Developing a Strategic Plan

The Big Picture

Our community colleges are complex organizations that must be able to succeed in constantly changing environments. They must be responsive to a broad range of stakeholders with different interests and needs. So how do we take our colleges in the right direction? And how do we excite everyone we need to help us get there? Strategic planning is about how you get your college from where you are to where you need to be while energizing the people along the journey.

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Take the Long View

Strategic planning takes a long view, setting goals three to five years out. The plan is your roadmap for where your college needs to go, the resources you need to get there, and how you will monitor to stay on the right path. Your strategic plan is the touchpoint for all your college’s other plans. Each year you systematically evaluate performance so you know how well your plan and process are working. And your key to success is engaging stakeholders’ voices, including your students and community, throughout the process.

Bring the Right People to the Table

Every college is different, and your strategic planning needs, timing, and process will be unique. What’s important is that you bring together the right people, base your decisions on data and evidence, make the process transparent and inclusive, and use the Integrated Planning process to guide you.

A Step-by Step Example

The following steps illustrate one possible process for developing a college strategic plan. The steps and resources are there for you to adapt and modify based on your specific situation and needs.

Task StepRelated ASK Resources

Identify key stakeholders

In this step, you engage and give voice to a diversity of stakeholders and other key constituencies, including students, who will bring innovative and creative thinking that sparks strategic planning.

Conduct collaborative inquiry

Using Appreciative Inquiry to get stakeholder input and other data, you identify your college planning needs. You use this to analyze current performance that indicates plan goals and objectives.

Identify goals and objectives

Using inputs, identify your strategic plan goals, objectives, and the structure and resources required to meet them. Look at the big picture to envision how the goals and objectives will create desired results. Logic modeling can help you do this.

Allocate resources

With goals and objectives identified, you make decisions about how resources need to be allocated. Scenario Planning can help you analyze potential factors that might affect resources available to meet your strategic goals.

Task StepRelated ASK Resources

Identify data

In this step, you identify college data to use to support plan development. Planning for Causality can help you think through the process and data needs.

Determine relevant governance

Identify your college governance and any other standards that are relevant to – and might influence – the strategic planning process and the plan itself.

Plan for the unknown

Planning is bringing the future into the present so you can do something about it now. Plan for the unknown and how you’ll react to sudden opportunities and challenges. Scenario Planning can help you analyze the 'what ifs' that might impact the plan.

Plan for implementation, evaluation, and reporting

At the implementation, evaluation and reporting stages, you need to be able to evaluate results achieved and assess how well the process is working. The Program Development and Evaluation document can help you plan for evaluation throughout the process.

Task StepRelated ASK Resources

Determine implementation timeline

With goals and objectives identified, you determine the timeline and how it affects college operations. It is important to give voice to the full range of constituencies who represent operations. They can provide input based on real-world experience.

Determine resource allocation process

During implementation, you’ll need to gather input to determine if the process for resource allocation and prioritization is effectively supporting the strategic planning process.

Task StepRelated ASK Resources

Determine evaluation schedule and methods

In this step, you plan how often to evaluate strategic planning goals and the methods you will use to gather the information.

Determine who will conduct the evaluation

Identify those who are best equipped to implement and monitor the evaluation plan. This role might also require making adjustments in the evaluation process itself, so you get the evaluation results you need throughout the process.

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Determine how evaluation results will be used

Think through how you’ll use evaluation to determine gaps between actual results, and strategic plan goals and objectives. Ask yourself, "How will we handle the gaps?" Then plan the actions you’ll take to address them.

Task StepRelated ASK Resources

Determine how results will be reported

Plan the best way for reporting the results of the strategic planning process. Think about who should know the results, and how you can communicate to them so they easily understand what it means to them.