Despite the abundance of literature about strategic planning in higher education, there is no right or wrong way to compose a strategic plan, nor is there a definitive template into which all strategic plans should fit. That said, RIT’s Strategic Planning Steering Committee has thus far been guided by those conventions of planning that we feel will yield an accessible, reasonable, and still aspirational blueprint for RIT for the next 5-10 years.
Among these conventions are our working definitions of the terms “Mission,” “Vision” and “Strategic Dimensions.” Before you review the drafts we’ve provided, please take a minute to read the following.
1. Mission: A university’s mission is a concise statement of the organization’s purpose, of the reason(s) it exists. Technically not a part of the strategic plan, the mission is an important standard by which accreditors measure institutional effectiveness, with each component of the statement likely to be subject to evaluation and assessment. For this reason, contemporary educational mission statements tend not to include reference to institutional culture and values, which are often included in a “Shared Values” statement.
2. Vision: The vision statement summarizes where the institution intends to be at the end of a stipulated timeframe (usually the length of the new strategic plan). The vision’s content derives from the mission statement and drives the content and priorities of the plan itself. A common misconception is that vision statements (and strategic plans) should be comprehensive—addressing everything an institution does. In fact, a vision statement’s purpose is to identify a subset of those areas upon which the university will focus for the agreed-upon life of the strategic plan. This does not mean that areas not referenced within the vision are no longer important.
3. Strategic Dimensions: A plan’s “Dimensions” emerge directly from the vision statement and are the major areas that the plan will address. There are at least three reasons why a given dimension might be included within a plan: 1) it represents a significant opportunity for the university that is congruent with the mission and vision; 2) it addresses an external factor likely to have a major impact upon the organization (e.g., public concern regarding access); 3) it is a category from the preceding plan that requires continued attention (a fund-raising goal, for example).
Each dimension will include a (short) list of secondary dimensions that define the focus of the strategic task forces.
There is a tendency by educational institutions to compose lengthy lists of dimensions containing multiple secondary categories. An corrective to this tendency is to consider the question of funding. Most strategic goals require resources, and since the institutional supply of resources for strategic initiatives is always finite, a long list guarantees an ultimately ineffective strategic plan.