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Critical Success Factors as Tools for Planning in Unpredictable Environments. Brian Nedwek, Ph.D. Executive Director, Forest Institute-St. Louis or June 16, 2014. What we seek to do today.

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critical success factors as tools for planning in unpredictable environments

Critical Success Factors as Tools for Planning in Unpredictable Environments

Brian Nedwek, Ph.D.

Executive Director, Forest Institute-St. Louis


June 16, 2014

what we seek to do today
What we seek to do today
  • Understand effective elements and planning processes in an unpredictable environment
  • Know if one is heading in the right direction
  • How to build a useful planning tool
  • How to launch Critical Success Measurements
  • Identify some useful resources
traditional assumptions about the external environment
Traditional Assumptions about the External Environment
  • Predictable revenue streams
  • Stable and gradual change
  • Known competitors
  • Inherent worth of the product
traditional assumptions about the internal environment
Traditional Assumptions about the Internal Environment
  • Incremental funding and indifference to prioritization
  • Innovation owned by top management
  • Focus on improving existing programs and services
  • Gradual infusion of technology to improve efficiency
some emerging trends health care as harbinger
Some Emerging Trends . . . Health Care as Harbinger
  • Less expensive professionals
  • to do more sophisticated things
  • in less expensive settings.
  • Source: CM Christensen, R. Bohmer, and J. Kenagy, “Will Disruptive Innovations Cure Health Care?” See:
look at what is here
Look at what is here . . .
  • Self-diagnostics and Service
    • WebMD
    • PsychCentral
    • Home testing kits, monitors, sensors, ingestible sensors
    • Explosion of apps
    • Brain training products, e.g., Lumosity
  • Personnel
    • Physician assistants and nurse practitioners versus primary doctors, LPC’s versus psychologists
some emerging trends higher education
Some Emerging Trends . . . Higher Education
  • Part-time faculty delivering majority of training
  • Growth of “skill builders” enrolled in community colleges*
  • Altered relationships between faculty and learners and among learners
  • Evidence-based accountability tied to performance funding**
  • Growing view of education as a commodity
  • *The Hechinger Report (March 26, 2014)
  • **
some emerging trends higher education1
Some Emerging Trends . . . Higher Education
  • Loss of influence in state budgeting fights
  • Redefining programs and services just to stay alive
  • Imitation being confused with innovation
  • Added pressures on regional and specialized accrediting bodies to bolster accountability
implications for planning
Implications for Planning
  • Engage the process from an integrated perspective, i.e., overcome organizational silos in priority-setting
  • Becoming brutally honest about strengths and the degree of weaknesses
  • Focus on devising strategies to achieve a “transient competitive advantage” *
  • Abolish ceremonial planning and embrace integrated strategic thinking

*(Rita McGrath, 2013)

focus of strategic planning or strategic thinking
Focus of strategic planning (or strategic thinking)

“. . . A disciplined effort to produce fundamental decisions and actions that shape and guide what an organization is, what it does, and why it does it.”

(Bryson, 1995, p. 5)

“. . . A formalized procedure to produce an articulated result, in the form of an integrated system of decisions.”

(Mintzberg, 1994, p. 12)

effective planning requires
Effective planning requires . . .
  • Goals/objectives/strategies/outcomes that are clear, integrated, and linked to mission, vision and values (Porter, 1996)
  • Objectives and strategies are financially and politically feasible
  • Information-based choices
  • Clear timelines and task specification
  • Accountability
  • Linkage to resource allocation choices
  • Nimbleness in responding to unanticipated opportunities or threats
recall what planning is intended to promote
Recall what planning is intended to promote:
  • A sustainable competitive advantage for the organization
  • Information-guided decisions about fundamental choices
making fundamental choices about
Making fundamental choices about . . .
  • Whom do we wish to serve?
  • How do we want to be perceived, i.e., the brand promise?
  • What programs and services will reinforce this distinctive image?
  • How will we and our stakeholders know we are succeeding?
so how do you know that you are succeeding
So, how do you know that you are succeeding?
  • Figuring out who wants to know what using:
  • Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s)
  • Critical Success Factors
  • Dashboard Indicators
who wants to know if you are succeeding
Who wants to know if you are succeeding?
  • Regional accrediting bodies
  • Boards of Trustees or Governors
  • Legislative Oversight bodies
  • CEO
  • Senior Managers
  • Donors
key performance indicators are used to
Key Performance Indicators are used to . . .
  • Monitor conditions or resource usage as compliance behavior
  • Measure performance against stated policy, program, or institutional goals
  • Forecast problems
  • Build the policy agenda
  • Support resource allocations
  • Create bases for comparisons

Nedwek (1966)

characteristics of kpis
Characteristics of KPIs
  • Data capture from legacy systems
  • Bundled into core functions, e.g., finance, enrollment, degree production
  • Attempts to link measures with institutional strategic priorities
  • Indicators assembled to reflect available data, but not necessarily relevant data
  • Explosion of indicators, e.g., University of California
  • Basis for rudimentary performance-based funding in 25 states
  • Basis for building snapshots of organization, i.e., dashboards
what are critical success factors in planning

What are Critical Success Factors in Planning?

Characteristics of an institution that when realized represent its ideal state at a point in time.

Can be institution-wide or unit-specific

Specialized subsets of KPIs

enterprise wide factors
Enterprise-wide Factors
  • Driven by institutional goals, mission & values*
  • Multiple measures narrowed to critical factors
  • Benchmark standards
  • Established realistic timelines
  • Senior management accountability & Board oversight

*NCAL (2014)

unit specific measures
Unit-specific Measures
  • Sensitive to distinctive mission of academic unit, e.g., College or support service
  • Consistent with institutional mission, goals, and institutional CSF’s
  • Timelines consistent with unit plan
  • Unit level accountability is clearly articulated
model building choices institutional level
Model-building Choices: Institutional Level
  • What dimensions make sense?
  • What measures in each dimension make sense?
  • What is the best baseline?
  • What is an appropriate comparative standard?
  • What level of success can be achieved and by when?
what a minute
What a minute . . .

It’s important to realize that key metrics on their own are not particularly important . . . It’s what they ultimately do for customers that you want to understand.

McGrath and McMillan (2009) p.118

critical success factors enterprise wide level
Critical Success Factors: Enterprise-wide Level
  • Retention rate increases to XX% by Year XXXX
  • XX% of faculty position offers to first-choice candidates are accepted
  • XX% of students reporting satisfactory engagement (NSSE)
  • Bond rating increases to XX level by Year XXXX
  • Enhanced academic quality in three dimensions
  • Nedwek (2004)
critical success factors unit level
Critical Success Factors: Unit Level
  • Licensure exam passage rates, e.g., bar pass of first-timers
  • Market share increases by XX%
  • External recognition of faculty performance, e.g., funded research, leadership in organizations
  • XX% of programs in unit meeting specialized accreditation
  • XX% of course syllabi meeting “principles of good practice”
  • Enhanced academic quality in three dimensions
how to use csfs to strengthen the organization
How to use CSFs to strengthen the organization
  • Gap analysis of distance between ideal and actual can be tied to budget allocation per unit improvement, e.g., gauging how much will it cost to improve student retention by 1%
  • Use as agenda item(s) for key Board committees annually
  • Create strategic set-aside funding mechanism
for some dashboard measures
For some dashboard measures
  • Benchmarking performance against:
    • Competitors
    • National or regional norms
    • Other institutions within systems
    • Aspirational institutions
    • Other programs within and among institutional units
    • Program history, e.g., time-series trends
critical success factors e nterprise wide
Critical Success Factors: Enterprise-wide
  • XX % of citizens report satisfaction with police services
  • By 2015, incidence of Part I offenses per 100,000 is reduced by XX %
  • What else comes to mind?
how to develop measures that make a difference
How to develop measures that make a difference
  • Measured standards must be politically and financially feasible
  • Meeting or failing to meet benchmarks must have consequences that reinforce a preferred organizational climate
  • Measures must be under continuous review so that progress is monitored and corrective actions are undertaken
  • Measures at the enterprise level should guide the development of measures at the unit levels
  • Organizational measures must be linked to individual performance measures
The end product of strategic planning is not so much to write a ‘plan’ as it is to change thinking and introduce a model in which ongoing decisions are made strategically.

