Proactive Transition Management (PTM) Visioning Process
Effective planning or what PTM calls “envisioning the future,” should answer three basis questions:
(1) who are we; (2) what do we aspire to become; (3) how do we get there? The first question examines history, core values, ethos, traditions, and key data. The second question assesses the evolving environment of higher education and identifies a distinct purpose and mission for the college or university. This phase involves exploring several strategic initiatives, as well as reaffirming or redefining existing strengths. The third question identifies the strategic initiatives that best align with the mission and ethos of the institution and translates them into a plan of action. The strategic initiatives must be embedded in the unique heritage and mission of the organization and must be realistic and achievable. While intentionally a stretch and a challenge, the plan of action must be cost-effective and capable of being implemented effectively.
The PTM Visioning Process incorporates four integrated activities (Assessment, Strategy, Management, and Renewal). Working collaboratively with a Strategic Vision Committee comprised of trustees, senior administrators, faculty, staff, students, alumni and townspeople, the end product will be a strategic vision and an implementation plan that will help transform the college or university.
Assessment begins with an examination of strategic or long-range plans, accreditation reports, enrollment data, curriculum, student services, budgets, and fundraising data. Focus group interviews are conducted with faculty, staff, students, trustees, alumni, and community leaders focusing on four areas (strengths, challenges, opportunities, and dreams). The SCOD analysis is different from the traditional SWOT because independent colleges/universities find focusing on weaknesses becomes a blame game and envisioning or dreaming about the future generates more positive and creative ideas than worrying about threats. In each area, participants are asked first to identify the four most important qualities and then to rank order them from more to less important. By asking focus group questions “Who are we?” “What do value?” and “What do we like about our organization?” a college or university begins to identify core values or qualities of character that define it. The results of the assessment are shared with the Strategic Vision Committee (SVC) and Board of Trustees (BOT).
The information gleaned from planning documents, enrollment data, budgets, marketing plans, financials etc. as well as insights gleaned from the focus group interviews enables PTM to identify potential new initiatives and highlight existing programs that need to be revitalized. A variety of strategic scenarios are generated and evaluated by the SVC and BOT. Careful review of the strategic scenarios includes a cost/benefit analysis, an assessment of their potential for success, and an evaluation of their long-term impact on the mission and ethos of the organization. This strategic vision will be presented first to senior management for refinement and then to the BOT for review and formal approval. PTM also evaluates the ethos or corporate culture, applying principles of systems theory and the diffusion and adoption of planned change theory. Understanding the level of receptivity to change and innovation, as well as the personnel who will implement new programs helps institutions to manage transitions and shape change in ways that build consensus and ownership of the new vision.
Once approved by the BOT, PTM will guide the Strategic Visioning Committee in the design of an implementation plan that spells out specific tasks, individuals responsible, timetable, and annual benchmark measures. The implementation plan incorporates a branding strategy to increase enrollment by attracting and retaining students who embody the core values of the institution and who resonate with the strategic direction. The implementation plan is reviewed with the President and senior management and presented to the Board of Trustees for approval.
4. Strategic Renewal
Strategic planning and pursuing strategic initiatives should be an act of organizational renewal and should be regulated and guided by the ethos and ethical underpinnings of the institution. The PTM Envisioning Process Model integrates what some systems theory scholars term “autopoiesis.” Autopoiesis is the characteristic of living systems and organizations to adapt to a constantly changing environment by continuously renewing themselves and regulating this process so that the integrity of their structure is maintained. When viewed as a systemic response to internal or external change, managing transitions becomes a necessary, exciting, and productive way to enable colleges anduniversities to seize new opportunities, to fulfill their mission, and to pursue their destiny.
A comprehensive Visioning Process can be completed in 12-16 weeks and involves at least 15 days of consultation, including review of key planning documents, at least four visits to campus to facilitate the work of the SVC as well as time to design and validate the assessment and core values and to write and revise strategic vision documents, the implementation plan, and the branding strategy.