Strategic plans collecting dust on shelves are as common as they are useless. So are static plans built on a presumption of a predictable future and offering little room for interpretation, innovation and adaptability throughout the organization. In this, I have always agreed with Canadian management professor Henry Mintzberg.
Effective strategic plans assume that the future is intrinsically unpredictable, yet offer a sense of purposeful direction. They are based on an informed assessment of trends and opportunities, organizational strengths and ongoing competitive dynamics, but do not pretend to know what lies around the corner. They provide narratives that invite all members of an organization to partake in shaping the future. They are impressionism, not realism. They provide an engaging picture of the future, a watercolor inviting a community to an inspiring journey. They are living documents, occasionally questioned and refreshed.
The university’s current 2014-2024 strategic plan was the result of an inclusive, year-long process that captured the dreams and concerns of our diverse community. It has served us well so far, as a guide in setting annual goals, as framework to guide capital investment decisions, as language to help us dissect unforeseen problems and make difficult decisions, and, very importantly, as a framework for action for everyone at the University.
This year, I agreed with the Board of Visitors, would be a good time to review our progress and assess whether some of our goals should be updated based on our new reality. In most areas we have significantly more progress than we could have anticipated. In a few, we have found obstacles we did not anticipate. Some of the goals may have been too specific, while others may have been too broad.
At a town hall a couple of weeks ago, working group leaders discussed a revised draft version of the strategic plan that takes into account the accomplishments of the past few years and proposes a set of revised goals. The four working groups are accepting feedback through Dec. 5, in time to present our refreshed plan to the board on Dec. 13th.
I encourage you to be part of the process. You can watch the town hall here: