Integrated Planning

In higher education, we are ambitious. There is so much we want to do for our students, our community, and the world. Colleges and universities have so many talented faculty, staff, and students, each dreaming big and making plans to get there. Now imagine those plans working together toward the same vision. That’s what integrated planning does—it supercharges your institution’s strengths. When higher education leaders collaborate across boundaries, when stakeholders articulate a vision of the future and work toward it, when planning becomes part of your culture (and not just a one-time event), then you can unleash the promise and potential of higher education.

What is integrated planning?

Integrated planning is a sustainable approach to planning that builds relationships, aligns the organization, and emphasizes preparedness for change.

Integrated planning engages all sectors of the academy—academic affairs, student affairs, business and finance, campus planning, IT, communications, development, etc. Integrated planning involves all stakeholders—faculty, students, staff, alumni, and external partners—to work together toward a common vision.

Integrated planning aligns higher education plans both vertically (from mission to on-the-ground operations) and horizontally (across schools, departments, offices, and units).

Integrated planning is:

  • Sustainable: With this approach you build a culture of planning that is durable and brings focus to institutional progress.
  • Collaborative: Engages all stakeholders so that everyone with a stake in the institution is invested in the success of the institution.
  • Aligned: Integrated planning is achieved by aligning efforts across the institution: up, down, and across the institution. Moreover, alignment occurs when mission is supported by linking strategic initiatives with resources and mechanisms for evaluating the success of these initiatives.
  • Change-ready: Is this higher education’s moment of disruption? Whether or not you believe this, it is certain that the environment changes quickly and (sometimes) without warning. Remember the economic crisis of 2008? Institutions with solid integrated planning processes are poised to respond to a volatile environment. Are you change-ready?

Why do it?

Integrated planning helps higher education institutions achieve their mission more effectively. It creates consensus on an institution’s priorities and moves the entire community toward the same vision. Integrated planning ensures each goal has the necessary resources to be achieved, and that efforts will be measured so strategies can be course-corrected. It helps institutions coordinate across divisions, create efficiencies, and look to the future.

Further, each institution has its own rhythms, processes, mandates, and expectations. Integrated planning respects that. It adheres to rhythms so more stakeholders can give input and feedback into the plan. It aligns to the processes so plan decisions are made in time to inform resource allocation. It is aware of mandates so compliance is built in to goals and strategies. And it respects expectations so stakeholders are inspired and motivated by the plan.

How to do it?

Integrated planning is an approach to planning. To do integrated planning, look at your institution’s:

  • Practices
    • Are plans and planning efforts linked across the institution? Is the planning process transparent? Does it seek and use stakeholder input throughout the process?
  • Structure
    • Does your institution’s design align units and departments? Do planning and implementation teams have cross-departmental representation? Is someone in each unit responsible for planning?
  • Culture
    • Does your institution value collaboration, cooperation, and communication across different units? Does everyone know how their day-to-day work contributes to achieving the mission?

Who does it?

That depends on the scale of the planning effort and how ready the institution is for change. Ideally, integrated planning is led by institutional leadership with support from unit leadership. If an institution isn’t there yet, though, integrated planning solutions can be adopted by a single unit, committee, or planning team.

When to do it?

At any time. Integrated planning does not depend on beginning a specific planning cycle. It’s about ensuring that any type of planning—from institution-wide to an employee’s monthly goals—is aligned and focused on the institutional mission and vision.