“We will not sit complacent by success. There is great opportunity awaiting us.”
When Augusta University President Brooks A. Keel, PhD unveiled the university’s new strategic plan last spring, he used those two sentences to challenge university leaders to not “put the strategic plan on a shelf to gather dust.” Keel and the Core Team instrumental in developing Creating a Legacy Like No Other were serious about meeting the aspirational goals.
Halfway through the first academic year under the new strategic plan, every department and unit at Augusta University is hard at work to develop their own five-year strategic plans that align with the greater university plan.
On Jan. 17, leaders from across the university gathered in the Dr. Roscoe Williams Ballroom in the Jaguar Student Activities Center for a half-day retreat. The primary purpose of the workshop was to make sure all departments and their strategic plans moving forward align with the university’s strategic plan through intentional conversations with peers that encourage awareness, embrace collaboration and guide leaders in the refinement of their strategic alignment plans.
“As I stated when we announced our strategic plan, we plan to not only achieve our goals, but surpass them, and this workshop was a good step toward doing that,” Keel said.
“We strive every day to provide our students with an innovative and inclusive learning environment to prepare them for the workforce. Augusta University is a place to not only receive a quality education, but also to build a fulfilling career and make a positive impact on the lives of others.”
Prior to the meeting, the strategic planning project sponsors reviewed the strategic alignment plans at a President’s Executive Cabinet meeting. The group is made up of Russell Keen, EdD, executive vice president of administration and chief of staff to the president; Neil J. MacKinnon, PhD, executive vice president for academic affairs and provost; and Yvonne Turner, executive vice president of finance and chief business officer.
The half-day session began with Turner asking those gathered a rather simple question of what 5+5 equals. The point was to show that no matter how you get there, the end result will still be 10. It was intended to be an example of how departments can think differently and creatively on utilizing existing funds to meet their needs and reach the same end goals.
“The ultimate goal of this session was for our university leadership to execute the goals outlined in our strategic plan,” MacKinnon said.
“Throughout this process, I am reminded of author Chris McChesney’s New York Times bestseller, The 4 Disciplines of Execution. In it he states there are four main reasons why organizations and people don’t execute their strategies: Lack of clarity of the objectives, lack of commitment to the goal, goals not translated into specific actions, and lack of accountability. We’re hopeful that today’s exercise will help us avoid these four mistakes, and that our university will continue to thrive and grow.”
As university leaders look to streamline their plans, Alexander Schwarzmann, PhD, dean of the School of Computer and Cyber Sciences, offered the group tips learned from how his department created its strategic alignment plan, emphasizing that talking to small groups of faculty helped streamline goals and made the plan impactful.
A large portion of the retreat was centered around a gallery walk, designed in the fashion of speed dating, where department and unit leaders met for short periods of time and delivered “elevator pitches” on what their units aim to accomplish, including enrollment and retention goals, and how they can help the university meet its overall aspirational imperatives.