Leadership Blog Series: Leading Strategic Planning

Written by Sharri Margraves, HR Associate Director for Organization and Professional Development 

Strategic planning is a critical aspect for leaders in all organizations, and now that MSU has recently introduced its first strategic plan in decades, you have an opportunity to help drive the results that will continue the upward trajectory of the university. Strategic planning is about change, and as with any change effort, communication and clarity of purpose are essential throughout the process.

It can be helpful to recognize the process of strategic planning as four typical phases: pre-planning, assessment, implementation, and measuring and monitoring.

Pre-Planning

The pre-planning phase is a lot like trying out a new recipe, and the first rule of cooking is to read through the entire recipe before you start. Be sure you have everything you need, and you understand what you need to do. Similarly, with strategic planning, first make sure you have the people, tools, and clarity that will allow your team to be successful before you formally begin. Consider all aspects including who will be on the planning team, general timing, communication cadence and how you will ensure DEI throughout the planning process.

Assessment: Begin Where you Are

Assessment will take the greatest amount of time.

  • What is your organization’s readiness for change?
  • Do you have a current and valid Mission, Vision and Values (MVV, for short)?
  • Can you hear the truth from your employees and stakeholders?
  • Do you need to provide training?

Assessing the organization is a part of the plan that is vital to get right—and your organizational context matters. All the tools in the world will not help if you or your team is defensive about what you might hear. From here, you will begin to develop the tactical plan.

Implementation: Building the Document

Going from assessment to writing the plan… well, let’s just say it takes time. Gleaning the most essential strategic goals or themes from your assessment effort is an iterative process, and multiple people will be involved. You will need to align your MVV and framework and produce a clear and concise “living” document.

For each strategic goal, you will have key objectives. From there, you need to have the tactics that will be needed to reach the objective. Often forgotten: leaders need to connect the dots. These tactics tell teams and individuals what needs to be done by when.

Implementation: Communication

Sure, you’ve thought about the day when your plan would be done. The reality is, now is the point where the real work begins. Cascading the information throughout your organization for implementation while also communicating with your external stakeholders is critical.

Establishing the priority while allowing your team to contribute to the “how” is important because the strategic plan should be parallel to the normal work you are already doing. On an individual level, each person in the organization should know how they will contribute to the responsibilities and tasks that will roll up from tactics to objectives to goal achievement.

Measuring and Monitoring: Review and Revise

What will success look like? As you develop your tactical plan, you will have time/milestones, key performance indicators (KPI) and other measures to indicate you are achieving your goals. Establishing a regular cadence for reporting progress is important to your internal and external stakeholders. Some objectives have a bit of a lag before data can be obtained, which is why you want to have other indicators to ensure you are progressing. Including the measurement in the building phase is important. It’s easy to get excited over goals, only to realize measuring progress is not so easy.

Interested in learning more? Recommended resources are listed below, and the Organization and Professional Development department can be reached at prodev@hr.msu.edu for specialized support.

Recommended Resources

MSU Strategic Plan

Strategic Planning Checklist

Business Orientation: Strategic Organizational Goals | elevateU course (50 minutes)

What’s Your Plan: Six Steps to Align Your Goals with What’s Important to You

Hopefully you’ve had the opportunity to look at MSU’s new strategic plan, which was recently shared by President Stanley. The plan, MSU 2030: Empowering Excellence, Advancing Equity and Expanding Impact, provides a framework and vision for the university that puts people first, prioritizing the success of students, staff and faculty while focusing on key areas of growth:

  • Expanded opportunity.
  • Advanced equity.
  • Elevated excellence.
  • Strengthened community.
  • Strengthened stewardship. 

Most units and departments at MSU also have strategic plans in place to guide their work—perhaps you’ve led or been a part of creating one of these plans. The next step is to make a personal strategic plan to guide you as an individual.

Why Have a Personal Strategic Plan?

One way we measure success at MSU is through goal setting and attainment, often using the Performance Excellence framework. Creating a personal strategic plan can be an extension of this goal-oriented process, providing a vision and structure for your professional life and an anchor for you to connect with during periods of change and as new opportunities arise.

A personal strategic plan will help ensure your professional goals and actions are aligned with what matters most in your life. With the recent release of MSU’s strategic plan, now is a perfect time to create or update your own plan.

Six Steps to Strategic Success

Your personal strategic plan will likely include career goals (e.g., ongoing development in your current position or preparing for a different role), finances, health and professional relationships. The Center for Association Leadership recommends a six-step process that can serve as a starting point for creating your individual plan.

  1. Find time. Even if it’s just ten minutes you set aside each day, take a step away from your day-to-day duties and responsibilities and envision what you want to accomplish.

