Academic journal article Planning for Higher Education

A Guide to Planning for Change

Academic journal article Planning for Higher Education

A Guide to Planning for Change

Article excerpt

A Guide to Planning for Change by Donald M. Norris and Nick L. Poulton Society for College and University Planning, 2008 132 pages ISBN: 0-9820229-0-5

Reviewed by Sandra L. Kortesoja

Once again, Donald M. Norris and Nick L. Poulton have created a compact and timely guide that brings together a comprehensive array of 21 st-century planning resources, including (but not limited to) the Society for College and University Planning's (SCUP) portfolio of resources on integrated planning in higher education. Underwritten by five product providers (Microsoft, Inc.; The Sextant Group; Nuventive, Inc.; iStrategy; and eThority), A Guide to Planning for Change adroitly incorporates sections on powerful new techniques and tools without losing sight of fundamental concepts in planning, executing strategy, and developing organizational capacity. The guide's format and style represent the best of both the business and academic worlds: its clear, concise, easy-to-read text presentation makes liberal use of subheadings and spacing, is punctuated with diagrams and tables, and references an extensive body of planning literature. Norris and Poulton address new and emerging challenges from a balanced and practical perspective that reflects the lessons of history as well as the latest thinking. I'm not sure what I was expecting of such a slender volume on such a complex topic, but I was pleasantly surprised to discover that in 10 short chapters the authors could cover so much so effectively.

Importance of institutional context and external challenges. In A Guide to Planning for Change, Norris and Poulton emphasize the importance of institutional context and organizational support - in shaping any planning effort. Colleges and universities are complex organizations. No single planning style or approach can suit every situation. Organizations vary widely with respect to the nature and complexity of their institutional missions and with respect to their size, control or governance, and the presence or absence of collective bargaining agreements. Planners and strategists must first understand these and other contextual factors before they can develop an appropriate approach to planning and executing strategy. In another time-honored work, Bolman and Deal (2003) discuss "reframing" organizational change in terms of four interpretations (or "frames") of organizational processes: structural, human resource, political, and symbolic. In the introduction to the guide, Norris and Poulton describe the importance of both institutional context and organizational involvement:

Planning is a core competency of successful organizations, leaders, and managers. It pervades all organizational units and processes. Higher education planning in all its forms engages a broad cross section of administrative leaders, staff, faculty, students, alumni, and other stakeholders. Planning is ongoing, on different time frames and schedules. (Norris and Poulton 2008, p. 1)

The planning effort at a community college, for example, will differ from that undertaken at a research university, yet planners in both institutional contexts must also consider the external environment. Building on their earlier work, A Guide for New Planners (Norris and Poulton 1991), the authors recognize and respond to new challenges in the external environment by including resources in this work to help planners and strategists navigate changing conditions. For example, new patterns of multiculturalism and diversity, advances in information technology, new definitions of academic quality (with a focus on student learning and program effectiveness), new emphasis on the contribution of higher education to economic productivity, and the globalization of scholarship (Peterson, Dill, and Mets 1997) are all external forces driving institutional change. A Guide to Planning for Change "is about making sense of changing conditions and achieving strategic intent in the face of competition, uncertainty, and politics" (Norris and Poulton 2008, p. …

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