Ep 003 |  Complexity to Clarity: Simplify Your Strategic Plans for Success


Complexity to Clarity: Simplify Your Strategic Plans for Success

August 16, 2023

About this episode

Implementing a strategic plan becomes challenging when it becomes saturated with unstable, impractical, and frustrating initiatives. This situation can lead to negative outcomes, such as diluting the strengths that make your team successful and overextending their efforts.

However, there's a way to change this narrative!

Our guests are Brenda Merritt, the Dean of the Faculty of Health, and Suzie Officer, the Executive Director of Planning and Strategy, both from Dalhousie University. Our in-depth conversation revolves around effective techniques for managing and executing strategic plans. These approaches revolve around maintaining a thoughtful balance between strategic priorities, ensuring feasibility, and generating enthusiasm within teams.

During our discussion, we cover the following points:

  • Recognizing the value of prioritization within the strategic plan
  • Emphasizing the significance of positioning the strategic plan as a collective team effort rather than an individual endeavor
  • Addressing unforeseen challenges and leveraging team collaboration to devise solutions that facilitate seamless plan execution

Guest Intros

Strategy Gap Podcast Guest | Brenda Merritt & Suzie Officer with Dalhousie University

Brenda Merritt & Suzie Officer

Dean and Executive Director of Planning and Strategy - Faculty of Health, Dalhousie University

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Transcript 📝

Jonathan Morgan  [00:00:02]: 

Welcome back, everybody to another episode of the strategy gap. I'm Jonathan. And I'm Joe. And today we have not one but two special guests. Joining us for a fun conversation from all the way from Halifax, Nova Scotia. Very beautiful place if you haven't been there, we have from Dalhousie University, we have Brenda merit, the Dean of the Faculty of Health, and Suzie officer, the executive director of planning and strategy for the faculty in health. So, Brenda, Suzie, welcome to the show. Great to be here. Thank you.

Brenda Merritt and Suzie Officer  [00:00:30]: 

Great to be here. Thank you. Thanks so much for inviting us.

Jonathan Morgan  [00:00:33]: 

Alrighty, so, certainly, listeners we have from all different types of industries, certainly higher education, like the two of you healthcare, government, nonprofits, commercial, everybody plans a little bit differently, their roles are a little bit differently. So, I thought what may be a natural place to start to just talk a little bit briefly about the function of your individual roles, and in particular, the planning within the faculty. So, do you mind just talking a little bit about when we think about planning and strategy within a faculty? What does that mean? And how does it relate to the larger organization strategy and planning?

Brenda Merritt  [00:01:08]: 

I start, so I am the dean of our Faculty of Health here at Dalhousie, and the US have kind of operational and leadership over our faculty. It's one of the second largest faculty here at Dalhousie University, and very diverse, with lots of competing priorities and needs. And, you know, our strategic plan is really those major priorities that keep us moving forward, that keep us current within the pretty much within the health sphere here in Nova Scotia and elsewhere. And it gives us our marching orders, so to speak. So, I'm not sure if that's what you're looking for. But Suzie can speak to her role, which has evolved, it's early.

Suzie Officer  [00:01:59]: 

So, in 2017, we launched our officially our first ever strap plan. And at the time, the dean who was in position, then recognize the value of having somebody oversee the whole plan, rather than having it as one small part of what they were doing. So, the position was created in 2017. And it has certainly evolved. It is strategy and planning, mostly focused on strategy, but also very responsive to what's happening in the world, one of which was COVID. So, the planning part became a bit bigger than the strategy. But we're very pleased to be back in the strategy world going forward, and we're excited with the opportunities we have ahead of us.

Brenda Merritt  [00:02:54]: 

Pause for two seconds, I realized that my desktop over here is making noises. So, I think I might need to just shut it down. Because I don't know if you can hear it.

Jonathan Morgan  [00:03:06]: 

I can't hear if you if you want to shut it down because distracting to you. You're welcome to but

Brenda Merritt  [00:03:10]: 

no, if you can't hear it, I'm happy. It's fine.

Jonathan Morgan  [00:03:13]: 

All right. Well, back in here with a question in that scene and go back in. Great a great explanation. I think from my understanding, it's not even just you’re planning for, you know, traditional education, right. It's a lot of research base and true public health types of priorities. Is that correct?