  2. Clarify your values. What matters most in your life? Many of us find it easy to identify the first few priorities—perhaps family, health, happiness—but you may need to dig deeper for the purposes of a personal strategic plan. Think carefully about everything you truly value and want to honor. Consider areas such as relationships and connectivity at both personal and professional levels, recognition or greater influence, time, flexibility, life/work integration, personal growth, new challenges, and meaningful work.

  3. Create your mission statement. No need to overthink or be intimidated by this step. Simply write a brief statement—just a sentence or two—based around the values you want to honor. This is not intended to redefine who you are or remain static as time goes on. Rather, it serves as a reminder of your life’s and your work’s purpose and can be a touchstone you can use to help guide your behavior and inform your decisions.

  4. Do a SWOT analysis on yourself. A SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) analysis is typically done in conjunction with a new project or goal, but we don’t always take the time to examine these aspects of ourselves as individuals. What are your personal strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats? Can a close colleague or mentor provide you with honest feedback regarding these areas? In our current environment of rapid, ongoing change, what are the opportunities and threats that may apply to your plan?

  5. Create your goals. Identify SMART and HARD goals that align with the core values you identified. Your goals can be broad, but your action steps should be specific and time limited. Be realistic about what you can accomplish and prioritize what’s most important to you. Typically, three or four goals with one or two actions steps for each is a manageable target each year.

  6. Determine the support you need to stay accountable. Identify a friend or colleague as an accountability partner to help you stick to your plan, and agree on a regular time to check in. Schedule a time weekly, biweekly, or monthly to review your personal strategic plan on your own and modify as needed.

Align Your Personal Plan with the Larger Picture

Take the time to compare your personal strategic plan with the plans of the university and your unit. Where do they intersect? Where do they diverge? Are there ways they could better align, leading to greater job satisfaction and performance?

Focus on what is within your control, as opposed to things you cannot control, such as the economy or what your coworker does or does not do. Take daily actions, no matter how small, to create real, meaningful change and be sure to celebrate your successes! Realize that some changes happen quickly, while others take much longer. The key is to be patient with yourself and know you are moving in the right direction.

Below are upcoming Organization and Professional Development (OPD) courses that can help you better identify your key values and goals to create a personal strategic plan that’s right for you. OPD is also available at prodev@hr.msu.edu for additional information and resources.

Useful Courses for All Employees

Everything DiSC: Behavior Styles at Work | October 28, 8:30 a.m. to Noon | Zoom

Identify and Maximize Your Strengths | October 28, 1:00 to 5:00 p.m. | Zoom

The Power of Habit | December 1, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. | Zoom

Courses Designed for Supervisors and Managers

Strategic Planning | October 13, 9:00 to 11:00 a.m. | Zoom

Everything DiSC: Management | November 4, 8:30 a.m. to Noon | Zoom

Sources
https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/create-your-personal-strategic-plan-six-steps-ashka-wirk

https://www.asaecenter.org/association-careerhq/career/articles/career-management/create-your-personal-strategic-plan

Strategic Thinking in Turbulent Times

Written by Jennie Yelvington, MSW, ACSWProgram Manager, MSU HR Organization & Professional Development 

Strategic thinking has always been an important leadership skill, but as we make our way through the pandemic, it is a must. “A danger for many organizations is that in the rush to get back to business, managers will reinforce yesterday’s way of doing business when the world around them has changed. The challenge therefore for managers is to develop a clear view of what they need to change, why, and when” (Healey, May 2020). The temptation when stress and uncertainty are high is to grasp on to what you know. If instead you can embrace the unknown and expand your thinking, you’ll be further ahead.  

Fortunately, our brains are designed to help us with this. In normal times our brains work on default mode, with our routines and ways of doing work flowing without much conscious thought on our part. In times of upheaval, it is a different story. When your brain can’t make sense of the environment “it scours our surroundings, trying to connect the dots between ideas that were right in front of us all along, but that we just never noticed before” (Tasler, May 2020). It is precisely in these disorienting periods of fear, frustration, and loneliness that we can see everything with new eyes, lending itself to new opportunities.  

From Crisis to Strategy 

“Turning attention to the short term is no doubt essential to survival as we work our way through this crisis. However, at some point soon leaders need to turn their attention to the future state. Leaders need to actively start to assess the external environmental forces at work today that will shape their industry structural ecosystem tomorrow” (Hodes, May 2020). 

Here are some big picture questions to consider ensuring you have the right business model and capabilities for the post-pandemic era:  

  • How will higher education change? 
  • Will new funding sources be needed? 
  • Will customers and stakeholders require new or different ways to connect? 
  • What level of working remotely will be the new normal? 
  • How much faster will some segments of the university grow while others struggle? 
  • What do we as an organization do particularly well, and how can we deploy that capability to serve unmet needs?   
  • What existing or new technologies will be critical? 

