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Iteration in Response to Opportunity

Unity College’s own experience with its successful stewardship of the Building a Beacon Strategic Plan aligns with the advice from strategic planning experts like David La Piana. General lessons learned from that process are articulated in, “The Nonprofit Strategy Revolution,” (Fieldstone Alliance, 2008) and include the following:

  1. “There is often a disconnect between the mission and the highest level goals of a strategic plan.”
  2. “Constant change is the primary driver for a new approach. ‘We do not have the luxury of expensive years-long strategic planning exercises, especially when their impact on the organization’s direction is usually so slight.’”
  3. “Strategic planning can be confused with consensus building.”
  4. “Operations are the broad shoulders of strategy.”
  5. “Programmatic changes are some of the most difficult to enact, but sometimes breakthroughs supersede programs, sometimes other organizations come into the market and do a better job and necessitate programmatic change.”
  6. “A cornerstone idea is that organizational strategy comes before other considerations.”

In response to these general lessons, Unity College’s Strategic Plan engages several strategies focused on providing a more efficient initial development process and a more iterative approach to strategic plan management.

Responsive By Design

The Unity College Strategic Plan planning-doing cycle will be more efficient and responsive to the larger industry, environment, and market context by design. Prioritization and decision-making will be facilitated through the use of several new planning, prioritization, and implementation guidelines and tools.

Mission Achievement

Unity College’s Strategic Plan is designed with mission fulfillment at its very heart. Goals are directly and explicitly tied to fully becoming America’s Environmental College. Service to students and other priority audiences in fulfillment of the environmental and educational mission is foregrounded. Everything else is secondary by design.

An Iterative Approach

Unity College Strategic Plan adopts an iterative approach to strategic plan development and management. The overarching framework is designed for the college’s approach over the next several years but avoids establishing particular initiatives as high-level priorities. Ongoing redevelopment of the plan itself is incorporated into the design.

One of the failures of traditional strategic planning in the current environment is that plans project several years out, yet trends emerge, opportunities arise, and disruption occurs in real time. The Unity College Strategic Plan is designed as a framework that will allow for change, and not just in minor new initiatives or minor adjustments. As La Piana says, “…The reality of nonprofit life requires a faster, continuous cycle of strategic thinking and action… not a separation of organizational life into reflective and active periods.”

Responsibility and Accountability

In order to facilitate an iterative approach, The Unity College Strategic Plan identifies three layers of strategic planning structure: Goals, Objectives, and Initiatives. Experience tells us that if appropriate high-level items (Goals) are identified at a proper scale, then secondary and tertiary items (Objectives and Initiatives) provide adequate direction for college leaders to be responsible and accountable for project completion.

As with the previous strategic plan, the Unity College Board of Trustees is responsible for setting the strategic plan Goals. The president and, by extension Senior Staff, will set Objectives. Lead Employees will establish initiatives and all sub-actions necessary to complete any given project. For full rules of engagement, see the Strategic Plan Management Protocols in the Unity College Strategic Plan Tools for Planning and Strategic Plan Implementation.