A symphony of success: The power of alignment in strategic planning at WSU

Who says strategic planning can’t be exciting?! Washington State University has come a long way, experiencing growth and maturity with strategic planning over the last several years. Following are a notable few highlights of some major accomplishments:

  • June 2020: The first-ever WSU System strategic plan was approved by the Board of Regents. The OneWSU system and data-informed decision-making initiatives were also formally adopted.
  • November 2021: The Office of Strategy, Planning, and Analysis (OSPA) was formed to bring focus to strategic planning for the WSU system. OSPA was initially created with just 3 staff. Additional positions were filled in 2022. In July 2022, Institutional Research merged with OSPA, placing data at the forefront, alongside planning.
  • Fall 2022: A system-wide senior leadership retreat led to the release of an updated system strategic plan. Annual objectives were identified for each goal, and the System Strategic Plan Coordinating Council (SSPCC) was formed to help monitor progress.
  • Spring 2023: Goal leads were identified and strategies were developed and worked on each for each goal. The president developed draft 1 of his 2023-2024 goals and objectives, which will expand beyond the four existing objectives. Those will be approved by the Board of Regents at their September meeting and shared with the university community. A second system-wide senior leadership retreat was used to further develop these strategies for the upcoming year.
  • Spring 2023: The Board of Regents marked an inspiring commencement of the 2025-2030 strategic plan process. The Board engaged in vibrant conversations centered around WSU’s mission and a visionary outlook towards the future.
  • Summer 2023: Strategic plan tracking and implementation software is being implemented to increase efficiency, reporting, and transparency around our progress.

This is only a highlight of the extensive work that has been done regarding system-level strategic planning, which is also occurring at campus, college, and administrative unit levels. These plans can come together in a powerful way to help WSU achieve its mission.

The Symphony of Success at WSU

Picture Washington State University as a symphony orchestra, with each member playing their unique instrument. Now imagine what happens when everyone is in perfect alignment, following the conductor’s lead. The result is a mesmerizing symphony of achievement!

Alignment in strategic planning means that our actions are coordinated so they work together in reaching the same institutional goals. At the same time, campuses maintain flexibility to address distinctive requirements in their individual communities.  By being in alignment, WSU ensures that all facets of the university, from faculty to staff, departments to student organizations, work harmoniously toward our mission, vision, and strategic goals.

One Team, One Dream: WSU’s Collective Achievement

So what does alignment look like? The following is an abbreviated example:

  1. Through a collaborative process and with a shared understanding, the WSU system strategic plan is set with its mission, vision, and four goals.
  2. Campuses, colleges, and administrative units develop their strategic plans that align with and support the system’s mission and vision, while considering their unique strengths and needs.
  3. Regular communication and coordination occur among campuses, colleges, and units promoting a cohesive approach to implementing strategies and initiatives.
  4. Mechanisms are established to ensure continuous monitoring and evaluation at both the system and campus, college, and unit levels to regularly assess system alignment.
  5. All plans are are reviewed and updated annually and adjustments are made as needed to ensure currency, consistency, and sustained progress.

During Spring 2023, the System Strategic Plan Coordinating Council created a set of standards for strategic planning and alignment at WSU. This important document outlines the ways strategic planning should work at WSU and how alignment should occur, and will be publicly available in July 2023.

Navigating a Dynamic Future

As WSU moves forward in a rapidly changing world, agility is crucial. Alignment ensures that WSU’s strategic plans remain adaptable and responsive to shifts in our external environment. When the university community is aligned, we can swiftly recalibrate our focus, adjust priorities, and seize emerging opportunities that will propel WSU to new levels of success.

Chris Hoyt, VP

About the Author

Christine Hoyt is Vice President of Strategy, Planning, and Analysis at Washington State University. She provides oversight and leadership to guide WSU’s system strategic planning efforts.

She serves as a strategic partner with other leaders and planners systemwide to drive alignment of WSU’s campus, college, and unit plans to the system strategic plan and implementation of the institution’s top priorities.