MTU will roll out DEIS strategic planning incrementally. Now that the University-wide plan has been finalized, colleges and major administrative units will have the opportunity to develop their own unit-based plans that articulate with the University plan. We will start with specific units, and OVPDI will work with these units to develop effective plans, which will then be used as models by other units. As part of this process, units will be encouraged to share strategies and resources to avoid duplicating efforts. For example, to the degree that colleges and the Graduate School can collaborate on recruiting strategies, we distribute the work and function more effectively.
Units are encouraged to write succinct plans with a focus on data and measures of success. Charts and tables, such as planning templates or RACI charts, are preferred over long narratives, but units may decide to use other presentation types to suit their individual needs. Plans should distinguish between the actions or means units take to achieve outcomes and the outcomes themselves, which are the acid test of success.
OVPDI has developed a DEIS strategic planning toolkit for units to use as they begin the planning process. The toolkit includes the following resources:
- detailed process overview
- further explanation of the seven planning domains
- information on qualitative assessment in strategic planning
- strategic planning frequently asked questions
- SWOT analysis tips and comprehensive guide
- definitions of strategic planning terms
- templates for strategic plans
- example strategic plans
- RACI chart templates
Units can expect this toolkit to be a living resource with additional content currently in development.
Units should have at least one person on their planning team who is familiar with basic strategic planning concepts such as goals, benchmarks, baselines, actions or means, projected outcomes, actual outcomes, and assessment methods. Further, planning teams should include input from all members of the unit, including students, faculty and staff from all levels, and alumni. A senior member of the unit should lead planning. For colleges, this person should be a tenured faculty member.
Strategic plans should prioritize their goals around the planning domains, though not all domains must be included in unit plans. Sometimes quick wins or easily achievable goals should be accomplished first to establish a pattern of success. Even 10-15 goals may be too ambitious for some units. If more than 15 goals are developed, the unit might queue up the three to five most important goals first, deferring some goals until others have been completed. A SWOT analysis identifying strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats can be helpful in determining priorities. Threats cry out for immediate attention, but sometimes focusing on a strength is just as important. Finally, not all unit DEIS activities should be included in strategic planning. Strategic planning is optimal for new initiatives and undertakings where more rigorous assessment is needed. Units may have ongoing DEIS efforts that are best left out of their plans.
Once goals are established, it is useful to step back and ask why progress on current endeavors has been negligible or slow. Strategic planning calls for thoughtful and deliberative approaches, and solutions are frequently not intuitive. Sometimes the best way around the mountain is the long way. For example, gathering perspectives from all stakeholders may be critical to success even if it requires a few more steps. Typical DEIS graduate student or faculty recruiting methods of passive advertising usually yield worse results than a more hands-on approach involving outreach, conversations, and especially memoranda of understanding (MOUs). Also, action items should be as specific as practical. Statements like “conduct workshops” are less effective than “conduct three academic success workshops each semester with at least 15 students in attendance” for gauging the potential impact of an action.
No goal is ever finished until its outcome measures have been assessed. The critical steps are establishing baselines for outcome measures; mapping progress from baselines toward projected outcomes; and, ultimately, comparing final outcomes with projected outcomes. Not all outcomes are easily measured. For example, it may be difficult to gauge how welcoming the climate is for all constituents. Nevertheless, each outcome should have an assessment method, even those outcomes that are not as quantitative as others (such as surveys or focus groups for unit climate).
Sometimes success can be achieved simply by overcoming inertia and taking small steps even if a projected outcome is not attained. Projected outcomes should be aspirational yet attainable. If a projected outcome is not attained, perhaps it was too ambitious or, on the other hand, the actions employed to attain it were insufficient. Both actions and projected outcomes should be evaluated in the next round of strategic planning and perhaps adjusted.
Actions toward implementing the plan should be catalogued throughout the planning period, and assessment of outcomes should be continual. If done well, writing assessment reports can be as simple as filling in the last cells of a planning template. Under the best of circumstances, strategic plans are discussed at every staff meeting, with some time given to updating everyone on progress or handling implementation logistics. Assigning someone as a plan or even goal monitor can be useful to guide the plan or goal through to completion. Five to 10 minutes spent discussing the plan at every unit meeting can translate into time saved when assessment reports are finalized.
The end result of planning is not simply achieving goals but also developing best practices. We define best practices as strategies and actions that demonstrate substantial positive results as revealed by outcome measures. Potential best practices are those that appear theoretically strong but lack data demonstrating success. When best practices can be established for key performance indicators—goals that are most critical to the success of a unit or the institution as a whole—planning has been optimal.