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Volume 3, Issue 4


The Do's and Don'ts of Strategic Planning

Community colleges need robust strategic plans to address future uncertainty, say CASE faculty members.

David Kantor, president of Kantor Consulting Group, recently helped Cuyahoga Community College in Cleveland, Ohio, through its strategic planning process. He and Jennifer Spielvogel, Cuyahoga's vice president of planning and institutional effectiveness, presented at this month's Conference for Community College Advancement on how to create a successful strategic plan. Some of their advice includes:

Do:

  • Lay a foundation of objective analyses.
  • Keep an open mind. Kantor says a plan leader should ask themselves two key questions: "Are you sure that you know what all of the priority strategic issues are?" and "Does your leadership team agree on what the most important strategic issues are?"
  • Address key uncertainties in the market. "External and internal factors combine to determine an organization's strategic issues," Kantor says. For example, Spielvogel notes that Cuyahoga's plan addressed the competition from nearby for-profit institutions.
  • Make choices—be clear about your strategic intent.
  • Develop strategic metrics. "Ensure that measures are clear and the data can eventually be available," Kantor says.
  • Link the plan to other business plans, including your financial plan. Kantor says that a good strategic plan shows how each focus area quantifiably impacts financial plan items such as revenue, infrastructure use and budget efficiency.
  • Lead from the top, but include stakeholders at all levels.

Don't:

  • Hurry. Kantor says the typical strategic planning process will take five to eight months-half of the time used for interviewing people, other data gathering and analysis; and the other half for leadership group meetings and tactical planning.
  • Develop analyses in a vacuum.
  • Succumb to "analysis paralysis." Kantor says that each analysis will generate a long list of "things that are important" to the institution, but he adds that "your strategic plan should [only] address those issues that are of greatest importance."
  • Use modeling to validate your biases. "A combination of qualitative and quantitative information should be used in concert to identify the issues of greatest strategic significance for your organization," Kantor says.
  • Take the path of least resistance.
  • Expect everyone to accept and embrace the recommendations immediately.
  • Allow key individuals to opt out of the process. "Planning requires a significant commitment of the organization's human resources," Kantor says.

Please share your questions and comments with Marc Westenburg via email at mwestenburg@case.org or +1 202 478 5570.

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This article is from the October 2013 issue of the Community College Advancement News.

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