Brenda Merritt  [00:03:31]: 

Yeah, we do have research priorities mixed with infrastructure and operational priorities, human resource priorities, student priorities. And one thing that strings throughout our plan is equity and inclusion as well. And health equity. So, yeah. But if you like Suzie said, are us working together. We I inherited the last plan. It was very, very large. We, we realized we were tracking over 300 initiatives in that plan. It was very, you know, ambitious. And one Suzie and I got we dug into it a bit; we kept reading things going. I'm not even sure what that means. Nor do we know how to actually track it. Or you know, it felt like you know, the how the wind was blowing one day whether we were doing notable add on certain initiatives. And then trust trying to keep all of those pieces in play was nearly impossible. And a bit frustrating, actually, yeah, yeah.

Suzie Officer  [00:04:44]: 

We're gonna have a lot of the riches already. We lost a lot of the written richness of what we thought we were doing, because we just spread ourselves far too thin. So, it was okay, how if we go forward, do we go forward?

Joe Krause  [00:05:00]: 

I think it's important to riff on that topic, because it's something that I think Jonathan and I have seen with our clients for years is that, and I'd love to get your thoughts on this statement I make a lot into and Hold me, hold me to if you don't agree with it, please tell me that you don't. But sometimes strategic planning, the idea is to get all the right and the best minds in the room to come up with the best ideas. And the hallmark of a good plan and quotes that you can see would be, we're going to get a plan that has the best ideas, and we're going to put it together. But then the, the byproduct of that could be a situation where there are four 300 really good ideas, but to your point, there's no way to get that done. So, do you feel that strategic planning effectively done is equal parts what you're going to do and equal parts? Really having a conversation about what you're not going to do and explaining the tradeoffs? And if so, how will you manage that? Because nobody likes to be told that their idea didn't make the cut? How have you worked through that through your time and making the most recent plan?

Brenda Merritt  [00:05:54]: 

I think with our most recent plan, which is very manageable, and I don't know I, it does literally fit on one piece of paper, one page that we have, how many items do we have now? 67.

Suzie Officer  [00:06:08]: 

So, we're tracking we've got about we've got 80 total, that's 60 is the number that are actually active, that we're physically mentally thoughtfully putting work into the other 20 are labels. I mean, they're all valuable if we need them to guide us. But they're not. They're not the day to day work.

Brenda Merritt  [00:06:29]: 

And I think going through this in Joe, like you said, how did we not put everything into it, it was really prioritizing what was important and what was doable. And the one page plans.ca took us through our strategic planning process, and said, Okay, the next thing you need to be able to do any item you put into this plan, envision being able to do it within one year. So that in and of itself, narrow the scope, because some projects you as you know, go on year after year after year. But what this system allows us to do, it's more of a strategic operating system is where we're at now, where we finish some projects. So now new ones are starting to fill into the plan. So, we finish things they're done, and then new items come in. So even if we did bench a few things, they will surface as we start to accomplish things.

Jonathan Morgan  [00:07:29]: 

Yeah, and I think that's one thing that a lot of people often get a mistake is back to Joe's concept visit, we got to get all the good ideas on the table. But you go back to the you know, the principles of execution. And from a personal standpoint, I'm gonna I'm gonna butcher these numbers, so policies on this, but if you have, you know, five plus things, or seven plus things, you know, your chance of success on all on all of them is like 10%, you know, and then as you whittle that number down, the less you have, well, you're going to actually get them done is that what you felt kind of through this planning process is simplifying the number is to your point, you're not only be more focused on this, but you're actually able to get more done than you would have out of those 300 items, even though it's way less at the total number.

Suzie Officer  [00:08:09]: 

I think absolutely, yeah. I mean, having gone through five years of a 300 item plan, and going through seven months of the ad slash 60 in play plan, that it's like night and day, we are celebrating successes on a weekly basis, not on an annual basis, we're able to bring people in to work on our projects that meet our barometers slash KPIs that we're asking them to attend three or four meetings, not three meetings every month for 12 months. And so, we're buying, you know, our buy in from our colleagues is, is way higher, people are excited. And we were saying, Oh, we've just achieved another two projects. This is awesome. And we did it in three weeks. So, it's much, much more focused. And I have said this repeatedly to our teams and people we speak with our last plan was really, really long on words. And very, very short on detail. This plan is the complete opposite. It's really short on words, but they're words we understand. And it's very long on detail because we can see how we can get there.

