“Accountability, continuous improvement, measure success, get better, prove your value…”

College and university adminstration members driving campus-wide strategic planning know this drill well, and the constant pressure to “do the right thing” often fights against “do things right.”

At Six Disciplines, our certified coaches work with a wide variety of organizations in many different industries: professional service firms, manufacturing companies, nonprofit organizations – and yes, even prominent academic institutions of higher education.

Here’s how Six Disciplines currently helps a Midwestern university improve their strategic planning and execution, leadership development, performance management, and help them comply with regional and State mandates for continuous improvement and accreditation.


One Midwestern university we work with has an enrollment of about 5,000 students, offering over 125 majors spread among four colleges. They employ 900 people, including adjunct professors. Their governance structure includes a faculty senate which uses 40 committees to manage key processes and policies. On the administrative side, there is a cabinet reporting to the president. That group is responsible for academic affairs, finance, technology, advancement, enrollment, and student services.

Consider the complexity required for working together effectively.  There are 75 functional teams (departments), 5 strategic initiative teams, 40 committees and over 900 people who have to somehow develop a clear strategy, goals, and align their daily work to that strategy.

This is the very definition of complexity, considering differing backgrounds, skills, personalities, etc.

It’s no wonder that earlier research from Proudfoot shows that more than 30% all work time doesn’t align well with the strategy of an organization.

How to Reduce Accreditation Pressures for Universities Thru Campus-Wide Strategic Planning 1

When we started working with this university, the administration had no consistent formal strategic planning process: each college followed their own planning model, and each college was on their own time schedule.


The first step in improving the university’s ability to manage this complexity was to get campus-wide agreement on their “collaboration calendar”.  That rhythm synchronized all planning and execution management around consistent annual, quarterly, monthly, weekly, and daily cycles.

By freezing the schedule variable in this complex problem, we made it easier for them to focus on the content of their plans, without having to react to the random timing of everyone else’s planning initiatives. With each successive year, the coordination of plans became easier, and both the content and alignment of plans has improved significantly.

A common question is ‘why so many cycles – ranging from annual to daily?’ Research proves that organizations that review and revise plans more frequently – perform better. They’re more agile, and they process change faster.

It’s also important to understand that plans are never “right” for very long. Conditions change. The very act of pursuing a plan causes learning, which leads to refinements in the plan. The real value of planning is NOT in a written plan document. The real value of planning is the shared understanding that’s built among those who are DOING the planning.

Although the university’s “collaboration calendar” example above uses a single planning rhythm,  it includes five interrelated cycles.

Setting a vital-few annual objectives for all planning units, projects, and individuals helps create transparency that improves alignment.

Quarterly vital-few objectives are set each quarter to drive results toward the annual objectives.

A monthly cycle allows for adjustment of priorities during the year and creates urgency for strategically important items.

The weekly cycle is for individuals and teams to check-in and catch problems early while there’s still time to react and change.

Finally, the daily cycle is about ‘winning the day’ which requires staying focused on what’s important instead of just reacting to what’s urgent.

Is your college or university experiencing similar “challenges”?  It’s time we started the journey with you!



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