Rawley, Lujan, and Dolence ( 1997)

  • Bryson, John M. (1988). A Strategic Planning Process for Public and Non-profit Organizations. Long Range Planning. Vol. 21, No. 1, pp. 73-81.
  • Christensen, Clayton M. (1997). The Innovator’s Dilemma. Boston: Harvard Business School Press.
  • Christensen, Clayton M., R. Bohmer, and J. Kenagy,
  • The Hechinger Report. (March 26, 2014).
  • Heskett, James. (September 4, 2013). How Relevant is Long-Range Strategic Planning? Working Knowledge, Harvard Business Review, September 4, 2013.
  • iDashboards for Higher Education Providing Insight for Operational Success: An iDashboards Whitepaper. (2013).
  • Forest Institute of Professional Psychology. (2010). Strategic Plan 2010-2013. Forest Institute of Professional Psychology: Springfield, MO
  • George Mason University. (2013). Six-Year Plans – Part I (2013). 2014-16 through 2018-20
  • H. Mintzberg. (1994). The Rise and Fall of Strategic Planning. New York: Free Press.
  • Morrison, Dennis. (2013). At the Speed of Thought: The Role of Disruptive Innovation in Behavioral Health – One Year Later, the 2013 Technology & Informatics Institute. See, October 31, 2013.
  • McGrath, Rita Gunther. (2013). The End of Competitive Advantage: How to Keep Your Strategy Moving as Fast as Your Business. Boston: Harvard Business Review Press.
  • McGrath, Rita Gunther and I.C. MacMillan (2009). Discovery-driven Growth: A Breakthrough Process to Reduce Risk and Seize Opportunity. Boston: Harvard Business School Publishing.
  • Nedwek, Brian. (1996). “Linking Quality Assurance and Accountability: Using Process and Performance Indicators.” In Nedwek, B. (ed.). Doing Academic Planning. Ann Arbor: Society for College and University Planning. 137-144.
  • Nedwek, Brian. (2004). Benchmarking Success: Academic and Facilities Factors. SCUP-39. Workshop K. Toronto.
  • Nedwek, Brian. (2005). “Measuring Strategic Plans and Planning.” In Becoming a Learning Focused Organization: Organizational Distinctiveness and Effectiveness. A Collection of Papers on Self-Study and Institutional Improvements, 2005. Chicago: Higher Learning Commission, 35-37.
  • Porter, Michael. (1996).”What is strategy.” Harvard Business Review, (November/December) 61-78.
  • D.J. Rowley, H.D. Lujan, M.G. Dolence. (1997). Strategic Change in Colleges and Universities: Planning to Survive and Prosper. San Francisco: Jossey Bass Publishers.
  • Tennessee Higher Education Commission. (2014). See: for downloads on Tennessee’s utcomes-based model.
  • A. Tompkins. (2014). Foresight 2020 Annual Progress Report. Kansas Board of Regents. See:
  • Foresight2020boardpresentation_January16.pdf
  • Performance-Based Funding for Higher Education. March 5, 2014.
  • Society for College and University Planning. 49th Annual International Conference. July 12-16, 2014. See especially:
    • K. Newman. July 14, 2014. A New View of Opportunity and Risk Through Dashboards. University of California ERM Program.
    • T. Beckett. July 15, 2014. Analytics That Rock – See the Dashboards that Top the Charts. Information Builders.
    • R. Pacheco. July 14, 2014. Input-Adjusted Performance Measures of Institutional Effectiveness. MiraCosta College.
    • K. Smith and P. Stearns. July 15, 2014. Using Strategic Metrics: Measuring One Plan, Building a New One. George Mason University.