Brenda Merritt  [00:09:32]: 

I would just get to St. Joe your question as well. Before Suzie and I decided to go with this kind of structure for our strat plan. We, we looked at a bunch of the university plans and they were those in our previous plan included. So, you know, is those big, big, flashy things where you get done and everybody pat themselves on the back and say Man, look how good we are. Look how brilliant we are. And then the plan sits on the on the on the desk and nothing happens. So going through this plan, I a lot of anxiety thinking, Oh, these aren't the big bold ideas, these are the incremental ideas. And I have to adjust my own frame of reference. Because, you know, you're so used to seeing these big bold plans and big ideas. And these were the incremental things that actually are way more impactful because we're actually getting things done.

Joe Krause  [00:10:27]: 

Yeah, I mean, you had a unique situation for those that we're going to link to these videos I'm referencing, but there, you had a fantastic planning retreat, where you invited all the folks from that are participating in making the plan and you had interviews and testimonials. And somebody on the one of the videos mentioned that they were able to tie their individual goals or their department goals to the overall bigger framework and vision of the organization that connection was there because they were invited to the meeting, and you are facilitating it in a good way. And it's amazing to see then if they feel that way, then all of a sudden, it's not your plan or the university's plan. It's our plan because they can see the reflection in it. Help us understand what steps you took to make that planning retreat a success, because a lot of folks think they want to retreat, and they go about it in a weird way where they don't get a lot out of it. Or maybe it's not as detailed as what you were able to do. Because you walked out of it over the course of time with a plan that could fit on one page. Everyone excited, I think the term I heard was that the talent and passion in the room can be felt. That's not normal. That's not what we normally see. So how do you how do you what, what tips and tricks can you give to our listeners to talk about how you were successful with that? Because it was really beautiful to say,

Brenda Merritt  [00:11:43]: 

Oh, that's a that's a really tough question. I think part of it was the facilitation facilitator we used really brought people together. But I think we set up the expectation, this isn't my plan. This is our plan, and we need your input. And it was not a top down kind of approach. It was collaborative, we need the ideas, we need to see where the priorities are. And what was kind of stunning to me is we had these, you know, small group breakouts. And then then we came back to report. And there were the common themes that were coming out of all of those groups, you would have thought we were all sitting in the same room together. So, it very quickly kind of resonated with what the priorities would be. I that partly that's the facilitation process. But I think it's also our evolution as a faculty and coming together.

Suzie Officer  [00:12:38]: 

Yeah, no, I agree. Brenda's said, absolutely. I think we were at a place, and I like the kind of the evolution the growing up, the faculty has done, that we're actually more aware of who we are, and what our priorities actually are. So instead of angering all those brilliant minds, putting down every brilliant idea, it was like, where do we actually really need to be. And we were it was, it was stunning for the groups to get back together. And recognize, wow, we've almost used the same words to describe what we think we need to be doing. And it was an amazing process and a huge difference between our previous plan and this one. And again, because of the way that it's structured in the facilitation, our old plan we took, I don't know, eight to nine months to develop it. And then we took a year off to work out what our measures weren't, what our KPIs were going to look like, and how we were going to implement this. Brenda had a first conversation with one page plan facilitation group in June of last June last year. In September, we launched our planning sessions. And on January the 12th, we released it to our community, all of our community, it was internal people, external people. And on the 13th, we started work.

Brenda Merritt  [00:14:20]: 

And kind of reference our faculties at Dalhousie usually take upwards of a year or more just to get their plan in place a year consultation and yeah, we’re really in the consultation phase was October / November and we had a plan to review this early December Yeah, yeah, it was we got we got through

Jonathan Morgan  [00:14:46]: 

Yeah, and it's one of those things where you know, I both listening to it. I know talking about it seems like Wow, a year is so long, but that's the norm like that's what a lot of people do. I don't think you can go through a trend. This formative process to reduce the number of items in your plan to reduce that timeframe until you've experienced that other side of it and understanding what maybe worked or didn't work from before, and what works and will work even better in this new process. So, thanks, certainly for a lot of people listening, they've been in your shoes, they've done this sort of thing. They'd like to go to this quicker process, and maybe dive into some questions related to that process. And one thing I know a lot of people think of is when you kick off this planning retreat, and you have to understand, you know, maybe we're going from this plan that was created behind closed doors, and now having this planning meeting with a lot of people involved, how do you even decide who is invited to that, and who participates and who doesn't participate?

