A Multiphase Framework: Collaborative Strategic Planning
The model being used in UNCP’s current strategic planning process is called Collaborative Strategic Planning (CSP) and was created by Patrick Sanaghan, Ed.D., president of The Sanaghan Group, an organizational consulting firm. It is a multiphase approach for achieving a plan that can be embraced by all university stakeholders. The CSP approach is described in Sanaghan’s book Collaborative Strategic Planning in Higher Education (published in 2009 by The National Association of College and University Business Officers) and in an article written by him called “More hearts and minds at the table” (published in Business Officer Magazine).
Phase I: Getting organized (Establishing the planning task force and focusing on capacity building and organization of the process)
As the 2006-2011 strategic planning cycle came to an end, the Strategic Planning and Resources Council (SPARC) at The University of North Carolina at Pembroke was reorganized to include more faculty involvement. Dr. Kyle Carter, Chancellor, appointed two co-chairs for the council: Dr. Ken Kitts, Provost, and Dr. Mario Paparozzi, Chair, Department of Sociology and Criminal Justice. In the summer of 2011, SPARC members attended a retreat in order to experience the kinds of data-gathering designs they would need to engage with stakeholders.
Phase II: Gathering data and encouraging engagement
The heart of the Collaborative Strategic Planning approach is meaningful engagement of stakeholders throughout the institution. Every SPARC member was assigned to a team whose job it was to gather information from a particular group, e.g., faculty, staff, Board of Trustees, undergraduate students, graduate students, alumni, etc. The guiding principle behind this data-gathering was that every voice included in the process makes the resulting strategic plan stronger.
Phase III: Making sense of the input and reflecting on possible outcomes
Each data-gathering team was asked to review their own data and do some preliminary “coding” or categorization. New teams were then formed around preliminary topics (e.g., People & Communication, Campus & Area, Academics, etc.). These new teams were charged with doing extensive data-mining to determine concepts that emerged across data-gathering sessions, strategies, and stakeholders. Short papers describing each concept were then written by the teams and reviewed by the entire council.
Phase IV: Scheduling the “vision conference”
In the CSP process, a vision conference is held to gather momentum around the ideas that will lead the university into a positive future. The vision conference is a structured and highly interactive one-day meeting involving around 75 stakeholders. About 70% of these are internal stakeholders (including all members of SPARC along with other faculty, students, and administrators) and the other 30%, external (e.g., alumni, business and community leaders, etc.). This combination helps provide the perspectives people need as they think together about the future of the institution. As described by Sanaghan, “[a] vision conference is not an open brainstorming session during which every idea is a good one and participants provide loads of uninformed ideas and opinions. Rather, the session is grounded in institutional realities and quality information (concept papers) and culminates with attendees creating a shared ‘preferred future’ of the institution worthy of their commitment. At the conclusion of the conferences, a vision statement is created that brings together the hopes and aspirations of attendees and helps shape a powerful future for the institution” (“More hearts and minds at the table,” p. 5).
UNCP’s vision conference is scheduled for February 28, 2012.
Phase V: Establishing the “goals conference”
Sometime after the vision conference, SPARC will convene for a full day to create the broad implementation plan for the institution. Other key internal stakeholders will also attend to share their expertise (e.g., representatives from Human Resources, Finance, Physical Plant, etc.). Many of these individuals, along with senior leadership, will be responsible for implementing the strategic plan; therefore, they need to be meaningfully involved in crafting a reality-based implementation plan. At the goals conference, participants use the vision statement to create a set of specific goals for each of the strategic themes identified through the planning process. After the goals have been agreed upon, individuals begin creating action plans for each goal in their respective areas. Specific feedback ensures that all participants have the opportunity to share their advice and ideas in creating the action plans.
At the conclusion of the five phases, the resulting draft action plans will be presented to the president’s cabinet for discussion and review. It may take several more months to produce a detailed implementation plan that identifies resources, accountabilities, and measurable outcomes.