the future. A rapid prototype is developed in a minimum amount of time, with limited resources and provides the maximum in cost to transformational benefit.
This post begins a series that focuses upon the design and development of a Prototype Strategic Plan for an Institution of Higher Education. We recommend developing a forward-looking prototype strategic plan as a means to introduce constituents to the profound changes occurring as a result of a paradigm shift currently underway. Developing a prototype plan, allows planners to frame the future and its implications to the institution in a structured way. The prototype plan then serves as a possible view of the future as a reflective tool prompting deeper dialog.
A planning process is complex, highly political and can be fraught with pitfalls, missteps, and misperceptions. The literature is replete with examples of failure. Leaders recognize that the true value of the planning process is not a plan (sure it is important and must be produced), but in how the process engages the organization and prepares it to address critical challenges and improve performance.
Our prototype sets forth four basic strategies: Change the Paradigm, Focus on Value, Develop Capacity, and Make Everything Count. The series will then take these four strategies and explore how they shape eight tactical plans beginning with the Academic Master Plan.
Over the next few weeks of this Series, we will post more detail on each of the twelve basic elements of a Prototype Strategic Plan. We invite you to engage with us, make suggestions, observations, and add to the concept.