Brenda Merritt  [00:15:43]: 

That was the first session we did with one page plans was just developing the roadmap. It was a daylong session just to work through who the stakeholders were. And there's a ladder of involvement, a lot of you know, who are the folks that are decision makers? Who are those that have input? I don't have it memorized, but it was all based on that. And then each engagement session was predesigned based on that, that, that engaged that ladder of involvement. And yeah, so it ended up being our internal folks at Dow some of the leadership, also government, but the core group was our office here. Yeah. Yeah.

Suzie Officer  [00:16:31]: 

Because we are the smartest in the room.

Brenda Merritt  [00:16:37]: 

I mean, the latter ones were, well, who's going to actually be doing the plan? We need them in the room? Yeah. For the final?

Joe Krause  [00:16:44]: 

Yeah. So, I think we've all seen that we've seen when you invite too few people, what happens. And then if you invite too many people, what happens, and that sweet spot is in the middle. And it sounds like you spent a considerable amount of time coming up with that, that list. And the reason I bring that up is that's a good tip for our listeners is that take the extra week it takes potentially, to get that list, right? Because there is a sweet spot, in right in the middle too little, you're gonna have a plan that isn't reflective of all the great ideas and too many people, a lot of them are not going to get all their ideas in and they're going to feel upset, like well, why did I even participate? None of my ideas made it anyway. That middle ground is good and sounds easy. But it is one of the most difficult parts of planning retreats. And it sounds like you toe the line nicely there. So, I just wanted to put an exclamation mark on that for our listeners, because that is so critical. Because a planning retreat is usually pretty costly, takes time from a, you know, to get it set up properly to actually facilitate it and all that. So, to spend the extra little bit of time on it is something that people omit. And I think we're hearing that it's something that they should maybe take a second look at, which is great.

Brenda Merritt  [00:17:51]: 

And we can't take credit for the design. We can only take credit for being engaged. But yeah, it really did work out well, though. I will say, yeah.

Jonathan Morgan  [00:18:01]: 

Yeah. And I think we've been mostly talking about all the things that went well with this what was one of the maybe more challenging aspects of this new process? I'm sure there were plenty. But what was the challenging that you maybe didn't expect to run into that others should think about as they go under this transformation?

Brenda Merritt  [00:18:19]: 

Well, boy, that's a really good question. So, in some of the engagement, there was no zero no wordsmithing. And not everybody's going to be 100%. Happy with the words. But the overall theme or content of the words is what we were looking for. But there were people that wanted to wordsmith and have these long flowing sentences that ended up not meaning anything or that. Yeah, so I think that was hard. As the first time being a leader taking a group through a strategic planning process, there was constant reflection on my part, oh, my gosh, am I doing the right thing? Is this the right? But I and I would talk to Suzie, and I would talk to our facilitator, this is what I'm feeling. And I think that it was really helpful just to kind of be honest with myself around that. But wordsmithing was one, one thing, and towards the end of the planning, the groups got smaller. So, there could have been people thinking, why aren't I in the room? Because I have to say, but what we did was appropriate,

Suzie Officer  [00:19:30]: 

I think, yeah, I agree. And, you know, it was trying to break that mold that, you know, traditionalists, this is how you do a strap plan. And this is, this is not how you do a strap plan. It actually is and it's the way forward. And I think, you know, we have learned such valuable lessons, but trying to get people who are more comfortable with that. We take forever. We involve everybody in them. Rather, it was like no, no, this is a different way of thinking. This is an operating system. This isn't a nice book on our on the shelf. This is this is a system that is so nimble and flexible. That yeah, we realized within a couple of weeks, a couple of our measures were a couple of our projects were off. They're not, they're not going to work. So, we know that we can change. We're not caught up in this thing. It's like, No, we have to change this because we're going off in completely wrong times. And if we, if we don't, so.

