When you want to make changes for your organization, strategic planning is a critical way to set goals and priorities. While strategic plans and projects are designed to help colleges and universities, common mistakes can hinder your bold vision for the future. Here are three pitfalls you might be experiencing during the strategic planning process – and how you can avoid them.
1. Overcomplicating your plan
When it comes to laying out a vision for your organization, it can be tempting to try and accomplish…well, everything. But an over-complicated plan with too many goals won’t help you achieve more. In fact, it may spread your resources too thin and reduce your overall project impact. Instead, set a manageable number of objectives with specific action steps and commit to focusing only on those priorities.
Solution: Create a well-defined scope for your project. Take the time to ask the team why the project was initiated, and identify major deliverables that you want to complete by established deadlines. Another helpful step can be to identify what you’re excluding from your project to avoid “scope creep” – or deliverables that get added as your project progresses.
2. Vague and unclear goals
Many strategic plans begin with lofty goals that sound ambitious, but lack clarity and focus to drive progress. Your project may be driven to “enhance student learning” or “transform student experience,” but make sure to dive deeper to explore what that specifically means for your organization.
Solution: Clearly define your goal and the steps that the team will plan and execute to get there. Use evidence-based approaches, including your own institutional data. Once you’ve identified that data, tie your strategic goals directly to that evidence.
3. Not measuring your progress
We live in a world that’s saturated with all different kinds of data. But often, too much data can mean that organizations avoid taking the deep dive to really understand what the numbers mean.
Solution: For a strategic plan to be effective, your organization must first understand how you’re performing currently. What is your current enrollment, fall-to-fall retention rate, and graduation rate? How about early indicators, like developmental course success rates, gateway English and math success rates, and credit accumulation during the first year of enrollment? Those numbers will serve as your baseline. Now, establish targets for incrementally increasing your performance measures across the strategic plan period, accomplished through your focused projects. Next, measure outcomes to evaluate your project along the way.