In answering the first questions Olsen poses, our accreditation team thought about what we wanted our organization to look like in the future.
We looked at what our organization can do better than any other. We looked at our accreditation processes and focused our energy in that area.
And because we took the time to visualize the future, we know where we are headed, we understand the customer focus we should have, the market position we should try to occupy, the activities to be pursued, and the capabilities we plan to develop.
But in order to move into that future and create the strategic plan to get there, we had to also understand where we are now. In answering this second question, we looked at what is happening, both internally and externally, to determine how we needed to shift and change.
There are many ways to do this, but a SWOT (Strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) analysis helps you look critically at your organization. We were realistic about what we do well and where we have challenges, what are our resources, what is happening in the world that might affect our organization.
Next, we profiled our customers. You need to meet your customers’ needs and wants better than anyone else can do. We met with focus groups with several of our key audiences to learn how we can uniquely provide value to our customers.
Knowing how you’ll reach your vision is the core to any strategic plan, but it is also the most time consuming to develop. There are a number of routes from your current position to your vision – choosing the right one determines how quickly or slowly you will get to your final destination.
Write goals. These are the stair steps to your mission and vision. Goals should be SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-bound). Effective goals should state how much of what kind of performance by when it is to be accomplished and by whom. We concentrated on departmental goals that aligned with our organizational goals to make sure we continued to focus on strategically working toward the same mission.
Once we had laid the planning groundwork, we were able to take action. Basically, we wrote a to-do list for each goal. I assigned responsibilities and deadlines to ensure implementation.
Since we’d written goals that were measurable, we were able to put these measurements and targets on a score card and keep track. We actively track our progress on a regular basis.
Everyone on my accreditation team knows the West LegalEdcenter mission, and is actively working toward meeting goals created for our strategic plan to help meet that mission. When doing a task or project, each asks the central question: “Does this help the accreditation team meet its goals?”
If my team member can’t answer this question in the affirmative, then it isn’t a task or project upon which they should be working.