Jonathan Morgan  [00:20:42]: 

Yeah. And I think probably the natural side of that is imagine you experiences in higher education a lot of other universities do as well as government entities is, it's not just an internal team document, right, your most time you're posting on your website, so that future students or alumna, or whoever else may be involved with the university, or in other cases, the town, or the city. They need, they want to understand what's going on. And so, you have that natural instinct to want to make it look good to the public versus saying no, no, it doesn't matter really, what it looks good to the public, it matters, what we actually can get done and what we can improve for those that are looking at it.

Suzie Officer  [00:21:23]: 

I think one really important part of the whole facilitation in the sessions to get the input was inviting some of our government, government partners and our health authorities who we rely on hugely for educating our students through clinical placements, many, many other things. We actually had sessions with some of the leadership there. And they were they were, I don't know, freeing for us and for them, because we were saying we're actually all trying to get to the same place. And this is an opportunity for us to understand what our what our issues are in each of our organizations. And I think that probably it was, I don't know, an hour or two hours, probably some of the best two hour sessions that I've ever attended for understanding and relationship building. And it continues now because these folks were involved afterwards. And they know what we're doing. And they're like, oh, yeah, I know what you're talking about. We're supporting you here, which is a fantastic buying.

Joe Krause  [00:22:38]: 

It's the old book, How to Make Friends and Influence People. Dale Carnegie, you know, he talks about, people just want to feel like they're part of the conversation like they even if it's a two hour session, and they're not going to be invited back every week to help with the plan. The fact that they were invited the fact that you listen, it was a dialogue, not a monologue goes such a long way. Because many times people are so used to being monologue that and then here's our plan. And here's what we're going to do versus what do you think just those magic words sometimes are? What are you seeing or what are your goals? The fact that you loop those people in sometimes people think, oh, in the, in the in the essence of speed, let's maybe skip that step. And we'll do it next time. It sounds like you're saying don't omit that take the extra time to get those folks in the room? Because the dividends are evident. Is that? Is that what I heard you say?

Brenda Merritt  [00:23:25]: 

Yeah, and I think we were able to share kind of, I mean, I'm sure it's across the globe health is in the center of a lot of conversations right now. And our health systems are tired. They need bigger workforce, and we were able to kind of just share in some of that those challenges. And to the things we heard were really insightful as to what our partners are managing right now. And I think that's important to understand.

Joe Krause  [00:23:56]: 

And then shifting gears slightly, because you did mention that you were able to create KPIs, so key performance indicators for those keeping score, and the How has your journey been really getting folks to connect the work they're doing to outcomes, because we see a lot of times a strategic plan resembling a to do list, like we're gonna get these five projects done if we do that. It's a great year. And I'm not saying that that's not half true. But the other half would be doing those projects move any sort of meaningful outcomes in the right direction? How have those conversations happened at Dalhousie because it is something that people struggle with quite a bit where strategic plans show up and there's very rarely enough KPIs or if any, at all. Explain that process to our listeners because it's such a such a fertile ground for people to get better.

Brenda Merritt  [00:24:43]: 

I that's a really great question. I will kind of reflect back on Jonathan's what was one of the tricky things in the planning was the facilitator held us to you have to have measurable, what we call barometers. We're not leaving the room until we have something and to Get a group of academics together to find measurable outcomes was tricky. Yeah. But now that we have it, and we actually can measure that, you know, our success, people are seeing the value. And they can see, you know, on through achievement, how we're moving the needle on some of these things. And before people were like in our previous plan, there were items in there that could never be finished. But the way they were written, it was as if we were going to do this for an eternity. And at the end of it, we just had to say, did we get there? Good? It wasn't good enough. Yeah. And this plan, there's no guessing, because we kind of know, yep, we've done it. Let's move on. But it was not easy to get that language.

