4 Tips for Implementing Strategy in Higher Education
It’s everyone’s favorite time of year, planning season! For some of you this might strike fear in your heart because you know what that means: endless meetings, huge spreadsheets, and overall frustration with the planning process. It’s been my experience that frustration with a higher education institution’s plan— whether that be a strategic plan, facilities plan, fundraising plan, operational plan, etc.– derives from an overall lack of implementation. There’s nothing more defeating then agreeing to a plan for the start of an academic year, only to look back 12 months later to see that most of it didn’t get done. Well, I’m here today to bring you tidings of great joy. This blog post is dedicated to providing higher education professionals with practical tips and tricks to ensure your strategic plan actually gets done.
Implementation MUST be a priority
I had the pleasure of reading an e-book titled “A Practical Guide to Strategic Planning in Higher Education” by Karen E. Hinton where she dives into the topic of implementation extensively. Karen wrote, “Implementation of a plan becomes a critical exercise in coordination because the institution is a network of divisions and departments that operate as silos and independent actors. A planning process must be successful in taking a strategic view of the organization and weighing the relative demands for resources against the vision of the institution.”
I’ve been exposed to a variety of different verticals during my time at AchieveIt and I can honestly say that Karen is spot on. It’s very rare to industries outside of higher education to operate in such a siloed way to the point where little gets done. The only way to overcome this issue is to get strategic planning buy-in from the top. You need to have your college/university President, Chancellor or Provost publicly state that the implementation plan is a priority and that it’ll be reviewed in a public way at least once a quarter.
Share the results of your plan early and often
If you did an informal poll of your stakeholders, I’d venture to guess they’re frustrated with the fact that they spend so much time on status updates, but they rarely see that information reported out in a meaningful way. You owe it to you and your stakeholders to show them that the time they’re investing in the planning process is important and worth their time. If you’re only reporting your planning results annually, ratchet it up to semi-annual. If you’re updating your plan semi-annually, then move to a quarterly reporting schedule. This shift in frequency will send a strong signal to your stakeholders that the strategic plan is top priority.
Be sure to clearly communicate this shift in update frequency to your organization and show them a sample of what the report will ultimately look like. It sends a powerful message to say that you’ll be making quarterly updates while showing what the output will look like. It’s your job to paint a clear picture of the future to ensure proper buy-in from your stakeholders.
Hold people accountable
So, you’re making quarterly updates now? Great! What happens if a couple of your stakeholders aren’t making their status updates? Hold them accountable. This is definitely a challenging notion because of the nature of strategic planning, but it’s not impossible. At AchieveIt we developed a report that automatically tallies up all the people who haven’t made their status updates. Not only do you know who’s not participating in the implementation process, but you also have a way to meaningfully display this information for your executive stakeholders. Presenting this information helps you in two ways:
- Your leaders will know that they can’t make a decision with the data presented because it’s old and stale.
- The folks who don’t take the time to participate begin to lose social equity with their peers. The fear of losing social equity is a strong emotion that will usually ensure status updates for your plan. The results of your plan are not always in your stakeholders control but providing timely updates most certainly is.
Decide on a software tool to drive implementation
“AchieveIt allows organizations to track their plans in real time. It allows your team to see if they’re executing on what they said they were going to do, see where they’re falling short and pivot on the fly. It also provides a clear look into how the business is performing on a regular basis.”
Using a software tool to help you implement your strategic plan will remove much of the burden associated with creating, tracking, assigning and reporting. You need to decide on a platform that gives you the right amount of flexibility and structure with your strategy implementation.
Check out how AchieveIt’s Execution Insight Platform can help your higher education institution gain both meaningful intelligence on execution and the ability to drive results with it.