One more point about actionable goals and objectives before I move on to lesson #4: There are different ways to phrase them, and the best way depends on the institution’s situation. As an example, take a look at this objective from Drexel University’s Strategic Plan:
“Direct financial investment to academic priorities, targeting academic units with the highest potential for excellence, key areas of societal concern, and emerging fields in which Drexel can build a critical mass of talent…”
The objective then goes on to name an example of such a program, and then says that a comprehensive program review will be initiated. Full disclosure – I was on the faculty of Drexel for six years, and have always thought that the institution was very well run. I also don’t think there is another U.S. university that has achieved the level of growth in enrollment, reputation, program quality, or program breadth that Drexel has experienced in the past 20 years.
What I like about this objective is that it recognizes that distribution of resources is the real strategic decision in program development, so that is the objective, to direct financial investment. Now, what are the academic priorities? They don’t know yet, so first actionable item is to initiate a comprehensive program review. If that’s where they are, fine.
But let’s go back to the example in the previous post:
“Attain and maintain accreditations and national recognition for relevant programs”
What would be a better way to phrase this as a strategic objective? Well, one would assume that the school would prioritize maintaining accreditation for accredited programs unless there was a desire to close them. I would consider funding for maintaining accreditation to be a general operating expense, not a strategic imperative.
Funds for attaining accreditation are not regular operating expenses – they are a combination of one-time expenses and an ongoing commitment to increase funding to support accreditation standards. The programs that desire accreditation should develop specific budgets that include both one-time expenses (new faculty lines, site visit costs, new clinical facilities, etc.) as well as increases in ongoing post-accreditation expenses. These requests should then be prioritized and funded accordingly by senior administration.
Let’s say for the sake of argument that the school has two accredited programs:
And three others that would like to be accredited:
The objective could then read something like:
Our doctoral program in school psychology will achieve APA accreditation by 2015. Our MPA program will achieve NASPAA accreditation by 2016.
The Journalism faculty may be upset with this objective, and the Public Administration faculty may dislike the delay, but at least a clear strategic direction has been established, and success or failure to achieve the objective will be clear.