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Excellence in Strategic Planning

Georg Winckler

Introduction

Strategic planning is a means for a university to tackle the big issues with which it is confronted and to improve its competitive position. In order to gain the status of excellence, it is worthwhile that the university studies past models of success. Interesting examples are the so-called research-intensive university, the entrepreneurial university, or the university as knowledge enterprise. Ultimately, excellence depends on transforming the existing profile to one that successfully copes with future challenges.

Designing the Planning Process

General Remarks

In business administration studies, there is a common understanding that a strategy has to deal with the central issues of an establishment. It should focus on factors that determine the company's success. As a consequence, a strategic plan needs to answer the “big” questions a company is confronted with. In game theory, however, the term “strategy” is more generally defined. There, a strategy is any of the options a player can choose within more or less well-defined rules, where the outcome of choosing an option depends not only on a player's actions, but also on the actions of others. Strategic planning then looks for those strategies that are best, depending on other players' actions.

When designing a strategic plan for a university one should be aware of both definitions: (1) focusing on the “big” decisions an institution has to make and (2) taking into account the strategic interdependence with the outside world.

Finding a strategy for a university raises other issues too. A strategic plan should shape its identity and its profile. To do so, the plan needs to be consistent and longterm oriented. Since any identity is also defined by the values and standards an institution or an individual stands for, a strategic plan should explicitly indicate the value orientation on which it is based. In addition, the planning and the implementation of a strategy have to motivate the individuals who work for an institution. These individuals must readily recognize the chosen strategy as useful in tackling the “big” issues and as being potentially feasible. The pursuit of a strategy, however ambitiously its goals are set, should not be perceived as beyond reach.

Of course, a strategic plan should not only specify the long-term options, nor should it only articulate the values and standards within the framework of which these choices are made. It should also include the concrete actions, which are required or recommended when implementing a given strategy. This action plan has to indicate when and by which means intermediate steps will be taken. Finally, strategic controlling should provide feedback for correcting the course of action during the implementation phase.

 
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