You may recall that, a few weeks ago, I was somewhat harsh about Western’s new strategic plan for being a kind of Stepford-link strategy: generic, and utterly lacking in anything that suggested Western had its own strengths and personality. If you follow me on twitter, you may have seen me make some similar remarks about Waterloo’s strategic plan. Waterloo is one of the country’s few universities that genuinely has a unique value proposition, and deep strengths on which to build – which is why it’s disappointing to see that its current strategic plan downplays (though does not eliminate) those things in favour of the generic, “research-research-hire-great-
But having shown you some examples of bad strategy, I thought I should make note of good strategy when it happens. And so, Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you Humber’s Strategic Plan.
(Some disclosure here: in the past twelve months, I have had two paid speaking engagements at Humber, one in connection with the making of this strategic plan. I also bid for the contract to help them develop the strategy as a whole – unsuccessfully. Make of that what you will.)
Why is Humber’s strategy so good? A few reasons.
A Clear, Concise Mission: “To be leaders in polytechnic education”. What’s great about this statement is that, unlike some generic statement about excellence, it gives everyone in the organization guidance about what not to do. They’re not there to become a university. They’re not there to be a college. They’re going to stick to their knitting, and try to carve out something distinctive in the emerging field of polytechnic education.
A Limited Number of Strategic Priorities. In order to appease various internal constituencies, too many strategies adopt an unwieldy laundry-list of priorities. Humber kept it to three: partnerships, teaching and learning, and “strengthening the polytechnic identity” (which might sound flaky but, in practice, is a fairly tightly-defined process of institutional differentiation and program development).
Success Metrics: It’s simple: if you commit to goals (three per strategy, nine in total), you should have some idea of whether or not you’ve achieved them. Yet, in most academic strategic plans, you will search in vain for simple, clear-language statements of intended outcomes. Humber’s are beautifully clear.
It’s not all brilliant; in particular, I think it contains too much about online education which, given Humber’s profile, and other strategic priorities, seems more like a distraction that anything else. But that’s more a quibble than a real problem. Humber has actually thought hard here about its unique strengths, and is building on them in a focused manner.
That’s strategy, folks. Read it.