Suzie Officer  [00:25:51]: 

No, no, I mean, we'll do a quick, brief kind of overview of one of the parameters that we came up with, which has created initial amusement across the university. But when people have dug deeper into it, they realize that we're onto something we think, and its revolt, it revolves around being the best place to work, and the barometer is supporting faculty and staff to take 100% of their vacation. Which, you know, it's often met with a bit of Merce because it's like, well, why wouldn't they? Or why would they? However, you know, we were trying to work out what this barometer net was about work life balance, it was about how do we give people the support and the permission to not just do work, like, do other things. And so, we struggled with it for a morning with a small group of us, how do we measure this? What do we call it? And we came up with all sorts of stuff that we didn't resonate. So, Brandon, and myself and the facilitator, we took ourselves off a lunch break. And we sat down, and we said, what are all these things? And that's how we came up with taking 100% of your vacation, because that means you're attending to yourself, your family, your community, you're also allowing yourself a break from work, but you can actually relax and do other things. So yeah, I mean, that…

Brenda Merritt  [00:27:23]: 

We can set up systems to support you ordered. Yeah. And we thought it was kind of a cheeky item. And after we released the plan, I had one person in tears come up to me and say that was most impactful thing you said all night, or all day was around taking vacation? Oh, geez, we were on to something here.

Suzie Officer  [00:27:43]: 

Yeah. So, you know, that's just one example of you know, some of them are very straightforward. And we've met them, and we've exceeded them. And others are a little bit more complex. But we did it. And we literally were not allowed to leave the room until we had.

Jonathan Morgan  [00:28:03]: 

Well, yeah, and I think that's a perfect example of how you're not just making an initiative to be the best place to work or to better take care of your staff, you're saying, How can we achieve that. And in this example, it's making sure they're taking vacation, because the downstream impacts of that as more than just, they have all their days using our HR system, it's no, they're going to be happier, they're going to be more refreshed when they're there. They're going to have to contribute better ideas, they're going to be able to move our organization further in the direction that we need it to go. So, you guys did a fabulous job of thinking, not just what do we want to be, but what are the additional impacts that this is going to have for our organization? Yeah, yeah. So, we've talked a little bit about the people in the room, we've talked about the word smithing, you've talked about the KPIs, I'd love to go back to the concept of the video and that you did for the launch day, because I think that's beyond this whole process being unique. I think that's a particularly unique function that you all did to not only gauge how people enjoyed the sessions, but also to hear a little bit about them. So outside of that planning session, I'd love to hear if there are any other impacts that just interviewing people and doing that launch video had on the staff and the university that contributed beyond ways that you would have ever thought.

Brenda Merritt  [00:29:25]: 

when I talked to when we were designing what is the feel of this video. Institutionally, and I don't know if this is in other sectors, but I can say it's here. Strap plans are, are put are created. There's a big hoopla and then they sit on the shelf, so nobody really cares. They just see the plan out and everybody shrugs their shoulders like yay, you know, so and so did a plan and then everybody carries on with whatever they've been doing. So, I was like, how do we get people involved? How do we get them? Thinking about this is not a plan And that is going to sit on the shelf. And it is a plan that was created for our faculty, by our faculty. So that was kind of the impetus that this is going to be different. And that we will be working to the plan.

Suzie Officer  [00:30:15]: 

Absolutely, yeah, yeah, I think we've just given the whole plan and the process, more exposure across a wider community. And we have it on social media we have here, there, and everywhere, we're always even with our partners post plan, or post launch, we're sending them the information was saying, this is what we're doing. This is the essence; this is the energy that we're putting into this. And so, it was just so valuable. I mean, people were coming out of sessions, you know, tired from the hard work, but really excited about what we were building as a as a big team, as a whole faculty. We have five of our five of our schools and college, have adopted this system with one page plans. And we've now started to link them into our plan, we've got 66 items from their plans that actually could get mapped onto the big plan. So, and these are all people who came up to Brandon. So that said, our school needs a new plan, how do I get hold of the facilitator, because they were just so energized by the process that they went through with us as part of the leadership team. And then they're like, this will work so well in my school, or my college. And so, we've just said, Here, here's the information, off you go. And it's, it's creating a language to, like, we're all talking the same language across units, which we haven't necessarily done before. And a lot of them are using achieve it as their tracking and software system. So, it's all kind of smooth.

