Webinar: Modern Strategic Planning: Exemplars and Emerging Themes

What’s new in strategic planning? 

RHB’s previous research analyzing 108 current strategic plans across higher education began in 2020 and featured private and public four-year institutions from all 50 states. All strategic plans were active at the time, and they represented various durations and stages, including some that were near conclusion. 

In our webinar on September 27,  RHB’s Vice President for Marketing Leadership Dr. Rob Zinkan and I launch the first and second installments of our newest phase of strategic planning research.

To begin, we provide a twist on the question, “Where are they now?” as we catch up with the leaders of institutions that produced the 16 most-strategic plans in 2020. Leadership changes, the termination of one plan and consideration of the next, and other dynamics have led those institutions in different directions. 

We also spoke with those leaders about how other institutional processes and structures frame strategic planning and plan activation, including:

  • Structuring governance and budgetary priorities
  • The rising role of the chief strategy officer
  • (Over)communication and intentionality by the chief reminding officer

As well, we wanted to understand what has changed or is changing in new strategic plans. Thus, we also analyzed a narrower set of 54 strategic plans that launched in 2022 or 2023. We note some intriguing shifts:

  • A greater focus, based on number of goals as well as strategic plan document length and plan duration.
  • Examples of a de-emphasis on end dates for plans in favor of pursuit of a strategic direction
  • Changing terminology in how plans address “goals” or “priorities” to highlight adaptability 
  • A greater emphasis on brand and reputation, “wellness” and institutional values

Finally, we ask another old question with a new frame: what are strategic plans for? When so many plans aim for growth and expansion, is aiming for stability or even degrowth a valid strategy?

We are excited to share with you our new findings and some questions to help you and your colleagues assess how your institutional structures align with your strategic goals and whether a plan or a direction is right for your institution.

You can watch the full webinar below and complete the form to access the presentation slides. The transcript is also available. 

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Aimee Hosemann

Aimee is the Director of Qualitative Research at RHB.