Developing a Planning Culture

Last week we heard from the veritable force, Mike Moss, CAE, the president of the Society for College and University Planning (SCUP). While SCUP’s original planning mission centered more on the physical space of the academic setting, in today’s world helping higher education strategically plan is their wholistic charge. Mike’s enthusiasm for the strategic planning process and furthermore for developing a planning culture is palpable. Here, we wanted to expand upon a few key ingredients to creating a culture around planning in your organization.

Integrated Planning

It is important for individuals in an organization to develop a cross-functional knowledge of the culture and mission. While each department may ladder their objectives up to the larger goal, not everyone takes responsibility for learning about them. This is a mistake. It is paramount to the success of integrated planning for there to be collaboration and understanding across disciplines. As education becomes more competency based and centered on specific skill sets, it’s important that companies look for the emotional intelligence that can often lead to a more collaborative environment.

One way to encourage this type of cross-functional collaboration could be through an environmental scan. In a great blog by SCUP, environmental scanning is defined as an exploration and analysis of the external and internal factors affecting an organization which can often combine institutional data points with insights from stakeholder feedback. Understanding the planning environment can offer more awareness of how one discipline’s operational plan could impact another.

Iterative Planning

Creating an active strategic plan allows for you to connect horizontally in the cycle of planning. No longer should we be beholden to time-based planning. Mike recommends that organizations view their strategic plan as an active and living document. Something that the key stakeholders are consistently looking at on a quarterly basis or at a minimum a yearly basis. Perhaps, Mike says, you should even create priorities that are rolling and dependent so that when one strategic initiative is completed, it lends to the beginning of the next initiative.

As Mike mentioned, given the pace of technology and where we are in the world today, it is wise for us to see we have reached a point of perception change. Every organization should be revisiting their strategy to see how this shift in society affects their plan. While no one is expecting another pandemic, we are now living with the knowledge that disruption can happen and can have catastrophic effects. Ignoring this possibility by going back to our old ways of time-based planning would be to put our heads in the sand.

To build a culture around planning, encourage more cross-functional planning and set the tone that this lateral discussion needs to be on a consistent basis. By setting a schedule and creating dedicated space and time to strategize, everyone will be more empowered to hit the pause button, do some environmental scanning, and iterate as needed.

Relationships Matter

Have we mentioned that cross-functional collaboration is important? It’s worth repeating because that collaboration can only happen when you have engaged employees who hold relationships with colleagues outside their area of responsibility. Mike continually brought the conversation back to this crucial piece. If you don’t have a culture of trust and respect which derives from healthy relationship building, you won’t have a culture of planning.

Furthermore, Mike explained that in his space of colleges and universities there are over forty-six other associations working in specific disciplines in the space. Rather than seeing this as pure competition, he sees overlapping missions as a way to grow your understanding of the overall planning goals and decisions his organization assists with in the strategic planning process. Be sure to build relationships both internally and externally to strengthen the integrated and iterative planning process.

Tinker Where It’s Safe

Lastly, don’t let strategic planning get in the way of innovation. At SCUP they’ve created a space called the Garage. This is a place where people can go tinker on innovations without disrupting mission critical initiatives and bring them into the strategic discussions through champions. Never cut off your nose despite your face, time-based, dusty strategic plans sitting on shelves don’t allow for innovation nor collaboration.

Encourage openness, relationships, change management, and cross-functional learning to create a planning culture and you may be surprised how well your organization deals with the next big pivot!

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