Guiding Strategic Planning at Texas Tech - A Possible Model for Peer Institutions
Provost and Senior Vice President
“Universities are the engines of economic growth, the custodians and transmitters of cultural heritage, the mentors of each new generation of entrants into every profession, the accreditors of competency and skills, and the agents of personal understanding and societal transformation.”
—Frank H. T. Rhodes (1926- )
Former President of Cornell University and Provost at the University of Michigan
During the past year, the Texas Tech University (TTU) community has been actively engaged in a strategic planning effort. The result – a plan prepared and reviewed by the TTU Board of Regents (BOR) on Feb. 25, 2010. The plan – Making It Possible: Texas Tech’s Strategic Plan for 2010-2020 – and its development represent a success story that deserves description for TTU community members and as a possible model for other universities.
The TTU strategic planning development story can be divided into three parts: 1) pre-planning efforts, 2) planning activities, and 3) plan dissemination and other follow-up efforts. Let’s consider these segments in order.
Strategic planning may be inspired by a number of people or factors. Here are some of the most common genesis elements:
- A new president or chancellor is appointed and she or he wishes to influence the future direction of the institution.
- The institution is a member of a system organization and the system administration directs member units to engage in focused planning as part of a system-wide effort.
- An institutional or system-level board of directors or trustees mandates the strategic planning effort.
- A state higher education board requests a strategic plan in connection with an executive (gubernatorial) or legislative order or initiative.
- A university-wide accrediting agency requires a strategic planning effort as part of an accreditation process.
In the case of Texas Tech’s recent strategic planning efforts, all of the above noted factors had some role to play, although the first three were of preeminent importance.
Once the decision for Texas Tech’s strategic planning was made, a number of pre-planning efforts were implemented, and here are the most important that occurred during 2008-2009:
- President Bailey’s appointment at TTU in August 2008 came at a time when the University was in the late stages of marshalling its efforts to appeal the probationary reaffirmation status that had accompanied an incomplete filing of documents to the Southern Association of Colleges and Universities Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) in late 2007. While pursuing the reaffirmation remedial efforts, a need for more effective strategic planning became apparent. Additionally, President Bailey’s penchant for institutional analysis helped him uncover a disconnect between prior TTU planning and state funding opportunities – all in the context of Chancellor Kent Hance’s challenge to increase appreciably enrollment at the university. President Bailey immediately challenged Texas Tech to focus on national research university status with a paper entitled, “What Makes a National Research University,” which he presented to the Strategic Planning Council and across campus. Following up on his financial intuition, President Bailey developed a PowerPoint presentation on the financial results of earlier TTU enrollment decisions that failed to maximize revenues through the Texas funding formula allocation process.
- As suggested above, Chancellor Hance began – soon after his arrival in December 2006 – articulating a vision of a Texas Tech that would make greater contributions to the Texas workforce needs through increased enrollment, retention, and graduation rates. After extensive consultation with Texas Tech’s Strategic Planning Council, this theme became an integral element of a subsequent TTU System planning effort that resulted in Leading the Way, a document presented to the TTU Board of Regents in August 2009. As would be noted in the TTU campus plan, constructs were put into place to ensure articulation of the TTU System (Leading the Way) and TTU campus (Making It Possible) plans.
- The TTU Board of Regents – composed as it is with accomplished professionals who care greatly about the future of Texas Tech – has displayed great interest and enthusiasm for compelling and effective strategic planning.
- Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s enthusiasm for higher education reform – including emphasis on teaching excellence and cost effectiveness – dovetails well with the strategic planning efforts that have been in place at Texas Tech since early 2009.
- The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB) and its planning mandates in connection with several statewide initiatives (e.g., certification of Emerging National Research Universities [NRUs] and their progress towards NRU status) provided added impetus for TTU’s strategic planning efforts.
With the above factors in place, a purposeful and re-invented strategic planning process began – based in part on prior efforts (Paton, 2009) – but initiated with the March 2009 appointment of the TTU Provost as chairperson of the university’s Strategic Planning Council (SPC; see Appendix 1 for 2009-2010 composition). Accompanying the noted appointment was the recognition that the then-current 2005-2009 strategic plan would end with the completion of calendar 2009. Accordingly, the goal of the SPC was to prepare a completed 2010-2020 plan for President Bailey’s approval by Dec. 31, 2009. With a somewhat tight timeline in place, purposeful planning began in April 2009.
