Let’s Be…. Strategic

I love a good strategic plan. I made one for my writing, our campus has one, and my department has one.

However, over time I have come to realize that my enjoyment of strategic planning makes me unique. It’s definitely the part-analyst side of me that loves a good goal, strategy, and a tactic.

If you struggle with seeing the value of a strategic plan, hopefully these thoughts will help you understand why I think they are an incredibly valuable tool!

Why I like Strategic Planning

Here are a few reasons that I like for groups I work with to have a strategic plan and for the team to understand that plan.

Strategic planning is a really good roadmap — It can serve to help you and your team focus on the things you need to be doing to support the university’s goals. After all, if you’re spending tons of time on a project, and it isn’t part of your planning document, strategic planning helps you recognize you should either rethink that project or make sure it’s incorporated into your plan. It can also serve as a really good tool to deflect projects or ideas that others might have for you and where they want you to spend time.

Strategic planning helps with tight resources — Let’s be honest, resources are usually pretty tight at college campuses. I’ve been in lots of meetings where I watch people get overwhelmed because they can’t do it all. That’s where strategic planning helps. In a good strategic plan model, you can break down what you’ll buy and how you’ll prioritize key projects. That helps everyone understand the focus and not become overwhelmed at trying to do all the things on such tight dollars or personnel capacity. It’s much easier to focus on a couple of big things each year than on trying to manage a big list of projects and no sense of priority.

Strategic planning is a really good consensus builder — When you have several members on your team, chances are they all may not recognize how the things they do matter to the bigger conversation. Or people may not understand how the work of others contributes to the greater good. Engaging the full team in the process and in the regular review process helps the group to have consensus on how their work matters and how many disparate projects are supporting a larger plan.

Strategic planning helps teams bond — When you pull the team out of the office, and have everyone involved in a day of team-building and planning work, it helps to build trust and bring the full group together. This is something that I have done at both institutions where I have been employed to help the team be part of the process, understand the importance of the work, and collaborate together to draft something incredible.

5 Tips for Positive Planning

Here are five tips that I have for strategic planning based on doing this several times at multiple institutions.

  1. Involve the full team in brainstorming — In order for strategic planning to work well, everyone needs to be part. This can be divided into smaller groups, but everyone needs to “be in the room where it happens.”
  2. Set a norm of no bad ideas — In planning, you want to put all the ideas on the table. Even if it’s a terrible idea or something outside of your area, keep your mouth shut. You want everyone brainstorming because that’s when amazing ideas happen. You can cull out the junk later. This means lots of sticky notes for ideas to be jotted down. Then, have a smaller group take on the task of putting it together.
  3. Break up the work — Strategic planning work is hard and mentally taxing work, so it’s not a bad idea to break up the work over a few different sessions or even a few different days. It’s better to take your time to make sure you get it right than to power through and it not feel right for your group.
  4. Regularly review the plan together — It’s easy to fall into the temptation to have the area’s leadership team review together. However, this is a mistake. Having the full team review is helpful for awareness of what all has occurred. It’s also helpful for everyone to see that a strategic plan is just a plan. Modeling how you should react when things change, timelines need adjusting, or a strategy is no longer relevant will help your team understand this is a guide and it will change.
  5. Remember your people — It’s easy to plan all the things you need to do and the tasks you want to add to help your area achieve its goals. However, remember your human capital in the process. Chances are, you will have the same number of people for these tasks. That means you either need to cut some tasks or explore implementing a plan to add additional staffing to support your initiatives.

Where to Begin

If strategic planning is new to you, that’s okay! There’s no time like the present to get started!

Alaina Weins (founder of Strategy Car) has done some great workshops on helping to map your strategic planning to your organization. I highly recommend starting there if strategic planning is brand new to you.

Also, I’m here to collaborate with you if you want to talk more. Strategic planning is important. Let’s be strategic together.

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