University strategic planning – but where are the tactics?

University strategic planning, by MacLeod Cartoons

I’ve used the above image before, but it’s too good not to use again. University strategic planning is required by section 34 of the Universities Act, 1997 (also here). At best, it is a necessary evil; at worst, it borders on the absurd.

Strategy is all about long-term planning; tactics are all about the individual steps to get there. Most university strategic plans tend to be long on strategy but short on tactics: they are usually good on long-term ambition, but weak on short- and medium- term steps to achieve that ambition. A good plan would outline the detailed tactics necessary to achieve the strategy – and if the tactics can’t be planned, that should demonstrate that the strategy is unsound.

Sometimes, the best strategy is “steady as she goes”, but the statutory requirement for strategic planning carries with it an unexamined impetus for change for its own sake; and, whilst both strategy and tactics carry their own risks, strategic planning for the sake of strategic planning carries the risk of too much change for no reason other than the impetus for change supposedly demanded by the corporatist strategic-planning cycle.

The educationandstuff blog today captures (for DCU) what I think about the process:

A Strategy Blitz

… Most strategic plans make hard reading. They are filled with buzzwords like “foster”, “leverage”, “transformational”, “synergy”, “interdisciplinary” etc. Academics are ‘roped’ into writing these things by virtue of having climbed up the academic ladder and I suspect that they hate writing them. I would.

… I suppose the best thing about the strategy blitz is that most academics just ignore it and find a way to do what they like – and what they’re good at.

Read the full post here.