Brenda Merritt  [00:32:14]: 

And so just context, we have 10 academic units in the faculty, and each of those units has an assistant dean, that they have operational, you know, leadership in, in their areas. So, since January five, now have new plans. And we've got one more that should have already been done. But we've had tragic fires here. So, things tend to get shifted. But it's changing, it is changing people like oh, if you know, if the faculty is tracking, and really working to this book, I think we're gonna now be accountable in our own areas to do something comparable. So, you know, we've, we don't like to put too much pressure. But you know, I do think it's creating a different culture around this, this is actually something you can do, and get it and you can get excited about it.

Joe Krause  [00:33:07]: 

Because it sounds like you're saying that the plan would maybe go on the shelf, you got it off the shelf. And not only that people are like, talking about the plan. I hear that a lot when the process goes well, like I was in the hallway, the figurative or literal hallway. And I heard somebody referenced the plan, I've been here 10 years, I've never heard that before. Like, that's the so you're not only taking it off the shelf, it's, it's out there, and it's being discussed, and people are actually using it because one, there's one thing and taking it off the shelf, and it's still your plan, and you're just like you're gonna make your updates versus people's feeling like they actually have a vested interest in the success of it is really, I'm sure it makes you feel great. You're seeing that flourish. And so just wanted to highlight that that's something that I think that's the aspirational vision that a lot of our clients are shooting for, and you're proof positive that it can be done. And it's probably nothing more fulfilling than spending all that time and effort and really seeing it permeate throughout the organization and lead to better outcomes. That's got to feel it's a good day at the office, as they say. So, kudos to you.

Brenda Merritt  [00:34:03]: 

Well, and I think there's some things that I've been surprised by all of this is we've started doing annual plans. So, the provost is asking for it. But I'm like, Yeah, roll up my sleeves, I'm ready. Let's get this. Let's get what we've done over the year, and I'm on paper, because what it does is I can send that out to the leadership team, I can send it out to the faculty. And everybody can hopefully see themselves in that plan and how they're contributing. And I think with our academic units, that we've linked their items to our plan, I want to show them how their leadership is filtering up to our plan, and then also to the university's plan. And so, there's a bit of buy in like, oh, this actually matters. This, right. I'm now saying that, but I don't know if we've had that culture before.

Suzie Officer  [00:34:56]: 

Yeah. So, it's a pretty exciting time around our faculty.

Jonathan Morgan  [00:35:01]: 

Yeah, that's great. And as Joe said, that's the goal, the plan shouldn't just be to check a bunch of boxes, it should be to drive excitement in the plan and to accomplish more for the outcome for the organization. And I think certainly everything that you all talked about today, I know we could talk for another hour about this, it was practical advice that hopefully people can begin to implement. I know it's not an easy process, but something that you'll have worked through, and we'll continue to work through. And just for listeners will provide links to resources in the description on some of these examples that we've talked about. It's a really as, as we close out, I just have one final question for each of you that we're asking to all of our guests. So certainly, you've been through this journey, not only on simplifying this plan, but your overall journey in your career and strategy. And if you had to go back to yourself when you were first stepping into your role, either in administration or in strategy, and you had to give yourself a piece of advice, what would that advice be? Keep at it. Keep at it. Yeah.

Brenda Merritt  [00:36:03]: 

Boy, that's a really, really good question, I think is getting genuine engagement and excite and excitement across your core leadership team. So that people are working to the plan, but also excited by it. And this is probably more than what you wanted. But it's the thing was the plan is created by the community or by the stakeholders and not coming from a top down. Yeah.

Suzie Officer  [00:36:32]: 

It's pretty grassroots this way round. And you can see it, see it, people love it.

Brenda Merritt  [00:36:39]: 

I know our core team in this office, I feel, and you might be able to speak more to it, are really feeling pretty proud of what we've done. And that's, that's pretty cool.

Jonathan Morgan  [00:36:49]: 

Yeah, I know, Suzie's quote in the video is that we will have shifted mountains. So, after this, so that's the goal. I love it. Well, I appreciate all the insights. It was a fantastic episode. No, I had a lot of fun. I'm sure Joe did. You guys did too. And thank you very much both Brenda and Suzie for being on the show and look forward to talking again in the future.

Brenda Merritt and Suzie Officer  [00:37:10]: 

Okay. Thank you. Thank you.

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