Assessing Your Environment For Strategy Development

Liz Kistner - Monday, October 27, 2014

In the cult horror movie "Halloween" Michael Myers was a mental institution escapee who killed his sister on Halloween fifteen years earlier.   Movies must have the correct music, setting, plot and actors to be effective.  "Halloween" would not be the same if Michael was not stalking "Laurie" without his mask.  Strategic planning is like a story that must have the correct actors (stakeholders), beginning (assessments), middle (developing effective programs/budgets) and end (implementation) to be effective.

Every story starts at the beginning:  internal (strengths/weaknesses) and external (opportunities/threats) environmental assessments will provide valuable information used in strategy development helping you identify strategic issues, purpose, forces and trends, and the ability to respond effectively to the outside world before a crisis happens.

Strengths and Weaknesses will help your university clarify organizational competencies.  What qualitative and/or performance information are you currently gathering to judge effectiveness of resource allocations?  How are you measuring performance goals that are objective and quantifiable?  Use market intelligence and research that will enable you to meet your mandates and fulfill your mission. Environmental strengths may include: secure budget, the right staff, currently meeting short term/ long term goals.  Environmental weaknesses may include:  no measure of value added, complacency, lack of planning, employee dissatisfaction.  Strategic planning is not expensive in monetary dollars rather in the value of time; the time, attention, and commitment of key decision makers.

Opportunities and Threats:  Forces and trends increase the complexity of your political, economic, social, global, and technological environment.  Your environment is constantly changing thus it is important to continuously monitor and adapt. Change equals opportunity.  Innovate by having key stakeholders discuss with one another what is important for the university as a whole.  Effective planning can help establish priorities, clarify future direction, improve organizational performance, deal effectively with rapidly changing circumstances, build teamwork and expertise.  Environmental opportunities may include: the right conditions (according to the Wall Street Journal September 25, 2013 "An M.B.A looks cool again as the job market improves.  As hiring ticks up among startups and tech companies and even finance firms so has interest from prospective students"), unproven technology (online courses are looking for a business model), quality research and analysis.  Environmental threats may include:  top-staff turnover, competition, lack of planning, bureaucratic roadblocks, loss of reputation/brand, accreditation. 

Today, many universities are functioning in highly challenging, competitive, and volatile environments.  Use analytical tools (SWOT) for identifying, gathering, interpreting, and assessing internal/external data.  Develop a SWOT analysis that will help guide the development, implementation, and evaluation of your strategies.