As you ask yourself these questions, be sure to invite your colleagues into the conversation. Getting diverse viewpoints, experiences and perspectives strengthens the opportunity for creativity and ingenuity. The strategic choices we make today will be incredibly important as we emerge from this crisis so “take time to look across the internal boundaries of your organization and talk to colleagues who are in close contact with customers, suppliers, and emerging technologies. Now is the time to widen your information channels” (Healy, May 2020). 

Here are some additional tips to consider as you move forward: 

1) Upskilling may be needed. For a workforce to be agile, they need to possess the right skills and be empowered to utilize them. Strategic employee development is more important than ever, and that includes not only classes, but experiential opportunities that let employees spread their wings, test their skills, and make decisions. As a formal leader, you need to make sure that those granted decision-making authority have business acumen and understand the organization enough to make wise decisions, and have the needed leadership skills to bring ideas forward effectively. 

2) Reassess business priorities, given the new world. Look at your goals from last year. What worked well? What is no longer applicable? What have we learned? What will continue to be important going forward? What new priorities do we have given the situation and its impact? 

3) Don’t stay stuck on what was. Learn from the past and put energy into your vision of a different future.(Nevins, August 2020). 

  • What opportunities might exist in the industry? 
  • Based on what we know now, why have past strategies worked—not worked?  And can we re-frame how we think about the future based on those insights? 
  • What strategies have not been tried?  Why not? 
  • What do we as an organization do particularly well, and how can we deploy that capability to serve unmet needs?  (Especially if that skill or capability is hard for others to copy.) 

4) Think differently. Instead of thinking logically, practice thinking analogically, drawing lessons from one setting, and applying them to another. Going with the tried and true methods may not get you where we need to go now. Increased collaboration and thoughtful risk-taking may be in order.  

There is no doubt that this is a time of incredible challenge, while also one of tremendous opportunity. In order to be able to think strategically to effectively meet these challenges, it is imperative to assure that you are taking good care of yourself. These are not normal times, and it is easy to feel overwhelmed and off-center. Keep doing the things that you know can help you to be at your best: getting enough sleep and exercise, eating healthy food, connecting with friends and loved ones, all can help us to access the stamina and creativity needed as we move forward. None of us will be perfect, but together we can meet the needs of today while building an exciting future for MSU. 

Sources: 

Healy, M. (2020, May 28). Strategic Thinking in a Crisis. Retrieved September 16, 2020 from  

https://www.forbes.com/sites/alliancembs/2020/05/28/strategic-thinking-in-a-crisis/#17ce3a4e6be5

Hodes, B. (2020, May 8). Strategic Thinking for a Post-pandemic Era. Retrieved September 16, 2020 from  

https://cmiteamwork.com/blog/guest-blog-strategic-thinking-for-a-post-pandemic-era/

Nevins, M. (2020, August 12). It’s Time to Re-Set Your Strategic Thinking Post-Covid. Retrieved September 16, 2020 from https://www.forbes.com/sites/hillennevins/2020/08/12/its-time-to-re-set-your-strategic-thinking-post-covid/#23f3263f3801 

Project Management Institute. (2020, August 31). Change Makers Step Up During the Pandemic. Retrieved September 16, 2020 from 

https://www.reuters.com/sponsored/article/change-makers-step-up

Tasler, N. (2020, May 5). Is the Pandemic Making You Smarter? Retrieved September 16, 2020 from 

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/strategic-thinking/202005/is-the-pandemic-making-you-smarter

Job of the Week – Prospecting and Strategy Analyst

This week’s job of the week is a Prospecting and Strategy Analyst (#614249) for MSU’s Innovation Center. This position is seeking an individual with the ability to act effectively as a member of a team – working with others to develop strategies and solutions, engaging in a culture of continuous learning and teaching with peers.

The responsibilities for this role include understanding and prioritizing partnerships with corporations, working under the guidance of the Associate Director of MSU Business-Connect, and focusing on University strengths to research priorities and map engagement points and value propositions for corporate partners. Additional responsibilities of this role include reviewing past and current partnerships to verify MSU strengths and explore the corporate research landscape to help guide future engagement strategy.

The ideal candidate would possess knowledge equivalent to that which normally would be acquired by completing a bachelor’s degree in Business, Journalism, Pre-law, History, Psychology or Information Science or related field. Three to five years of progressively more responsible or expansive work experience in research methods including online electronic searching, large mainframe databases, and PC-based software and relationship management software; or an equivalent combination of education and experience.

For more details on the responsibilities of this position, and to view all our current postings, visit careers.msu.edu. Internal applicants should access postings through the Careers @ MSU tile in the EBS Portal.