Closing in on the Strategic Planning Finish Line

sp1The University has spent 18 months working on our new strategic plan. A diverse Strategic Planning Development Team, eight Topic Teams, and thousands of individuals have helped develop and shape the plan.

There is still work to do before the plan is presented to our Board of Trustees in December, but much has been accomplished to-date. The Strategic Planning website is rich with material that chronicles the Board’s charge to the University, working reports, opportunities for input and feedback, newsletters, process charts, the project management plan, trends in higher education, and just about everything one would want access to in a strategic campus-wide planning effort.


Last week’s ‘Sliders and Suds’ event was yet another opportunity for faculty and staff to provide input on the latest draft.

The turnout was great and the input valuable. The expectations people have of the plan vary considerably, which is great, given a strategic plan should have versatility and in a large and complex organization like Portland State, the plan should be considered useful in a variety of ways. For instance, some individuals and units will use the plan to initiate new projects and programs. Others will find value in it reaffirming what they are currently doing. And, still, others will use it as a way to make decisions about multiple options as they move forward with their day-to-day work.

How to View the Strategic Plan
I urge everyone to view the strategic plan as a guide. It is not a prescriptive blueprint on how to do things, but rather lays out the type of institution we strive to be, the directions we should take, and the outcomes we are looking for.

It is not a plan for new directions that require an abundance of new resources. Yes, there will be some big decisions to be made, but the greatest power of the plan is how all of us will use it to make decisions based on our current efforts and resources. When faced with choices, the plan will be a valuable tool for deciding between options.

Graphic contains the plan’s imperatives and initiatives. I am calling it our PSU “placemat” and plan to use it as such at all our Academic Leadership Team meetings and other venues.

It is our collective impact that will ensure the realization of our goals and aspirations articulated in the Strategic Plan. This will not be the work of one office, one committee, or one group. Everyone’s continued engagement will be critical to shaping and accomplishing the work.

sp4Board’s Approval and Work Ahead
Work on the plan will begin in earnest upon the Board’s approval. We must not lose the positive momentum gained and the need to continue engagement on the plan’s implementation. The Faculty Senate and every unit on campus can use the plan to select new activities or affirm what they already do. It cannot be a top-down approach, but, rather, have individuals, groups and units contribute, work and learn from one another.

We need to avoid the pitfalls of going back to “business as usual” after the plan is adopted. It is too easy for cynicism and perhaps even mistrust to creep back as well. Occasional opportunities need to be organized for updates and input. One idea may be to continue the Strategic Ice Cream and Sliders/Suds events? (I vote for those!)sp3

In these final weeks, the Strategic Planning Development Team will refine the plan based on the recent input. Staying engaged, providing critical input, and working together on this strategic plan is integral to the University’s ongoing effort to define what it means to be an ‘Urban University’ in the 21st century.

I look forward to working with others in implementing the plan and appreciate any feedback.

*Photos by Peter Simon, Digital Media Specialist, Portland State University


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