Strategic Planning: Beyond Buzzwords to Action and Execution

Enthusiastic about strategic planning, practitioners often infuse their language with buzzwords to describe their planning efforts. We use words like “roadmap” to describe action plans, and “charting success” to talk about our progress. We describe our endeavors as a “journey,” navigating towards our “North Star,” because, why settle for simple directions when you can embark on an epic quest?!

While these words may sound impressive to some, they often fail to connect with a broader audience, coming across as jargon or catchphrases. Even the words “strategic” and “planning” have seemingly lost their resonance, leading discussions on the subject to be dismissed or overlooked.

Yet, it’s critical to recognize the importance of these words because they carry deep significance and implications related to our institutional effectiveness. When executed well, strategic planning provides substantial advantages over those who neglect it. Institutions that not only formulate plans but also actively implement them, monitor their progress, and leverage insights for continual improvement yield tangible benefits. While this takes time and the collaborative efforts of many, the investment is critical, because it positively impacts people—our students and those in the broader communities we serve.

Now, if you’re still with me, read on for some exciting mid-year, strategic planning updates! I’m about to share a snapshot – without the jargon – highlighting the progress we’ve made and some of the impactful work happening at WSU.

Annual System Plan Objectives: Progress and Beyond

For 2023-2024, WSU put into place 15 objectives and 57 strategies aimed at advancing progress toward our system goals. Among these, 48 strategies are on track for completion, with four already successfully accomplished. However, three strategies are currently categorized as either “off-track” or “at-risk” for completion.

For comprehensive information, I encourage you to access our user-friendly dashboards on the strategic plan website. A brief review not only sheds light on key institutional priorities and the strategies driving our progress but also underscores the ongoing, active nature of strategic planning at WSU. When we say, “At WSU, it is not just a plan on paper,” we mean it. Faculty and staff are working hard – every day – executing our plan through a myriad of activities in support of achieving our strategic goals and objectives and fulfilling our land-grant mission.

Campus Strategic Planning

In addition to system-level strategic planning, campus-level strategic planning is robust and thriving.  WSU Everett, Pullman, Tri-Cities, and Vancouver all have active plans in place, with some currently undergoing reviews and updates, a recognized best practice. Additionally, WSU Global has finalized its plan, which will be brought forward to the WSU Board of Regents for final approval this March. WSU Spokane is in the final stages of drafting its first strategic plan.

Effectiveness hinges, in part, on creating a cohesive planning structure that extends across all levels of the system, helping ensure alignment with our mission and system goals. The fall of 2023 marked a significant milestone in this regard with WSU adopting an online strategic planning platform, serving as the home for the strategic plan dashboards mentioned earlier. This adoption has enhanced our transparency and capacity to monitor progress. Presently, the Tri-Cities and Vancouver campuses have integrated their plans into the platform and efforts are underway to transition all campus plans into this framework.

We will continue tracking and monitoring our progress as we turn our attention toward developing the 2024-2025 annual objectives, giving us prioritization and focus for the forthcoming year. It is crucial to underscore that the collective commitment and daily contributions of each individual within the institution genuinely drive impactful change.

As stewards of the WSU system strategic plan, the Office of Strategy, Planning, and Analysis (OSPA) empowers the WSU community with strategic thinking, robust planning, and informed decision-making using institutional data and enhanced analytics. Please visit our website to learn more.

Profile photo of Christine Hoyt, Vice President of Strategy, Planning, and Analysis at WSU.

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.