Scenario 1: You are experiencing a significant change at your institution/within your team; so a well-founded, long-term plan is needed to move forward with confidence and clarity.
Scenario 2: Your team/stakeholders identified assessment as a necessity to understand the impact of your work, for clearer decision-making. Previous assessment efforts have been sparse, so this is a smart time to identify where you are before you make a plan for where you go.
Scenario 3: No one is talking about how your team moves forward, but you want to quickly offer a plan that results in collaborative work informed by a shared vision (and further establishes your leadership profile).
All of these scenarios call for a strategic plan – but what makes a strategic plan, technically? In short, a strategic plan evaluates the internal and external perception of your organization while measuring goal progress at the beginning, middle and end. An effective strategic plan takes time to develop, implement and measure; unfortunately, the general workload in higher education (including the scenarios above) means long working hours with little extra time.
An alternative? Make a Playbook for actionable, short-term priorities that allows you to measure your impact. Think of a Playbook as an abridged version of a strategic plan. For the sake of time, while still respecting the framework of a strategic plan, ask and answer three questions:
Where are we now?
The answer to this question through a strategic plan is a full environmental assessment. This evaluation of internal strengths and weaknesses supports the development of specific strategies that will allow the organization to utilize its strengths and overcome its weaknesses. For a Playbook version of an environmental assessment, be sure to meet with a sample of campus partners and stakeholders to review your current scenario(s). From leaner budgets to student population growth, discuss as many components of your work as possible to identify key priorities around which to build your Playbook. Once you have identified key priorities for your organization, prologue your Playbook with an executive summary to clearly connect current issues to work priorities.
Where are we going?
With a strategic plan, goals provide the architecture for your work. While SMART goals would be a best practice, being pressed for time with potential conflicting/competing work priorities do not ensure that the work you on which you are focused will be measurable or timely. For a Playbook, frame your goals as priorities supported by objective statements to elevate the urgency of your work with actionable points.
Priority 1: Student Career Readiness
Starting in Fall 2018, we will prepare 600+ students with various experiences, skills, and interests for career success through collaborative efforts and accessible resources.
Stay within 3-5 priorities in your Playbook to best ensure a clear plan that unites your team’s execution of work.
How will we get there?
Within each priority, build out a series of specific action items that respond to the current issues determined by conversations with stakeholders and campus partners. To garner institution-wide buy-in, include related work in other departments along with specific details for how your team will support those efforts. Keep methods of measurement in mind for each action item, so there are assessment points to highlight progress and review areas for improvement.
To monitor your progress, be sure that there are various ways that you measure impact for each Playbook priority. This can range from simple yes/no to achieving an objective, to data-rich engagement tracking through mixed-methods surveys. As you compile data and continue scanning the environment, finish your Playbook with a targeted end date that leads to a formal, long-term strategic plan. In the meantime, keep creating resources and buzz around how your priorities move the work of your team and institution forward.
This post is part of our #SACareer series, addressing careers in student affairs, careers outside of student affairs, and the work of career services professionals. Read more about the series in Jake Nelko’s intro post. Each post is a contribution by a member or friend of the Commission for Career Services from ACPA. Our organization exists to benefit the careers of career services professionals, student affairs professionals, and anyone supporting students in the career endeavors. For more information about how to get involved with the Commission for Career Services or the #SACareer blog series, contact Terri Carr at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Nick Fahnders is a career coach working at the University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy as the Associate Director of Career Readiness. He completed his Master’s degree at the University of Connecticut Higher Education & Student Affairs. In his spare time, Nick enjoys reading, traveling, eating Portillo’s hot dogs and teaching Zumba classes around the Greater Chicago Area. He is also a proud (under)graduate of Bradley University. For any strategic planning or marketing support, connect with Nick on LinkedIn.