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Business and Policy Areas
Business and Policy Areas

Tips on Integrating Planning and Decision Making

In The Strategic Attitude: Integrating Strategic Planning Into Daily University Worklife, published by NACUBO, author Nathan Dickmeyer offers seven tips on integrating planning and decision making.

  1. Shaping a more strategic attitude is background; action is foreground. The institution’s guidance system should be set to operate in the background. Decisions and action are the here and now. Planning must be the background of work life.
  2. The strategic attitude requires daily sight in many directions: Begin with looking around (environmental scanning); then look inside (capabilities, strengths, weaknesses); then look back (have we moved?); and look ahead (do I clearly know where we are going?). Strategic planning is the formalized set of activities that requires a person to pick his or her head up from the desk and look around at the world, at trends, and at one’s own organization as a whole. Look for trends in the world around, finding a place in the future that fits. Look for trends within the organization and find the evidence for strengths and weaknesses.
  3. Choices, like those found in budget decisions, define foreground activities. What must be evident from strategic thought to assist in making budget decisions (or personnel decisions or site decisions)? Choices result in actions and influence. Actions and influence determine the direction of change within an organization. The choices among alternatives are always made within a framework. The more the framework is uniform among organizational participants, the more quickly the organization will be able to move in the chosen direction.
  4. Evidence of successful linking between background (planning) and foreground (action) comes when each element of the budget makes sense in the context of the strategic direction of the university. A plan is more than a book of sweet words. It presents the framework that makes sense of the choices.
  5. Actions cannot all fit within the university’s strategic context when a plan is reduced to a list of projects. Projects should not be allowed to drive strategies. Strategies must come from a more abstract look at the world around and the world within. Too often organizations become burdened with “solutions”--the things that competitors do, the great ideas that we read. When solutions drive the goals, the goals become trivial.
  6. A healthy organization has many opportunities for nontraditional, but important, roles, like “The Values Czar,” “The Chief Learning Officer,” and “The Strategy Maven.” Universities have always deeply valued the brilliant statement and the status of traditional, respected roles. Unfortunately, the brilliant statement has replaced the idea that is good for the group as a whole, and grasping for respect has replaced respect for the full range of possible roles that are necessary for success.
  7. Technology now allows us to interact on our own schedule. Monitoring the environment--such as changes in pricing, programs, or image among competitors; regulatory changes; and employment opportunities for graduates--can be narrowly assigned to task force members who contribute individually to an e-mail list. The death of the university as we know it—as a community, not just an organization; as participants shaping a joint future, not just passive workers—comes from strangulation by committee. Technology, for once, may save us by giving us strong connections to each other with greater flexibility in time and by giving us greater control over irrelevance.