After arriving at Texas Tech in February 2009, I followed up on early conversations with President Bailey and our agreement that a web-based journal – All Things Texas Tech (ATTT) – would serve as an apt vehicle for communication among members of the TTU community. Thus, the first two issues of ATTT were published in April and October 2009. Notably, articles directly related to TTU’s strategic planning appeared in the two issues (Bailey, 2009; Paton, 2009; Smith, 2009a; Smith, 2009b). Drafts of two of these articles (Smith, 2009a; Smith, 2009b) were also used as the foundation for strategic planning-related meetings across campus. Following is a listing of meetings and other interpersonal interactions that were critical to the development of Texas Tech’s strategic plan for 2010-2020:
“What’s past is prologue.”
(Origin: William Shakespeare, The Tempest, act II, scene i, lines 253–54.)
- A total of eight meetings were conducted by the Strategic Planning Council during 2009-2010 (through February 2010), including summary and preparatory presentations by the provost and Taylor Eighmy, vice president for research, and a mini workshop on SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) analyses conducted by Ron Mitchell, professor of entrepreneurship and holder of the Jean Austin Bagley Regents Chair in Management, in TTU’s Rawls College of Business.
- Two full-day retreats were conducted with university leadership, including all members of the President’s Administrative Council, vice provosts, and deans or associate deans of all colleges, the law school, and the libraries, followed by a wrap-up meeting, reception and dinner on a third day. President Bailey, TTU System Vice Chancellor for Policy and Planning John Opperman, and Chancellor Hance’s Chief of Staff Jodey Arrington each attended one of the retreat sessions.
- The provost and vice president for research organized 25 meetings with the executive leadership in every college and school and the libraries, followed by open meetings with faculty and staff in the same units.
- The provost and vice president for research (i.e., most often in joint presentations) made a total of 25 presentations to the university leadership, Faculty, Staff and Student Senates; to the Horn Professors; TTU center and institute directors; the TTU/TTU Health Science Center Postdoctoral Association; college external advisory boards; citizen groups representing Lubbock and surrounding communities; and selected other venues including the Annual Seminar of the Registry of College and University Presidents (Peabody, MA), leadership groups at TTU’s Centers in Seville, Spain and Quedlinburg, Germany; along with the Executive Leadership of the Leysin American School in Switzerland, and the American College of Thessaloniki in Greece – the latter four presentations developed in connection with expanded global outreach efforts, which are integral to the 2010-2020 plan.
- In all, presentations and portrayals of TTU’s strategic planning efforts were presented more than 50 times.
As an aid to conducting the strategic planning meetings – many of which were convened by the provost and the vice president of research – an annotated outline was developed that contained descriptions of strategic planning components. Below is a copy of the major elements from the referenced outline.
“We stand on the shoulders of giants.”
—Isaac Newton (1643-1727)
Also attributed to Bernard of Chartres (died circa 1124) with roots in Greek Mythology
Used frequently by Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968) during his public life.
Annotated Outline: TTU Campus Strategic Planning
I. Thinking About and Honoring the Past (Paton, 2009)
- Study the history of earlier strategic planning efforts, 2000-2009.
- Integrate of current planning efforts with commitments to the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) regional accrediting agency.
- Consider benchmarks in place for earlier strategic planning efforts plus outreach measures currently under development.
- Incorporate the results of SACSCOC Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP) efforts, “A campus conversation on ethics,” with the current strategic plan.
- Pose questions about prior plans: Did they provide a succinct vision, crisp narrative, measured detail, strategic elements, inspirational or compelling arguments and elements; references to state-wide imperatives (economic, cultural and intellectual); recommendations to constituents and other bodies; benchmarking with national peers?
II. Crafting a Strategic Plan for 2010-2020
- Develop a context for planning through the “Texas Tech is . . .” exercise.
- Imagine Texas Tech’s once-in-a-lifetime opportunity through House Bill (HB) 51 to move from an emerging National Research University (NRU) to a NRU with entitlement to funding through the National Research University Fund (NRUF) and the state’s Research University Development Fund (RUDF) along with funding possible through the Texas Research Incentive Program (TRIP).
