An Inside Look at the Process: Frequently Asked Questions

Strategic planning is an episodic undertaking by people from across the organization having  vastly different points of view, experiences and expertise. To compound the challenge, new people are brought on board as the effort expands.

In this robust, frothy environment “Frequently Asked Questions” help ‘keep everyone on the same page.’ We thought that sharing the current FAQ would be good way to put you straight into the middle of the action, too, as if you were on one of the 22 subcommittees working on the strategies.

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  1. What are the differences between the Goals, Objectives & Strategies?

Goals are “benchmarks for the future.” Attaining them usually take many academic cycles. In a perfect world you know you reached the goal when you ‘crossed’ it.  In the academic world goals may be stated more broadly and are assessed by ‘surrogate endpoints’ that stand in for the goal itself.

Objectives are near-term attainable, observable and measurable outcomes that, if achieved, contribute to reaching a goal.  They describe the areas of focus that advance the university towards the goal. As the strategic plan is implemented some objectives will be achieved, some will fail and be replaced, some new ones may be added.  Goals are seldom changed during the life of a plan while objectives may based on actual experience.

Strategies are prioritized actions assigned to objectives.  They answer the question “How, exactly, are we going to achieve the objective?”  They are the programs, projects and pilots that we undertake in that effort. They are ‘strategic’ in that they are significant investments in time, money and attention with specific, measurable milestones to track effort & progress.

  1. My college / department / unit is working on its own strategic plan. Should we hold up and wait for the committee’s work to be complete? What if we already have one in place?

Ultimately every SRSU unit – whether college, department, unit, etc. – will have its own goals, objectives and strategies. Some colleges and departments already have plans in place that were presumably reconciled with the 2014 SRSU Strategic Plan.

In all cases the ‘lower-level’ plans must be reconciled with this committee’s revised 2016-2020 plan.  In other words, every goal, objective and strategy outlined in a unit’s plan must have a parent-child relationship to the university’s plan.

If a unit’s plan calls for work that does NOT link to an element of the university’s plan, then that work should be removed from the unit’s strategic plan and find a home in the unit’s operational plan.

A lot of work underway across the campus is tactical, not strategic.  It’s the day-to-day care-and-feeding of the academic and administrative functions.  However, any effort that spans multiple academic cycles and whose purpose is to impact a strategic goal should have a home in the unit’s strategic plan.

  1. Who will draft the actual Strategic Plan document?

The steering committee’s staff advisor will draft the 2016-2020 strategic plan subject to approval by the steering committee.  The final locked document requires approval by the president of the university and regents.

  1. How will we implement the strategic plan?

The president of Sul Ross has committed to investing in an on-going implementation effort that includes installing a process for tracking, reporting & adjusting the strategic plan as needed. The intention is for this work to reside in the Institutional Effectiveness office.

  1. How will the strategic plan be updated as new programs, projects & pilots come on-line?

At least once a year the implementation team will do a formal review of progress against the plan and recommend to the Office of the President mid-course corrections.

  1. In the ideal strategic plan we studied earlier, ALL goals, objectives and strategies were measurable. It seems that academic plans only assess outcomes at the strategy level, if at all. At what level will SRSU’s strategic plan include measurable outcomes?

The president charged the steering committee with drawing up a strategic plan that measures progress.  The committee decided requiring every strategy (i.e. program, project or pilot) be assessable will meet that mandate.  Strategies are considered surrogate endpoints for the associated objectives and goals, unless those goals or objectives are themselves directly assessable.

  1. My group has important work that the steering committee chose not to endorse as part of the SRSU strategic plan. Does that jeopardize support for it?

Much of what gets done in any organization does NOT reach the level of ‘strategy’ but rather supports day-to-day work. In a case where a recommended revision of the SRSU strategy was rejected, the work might continue to be part of the unit’s business plan. Support at the unit level should be sufficient for the work to continue on its own merits.

The committee’s work papers will document its decision to keep work classed as business process improvement vs. strategic undertaking.

  1. When is our strategic plan to be submitted to the President of the University Dr. Kibler?

Our target for submitting the first draft is before Thanksgiving break. The target for the circulation draft to be approved for wide circulation and comment is at the beginning of Spring 2017.


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