Is your strategic plan on a shelf?

I recently had an opportunity to work with a client on the development of a new strategic plan. The President was clear that he was looking for a plan that was integrated into the fabric of the college and influenced day-to-day operations but did not create more work for an already busy faculty and staff. In this early conversation he expressed dissatisfaction with previous plans the college had developed and with strategic plans from non-academic phases of his career. Plans that were created and launched with great fanfare and then placed on a shelf to gather dust until it was time to write a final report.

If you read between the lines, the institutional planning, institutional effectiveness, and student success standards have a common theme, regardless of what region you are in.

The common theme is continuous improvement.

Ultimately, a strategic plan is an institution-wide plan for continuous improvement. When this President and I discussed this idea, he began to get excited about the plan that his institution could build. A plan built on the foundation of the mission statement with additional detail provided by the vision and purpose statements. The values espoused in those statements were organized into several themes and the execution of each theme happens through macro-scale strategies. And that’s where the plan stops…but not really.

The execution of the plan, the execution of the strategies happens in service review and a few other standards. Hmm…service review? That is my term for the annual cycle of setting outcomes/goals and measuring the achievement thereof for service units of campus and academic programs. SACSCOC institutions know this as 8.2.c and 7.3. In fact, all of Sections 7 and 8 for SACSCOC institutions should be the execution of the strategic plan.

Annual goals are set for each service review outcome and those goals inform day-to-day operations of every campus unit and academic program. Service review outcomes are established to achieve, in part, a macro-scale strategy that is linked to a central theme of the plan, and the central themes of the plan are anchored by the mission, vision, and purpose statements. As long as your service review outcomes are aspirational, rather than business-as-usual, the plan is never shelved and never forgotten.

Just before the strategic planning retreat, the president said to me, “This is the first strategic planning retreat that I have ever looked forward to!”

At Southeastern Accreditation Consultants, we’re ready to collaborate and support your accreditation and strategic planning efforts. From reviewing narratives to building your documentation, we offer individualized services to best meet your needs. Contact us to get started.

Published by Douglas A. Wymer

Throughout an academic career spanning nearly 20 years, Dr. Wymer participated in many site visits (both substantive change and reaffirmation visits) for the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) and he has been a visiting team member for the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges with the Western Association of Colleges and Schools. In addition to serving as a team member, Dr. Wymer has served as a visiting committee chair for SACSCOC. After earning a B.S. in Biology (with a minor in Chemistry) from what was then Shorter College, an M.S. in Entomology from Clemson University, and a Ph.D. in Environmental Science from Tennessee Technological University, Dr. Wymer started a rewarding career in academia. He earned tenure and achieved the rank of Associate Professor of Environmental Sciences at The University of West Alabama and served in a number of administrative roles at UWA including Department Chair and Assistant Dean. He served as a Department Head at Pensacola State College and, after a year in that position, was promoted to Dean of Baccalaureate Studies and Academic Support. In 2016 he became the Vice President of Academic Affairs at Lake-Sumter State College, where he served for four years before launching Southeastern Accreditation Consultants.

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