- Develop a succinct vision statement (e.g., Texas Tech is a great public research university where students succeed, knowledge is advanced, and global engagement is championed.) by combining the concepts: Where are we going? What will TTU look like when we get there? But, remembering that a vision statement may reflect where we are already – at least to some extent.
- Develop a mission (or role and scope) statement
- Consider the questions: What do we do? How do we do it? Who do we serve? Include the elements of quality, scope, responsiveness to need, uniqueness and effectiveness in crafting a mission statement such as: “As a public research university, Texas Tech advances knowledge through innovative and creative teaching, research, and scholarship. The university is dedicated to student success by preparing learners to be ethical leaders with multicultural and global competencies. The university is committed to educating a diverse and globally competitive workforce, and enhancing the cultural and economic development of the state, nation, and world.”
- Prepare a SWOT analysis based on the questions: 1) How does where we are going, what we are doing and how we are guided mesh with state, national, and international developments? 2) What national and international studies or reports dovetail with our plan?
- Remember that goals and objectives need some specificity, but they should not be too extensive or specific to allow for development of more detailed goals and objectives at unit levels.
- Imagine a peer group consisting of the public research universities in the major athletic Conferences: Big 12, the Big 10, the Pacific Athletic Conference (PAC 10), the Big East, the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC), and the Southeastern Conference (SEC).
- Also consider the need to benchmark against other Emerging NRUs in Texas: Universities of Houston, North Texas, Texas at Arlington, Texas at Dallas, Texas at El Paso, and Texas at San Antonio.
- What key performance indicators (KPIs) should be adopted (e.g., undergraduate six-year graduation rates, annual research expenditures)?
“We trained hard – but it seemed that every time we were beginning to form up into teams we would be reorganized. I was to learn later in life that we tend to meet any new situation by reorganizing: and a wonderful method it can be for creating the illusion of progress while producing confusion, inefficiency, and demoralization.”
—Gaius Petronius Arbiter (circa 27-66 A.D.)
Member of Nero’s court [54-68 A.D.]
The outline (noted above) also contained a delineation of the university’s strategic priorities (see below) that were approved by the TTU Board of Regents at its March 2009 meeting, or more specifically:
- Increase Enrollment and Promote Student Success: We will grow and diversify our student population in order to improve higher education participation and supply a well-equipped, educated workforce for the state of Texas. (Grow to 40,000 students by 2020, with a heavy emphasis on increasing the number of transfer and graduate students and ensuring a diverse population of students; concentrating not only on the size of the freshman class but also on retention and graduation rates at or exceeding the average of the university’s peers).
- Strengthen Academic Quality and Reputation: We will attract and retain the best faculty in the world in order to enhance our teaching excellence and grow our number of nationally recognized programs. (Address student-faculty ratios to ensure quality of all offerings; stress diversity in the hiring of all faculty and staff).
- Expand and Enhance Research: We will significantly increase the amount of public and private research dollars in order to advance knowledge, improve the quality of life in our state and nation, and enhance the state’s economy and global competitiveness. (Build infrastructure and direct internal resources to leverage extramural funding; pay particular attention to the needs of researchers and scholars in areas such as the arts and humanities where external support is meager; increase yearly research expenditures from $58 million [FY08] to at least $100 million).
- Further Outreach and Engagement: We will expand our community outreach, promote higher education and continue to engage in partnerships in order to improve our communities and enrich their quality of life. (Texas Tech invests in Texas and its communities through educational access for children and adults, basic and applied research addressing the most pressing problems of society, and activities and services—bringing the best of TTU’s resources to people and communities throughout Texas and the world).
- Increase and Maximize Resources: We will increase funding for scholarships, professorships, and world-class facilities, and maximize those investments through more efficient operations in order to ensure affordability for students and accountability to the State of Texas. (Seek new sources of public and private support, including donations and endowment funds for faculty positions, student scholarships/fellowships, and programmatic support).
As the process continued, draft versions of the plan were used as frameworks for PowerPoint presentations and discussions with internal and external constituent groups. At end, the Texas Tech strategic plan represented a strong testament to common understanding among the university community and many of its supporters near and far. This latter claim continues to develop as a result of follow-up actions that are considered next.
Dissemination and Other Follow-Up Efforts
Besides the critical elements described above (i.e., vision, mission, strategic priorities, goals) and attendant narrative sections – written with an eye toward crispness and compelling arguments, the finally crafted strategic planning document (http://www.ttu.edu/stratplan/) contains short descriptions of individual and programmatic accomplishments made possible by the university’s students, faculty, and staff members.
