New Article: Strategic Planning for Turbulent Times

The idea of strategic planning is something that I regularly take issue with, and evidently I’m not the only one. During a meeting with several C-level executives, the topic of strategic planning came up. One gentleman’s lament was that the US military has been unable to accurately predict the future with any of its strategic plans since WWII. Yet we continue to invest time in the planning process…

So what’s the alternative for the leadership team?

In this issue of the TESOL PAIS newsletter, I contributed the article Strategic Planning for Turbulent Times. The premise being that work groups can organize themselves to be adaptable in their structures and processes to maximize their potential for success. Instead of investing time and energy into predicting the future, focus on processes that can capitalize on resources/revenue in an uncertain environment.

The processes outlined in the article are foundational tenets in the world of entrepreneurship, where decision makers must act on limited information with untested markets, emerging trends, and incomplete data sets. For organizational leaders facing industry disruption or a similar significant change in the status quo, lessons from entrepreneurs can help shift work processes and move organizations forward constructively.

Insightful? Yes.

Easy? Never.

I found myself reflecting on challenges our organization faced in shifting to online course offerings. The product development-launch process the first time out was less than smooth – which, given that it was a new process, was understandable and, to a certain extent, expected. However, there were clearly strategies that the organization could have employed to limit loss/exposure and maximize return on investment (in this case time and money in course development, experimental advertising, and student enrollments).

University-housed Intensive English Programs are in the unique position of being betwixt an academic and a for-profit unit, a situation lending itself to an identity crisis if there ever was one.  The administration needs to employ planning and programming strategies geared towards maximizing ROI – or at least operating in the black – within the organizational culture of higher education – one that carries a reputation for being ploddingly reflective.

To be fair, this problem is not unique to higher ed. Again, borrowing from the corporate world, we see that those organizations that can position themselves to be responsive outperform those dogged by bureaucratic policies and rigid positioning. Dropping identities that no longer serve the organization is part of the evolutionary process. “But we’ve always done it this way…” signals a death knell.

Check out the article here.