10 Steps to the Best Possible Plans

Becky Morehouse

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Fluctuating marketplace dynamics mean that many colleges are scrambling to rewrite existing plans. 

Before you put pen to paper, however, we’d like to share 10 hard-won planning lessons we’ve learned from helping hundreds of colleges with their strategic, marketing, and recruiting plans.  

1. Not having a vision. 

Remember, the purpose of your plan is to accomplish your vision. Without a vision of where you are going, no plan will get you there.  

2. Remember to plan. 

In the rush to get things done, many colleges don’t want to take the time to plan. This is almost always a mistake. Even a short planning process will require the synthesis, deliberation, and prioritization essential for great plans.  

3. Forgetting the real world. 

While plans are inherently inward focused, they must recognize the realities of the world at large. Ignoring competitors, student interests, the job market, and regional demographic trends will lead to catastrophe. Good plans are driven by good data. Take the time to conduct the research you need so planning can proceed with confidence.  

4. Overlooking your past planning mistakes. 

Every college on the planet has a history of planning. Some of that history is good. Some not so good. Consider why some of your past plans have underperformed and make a commitment to avoid those mistakes. Pay particular attention to planning teams, cultural, and budget issues that might have thwarted previous planning efforts.  

5. Get the right people on your planning team. 

Good planning teams are stacked with more doers than thinkers. While thinkers are important, too many thinkers, and too much thinking, can bring the planning process to a grinding halt. Stacking your planning team with doers will also increase the odds that your plan will actually be executed. 

6. Focus on the truly important.

One of the most important parts of the planning process is to take the time to identify the issues that are truly important—even transformative—and then swarm these issues with resources. There is a corollary here: Keep your plan short and simple. Pare away the superfluous. Focus on the essential.  

7. Create accountability. 

This has two dimensions. It first means giving people specific responsibilities. It also means holding yourself and your team to hard deadlines.   

8. Monitor progress. 

Monitoring progress means keeping one eye on the calendar and one eye on the budget. Are you hitting your deadlines? Are resources being well allocated? Do additional resources need to be reallocated to a strategy that has hit a wall or should that strategy be abandoned so momentum is maintained? These and other questions are continually addressed during the execution phase.  

9. Create and communicate momentum. 

During stressful times it is important to show progress. One of the best ways to do this is to break long-term goals into a series of near-term goals that can be accomplished, and celebrated, quickly. As you do this, communicate progress to both internal and external stakeholders.  

10. It’s not the plan. 

Remember, the plan is not the goal, but the means. The purpose of the plan is to allocate and direct resources so you can accomplish your vision. Writing a good plan does not mean you will be successful. Executing a good plan, however, does.  

Want to learn more? Schedule a free consultation today.

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