By the end of the spring semester 2010, it is anticipated the plan will have been sent to presidents or chancellors, provosts or vice presidents (or vice chancellors) of academic affairs, vice presidents of research (or equivalent), graduate deans, and selected academic deans at the nation’s top public research universities, along with our sister Emerging National Research Universities in Texas, members of TTU college and school advisory boards, and many colleagues around the globe who collaborate with TTU faculty or staff through joint programs (e.g., study abroad) and projects. We hope that these colleagues will review the fruits of our efforts and possibly be struck by thoughts such as: “I had no idea about the wonderful things happening at Texas Tech.” Or, “So that’s what is happening at Tech.” Or, “How impressive!” There is no way to witness such thoughts or positive impressions but we do expect feedback that will reflect such perceptions.
As we reflect on our accomplishments as a campus-wide community, we will also be reminded that we are just beginning a new decade with initiatives and goals that must be met to see Texas Tech’s dream of becoming a National Research University come true and indeed continue to flourish. The world will continue to hear from Texas Tech as the university community continues to contribute to Texas, the nation and the world throughout the second decade of the 21st century. We salute and dedicate this account to all who will help us make the Texas Tech dream become a reality.
In a democratically organized and administered institution, through what we typically refer to as shared governance, an institution such as Texas Tech, can bring strategic planning to fruition in remarkable ways with remarkable results. The shared governance groups may be committees, councils or assemblages of individuals with a common purpose (e.g., a meeting of the university’s most distinguished faculty members – the Horn Professors). In any case, establishing conversations around a common theme including the future of the university in the case of strategic planning, as well as some common understanding of the history, role, and mission of the university often leads to a distillation of insight and wisdom that is remarkably powerful. A case in point: the university Strategic Planning Council (SPC) – meeting in October 2009 – convened in part to hammer out a draft vision statement for Texas Tech’s 2010-2020 strategic plan.
The council had ideas for a vision statement – proffered during several earlier meetings with university leadership. It also had a member (Valerie Paton, vice provost for planning and assessment) who had just returned from a professional conference where role and mission statements were discussed – but in the context of how dull and uninspiring many such statements seem among a myriad of higher education institutions. Following some relevant guidance on crafting an “effective and memorable vision statement” (e.g., keeping it short, making it flow like well-crafted poetry) the SPC members began calling out words, phrases, and sentences. Then, one member, Carole Janisch, associate professor in the College of Education, with literary genius offered the progenitor of the vision statement that would eventually be adopted by the SPC and the university. I repeat it here and ask our readers to think about it once again: Texas Tech is a great public research university where students succeed, knowledge is advanced, and global engagement is championed. Say it fast, read it slowly, reflect on it, and you will feel its captivating power. One person’s creative impulse and many others’ dedicated and thoughtful contributions have given us a great vision statement and yea (!) a strategic plan that we who love Texas Tech – want her to grow, develop and excel for the good of Texas and the world – can take satisfaction with a job well done!
Bailey, Guy. “It’s Our Time,” All Things Texas Tech, 1 (2), September 2009;
Paton, Valerie Osland. “Strategic Planning in Transition Periods,” All Things Texas Tech, 1 (1), April 2009; http://www.depts.ttu.edu/provost/attt/2009/04/paton.php.
Smith, Bob. “’From here it’s possible . . . ‘ Assisting TTU’s Ascent During the Second Decade of the 21st Century”, All Things Texas Tech, 1 (1), April 2009; http://www.depts.ttu.edu/provost/attt/2009/04/smith.php.
Smith, Bob. “Making it possible . . . Crafting Texas Tech’s Strategic Plan for 2010-2020,” All Things Texas Tech, 1 (2), September 2009; http://www.depts.ttu.edu/provost/attt/2009/04/smith.php.
Strauss, Jon C. and John R. Curry. Responsibility Center Management: Lessons from 25 Years of Decentralized Management. Annapolis, MD: National Association of College and University Business Officers, 2002.
Bob Smith serves as provost and senior vice president at Texas Tech University. He is also chairing the university’s SPC. Comments, suggestions for changes in the context, vision, and mission statements, peer analyses, and other sections of this paper are welcome along with questions, all of which should be addressed to Bob Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org.