|Descriptive Title of Proposal:||Breaking silos right from the launch of a strategic planning exercise|
|Person(s) Responsible for the Idea||
|Name of Institution||Université de Sherbrooke|
|Office Address||2500, Boul. de l'Université, Pavillon Georges-Cabana, local B1-3018
Sherbrooke, Quebec J1K 2R1
|Name (Senior Administrative Office of the Institution)||Jacqies Viens|
|Title (Senior Administrative Office of the Institution)||Director of the Office of the President|
|Office Address||Pavillon Georges-Cabana, B1-3018
2500, Boul. de l'Université
Sherbrooke, Quebec J1K 2R1
“Breaking silos” is often one of the objectives that appear in the strategic plans adopted by universities. At the Université de Sherbrooke (UdeS), “breaking silos” was more of a means of carrying out the strategic planning exercise the new administration launched in September 2017. Working without an external consultant, the president’s team fully appropriated the approach, which involved several particularities:
The entire approach only took seven months. It resulted in a strategic plan the stakeholders can see themselves in and was met with enthusiasm and support from the university community. This plan foresees the implementation of clear strategic directions closely monitored by the university’s administration, and for which resources have been allocated in accordance with the best practices recommended by the Government Finance Officers Association (GFOA).
|Criteria||Please submit one paragraph describing how the proposal fulfills each of the evaluation criteria.|
Both the approach and its result are easily transferable to any university that wishes to mobilize its community to achieve ambitious goals.
The strategic plan’s components are fairly standard: vision statement, UdeS’ distinctive values, strategic directions and sectoral plans. It is the process that stands out due to its simplicity: a field team with limited members; a flexible approach with specific mandates; the involvement of the stakeholders; thematic working groups; ongoing communication; a sustained pace and close tracking of the schedule; conciseness of the consultation activities, meetings and reports informing the strategic plan.
Each of these activities was created and led by the president or a member of his administration team.
Besides the thematic working groups, 914 consultations were held with internal and external stakeholders, in the form of individual meetings, brainstorming workshops, online surveys, letters and telephone calls. Special attention was placed on the students who could truly influence the strategic plan. In addition to these numerous consultations, regular communication was maintained, mainly through Web-based tools and videos produced by the president.
The communication approach also included:
As the ultimate reward, during the official launch, several participants said that they saw themselves in the plan and that it made them want to deepen their commitment to the institution. This is proof that including stakeholders in the strategic planning can pay off for universities.
For a complex, highly ambiguous organization like a university, planning becomes an opportunity to interact and discuss important issues, test the stakeholders’ commitment and pique their interest by demonstrating the institution's intention to do better.
The approach Université de Sherbrooke adopted is unique. It was developed bit by bit as the process unfolded and required audacity, creativity and sometimes humility from the members of the administration. If they had to do it all over again, they would apply the same process, but this time, feel even more confident in the value of the approach. The experience taught them a few lessons and debunked a few ideas:
The innovative approach that UdeS’ administration team developed and led produced a strategic plan in seven months, while including a maximum of stakeholders and extensively involving the student body. The plan is four pages long and includes four targeted directions and 22 objectives, favouring structuring activities that will contribute to the institution’s development and standing.
This strategic planning roots the university in its environment and consolidates ties with other players on which it depends or on which it has a significant impact.
UdeS’ strategic planning process was an opportunity to envision the future, rather than dwell on the past, while fulfilling its mission. By actively soliciting the community and keeping it informed of the project’s rapid progress, UdeS ensured that the community would adhere to the results and mobilize to achieve the collectively chosen directions.
Thank you to professor Anne-Marie Corriveau for her contribution to these texts.
Rather than create structures and form more committees, the university’s administration team decided to increase the number of opportunities to meet with its community.
For the stakeholders, taking part in every step of the strategic thinking process—without an intermediary—provided many advantages, allowing them to:
The role of the SPSC, made up of the members of the BoD and the UC, was to ensure a thorough process, to track the progress made and to ensure the validity of the documents produced. It could, as needed, decide which direction to take in decisive moments. Finally, it ensured consistency between the different working groups in view of integrated strategic planning.
The SPSC met for two strategic planning retreats in the course of the exercise, gathering 51 people, including six students. It was especially involved in identifying the university’s values and stating its vision. A first for Université de Sherbrooke, having the BoD and UC work together turned out to be an excellent idea. Given the positive results, this initiative will be repeated each year.
Concretely, the priorities proposed by the president led to the creation of five thematic working groups. Made up of 13 to 19 people (deans, vice-deans, students, professionals, teachers, board members, internal and external partners), each was tasked with developing and validating the directions, strategies and actions that would make up the future strategic plan.
To fulfill their mission, the working groups had to solicit the appropriate stakeholders, assess the gathered information, develop action proposals, identify monitoring indicators and submit recommendations to the SPSC.
The stakeholders were involved from the very beginning. Their desire to be included was a considerable challenge for a university of UdeS’ size, both due to the number of stakeholders and the various territories the institution covers, but it rose to the occasion. The project involved a total of 5,000 respondents, representing more than 70 internal and external stakeholders.
The stakeholders were retained based on their potential contribution to a working group: as a current or desired strategic partner, as a financial backer, or because they worked in one of the UdeS’ areas of influence. To be as inclusive as possible, all of the interest groups that could be affected by a decision had to at least have their voices heard and then be kept informed of the process.
For a short period (less than a year), an approach was implemented and led by the president’s team without an intermediary. For efficiency, but also consistency, no bodies were created for the sole purpose of strategic planning. At the most, some bodies were temporarily broadened to be as inclusive as the developed approach.