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Developing a Strategic Plan for a Program in Communication Sciences and Disorders

Prepared by Stan Dublinske, EdD, CAE
Senior Advisor for Planning
American Speech-Language-Hearing Association

*Throughout this document the term program is used. The term refers to academic programs in communication sciences and disorders, programs in audiology, programs in speech-language pathology, and programs in speech, language, and hearing science.

Table of Contents

Steps to Develop a Strategic Plan

Following are the steps necessary to develop a strategic plan. The materials that follow provide guidance in completing each step necessary to develop the strategic plan.

  1. Conduct a SWOT analysis to determine the strengths and weaknesses of the program.
  2. Develop a Vision statement.
  3. Develop a Mission statement.
  4. Develop an Envisioned Future scenario.
  5. Identify Focus Areas of concern.
  6. Write an Issue Statement for each Focus Area.
  7. Identify extant Baseline Data for each issue. If none are available, decide if there is a need to collect Baseline Data.
  8. Write an Outcome Statement related to the identified Issue.
  9. Write an Indicator of Success statement that reflects a change in performance from the Baseline Data.
  10. Develop Strategies that will be implemented to accomplish the desired Outcome. The Strategy should be an activity that will reduce the gap between the Baseline Data and the Indicator of Success.
  11. Pull all of the components of the strategic plan together using the Strategic Plan Template to prepare the final Strategic Plan.

Definitions: Strategic Planning

Strategic Planning

Systematic process through which the program agrees on and builds commitment among key stakeholders to priorities that are essential to its mission and responsive to its operating environment. The intent is to sharpen the program's focus so that program resources are optimally used to achieve the program's mission. Strategic planning is a disciplined effort to produce fundamental decisions and actions that shape and guide what the program does, and why it does it, with a focus on the future. Simply, strategic planning is answering three questions: Where are you now? Where do you want to be/go? How do/can you get there? Strategic planning closes the gap between where the program is and where it wants to be.

Strategic Plan

A document that covers a period of 2-3 years in the future. It outlines the step-by-step progress the program plans to make toward completing its mission and achieving desired outcomes. It also identifies who is responsible for carrying out each piece of the plan and when it will be accomplished. To be successful, a strategic planning process must be dynamic, ongoing, adaptive, and inclusive. It must enable the program to present a vision and mission to which the program will strive, to set desired outcomes, and to identify specific strategies for attaining these outcomes.

Components of the Strategic Plan

The strategic plan for your program will contain content for each of these components:

Planning Definitions: General

Vision: A statement of what the program wants to be in the future. The Vision Statement provides the major long-term direction for the program's planning and is the ultimate outcome to be achieved through the planning process.

Mission: A statement that indicates what the program plans to do and to whom it will be done. The statement indicates the reason the program exists. The Mission statement serves as the basis for the development of the program's focus, outcomes, and strategies.

Focus Areas: Major areas of the program that are of concern and that need to be addressed to enhance or improve the program (e.g., administration/governance, research, professional development, clinic, etc).

Issue: Identified major concern to the program that is a barrier to positioning the program in its desired future and achieving its Vision/Mission. Identified issues are based on current and future trend information related to the program, are based on the internal and external environments that impact the program, and are related to an identified focus area. Identified issues provide the basis for deriving the program's outcomes to be achieved through strategic planning. Issue statements are written as cause and effect statements.

Baseline Data: Extant or new data and information collected to verify that a suggested issue is of such magnitude that it requires action by the program. The baseline data are used to determine the quantitative level for the indicators of success and indicates how much change will occur if the desire outcome is achieved.

Outcome: An explicit statement of the changes the program must make and the results that it must effect in its environment to deal with an identified issue and achieve its desired future/vision/mission. An outcome is a specific, vital, positive organizational or environmental change that moves the program forward to its desired future. The outcomes must be based on identified issues and they must provide the basis for developing strategies to achieve the outcome. The outcome indicates the direction of change desired (increase, decrease, maintain).

Indicators of Success: For each outcome statement, one or more indictors of success will be identified as a way of determining if the outcome was achieved and if achieving the outcome had an impact and provided a return on investment or was cost-beneficial. The indicators of success are agreed upon by program staff.

Strategy Statement: For each outcome statement, one or more strategy statements will be developed. The strategy statement will indicate a specific activity that will be necessary to accomplish the outcome. Each strategy statement indicates the following:

  • When it will be done-specific date
  • Who will do it-person responsible
  • What will be done-specific activity
  • To Whom it will be done-target group
  • Criteria that will indicate success-a number or quantitative indicator
  • Evaluation procedure/tool that will be used to indicate if the what and criteria were met

Levels of Evaluation: Each strategy will have one of five levels of evaluation. The level selected will be selected based on the data to be collected to determine if implementing the strategy was worthwhile. The higher the level of evaluation, the more comprehensive the data on the return on investment of resources:

  • Level 1: Did
  • Level 2: Did + Attend
  • Level 3: Did + Attend + Learn
  • Level 4: Did + Attend + Learn + Implement
  • Level 5: Did + Attend + Learn + Implement + Change

Example:

  • Level 1: Did (Hold 5 workshops)
  • Level 2: Did + Attend (50 people attend each workshop)
  • Level 3: Did + Attend + Learn (Learn 5 new things)
  • Level 4: Did + Attend + Learn + Implement (Implement 3 things learned)
  • Level 5: Did + Attend + Learn + Implement + Change (Something happened!)

Understanding Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats (SWOT)

What is a SWOT Analysis?

SWOT analysis is an effective way of identifying a program's Strengths and Weaknesses, and of examining the Opportunities and Threats the program faces. Carrying out an analysis using the SWOT framework helps to focus program activities into areas where the program is strong and where the greatest opportunities lie. Carrying out a SWOT analysis will be helpful both in terms of pointing out what needs to be done, and in putting problems into perspective.

How to do a SWOT Analysis

To carry out a SWOT Analysis, write down answers to the following questions.

Strengths

  • What advantages does the program have?
  • What do you do well?
  • What relevant resources do you have access to?
  • What do other people see as your strengths?

Consider this from your own point of view and from the point of view of the people you deal with. Be realistic. In looking at your strengths, think about them in relation to your competitors.

Weaknesses

  • What could you improve?
  • What do you do badly?
  • What should you avoid?

Again, consider this from an internal and external basis: Do other people seem to perceive weaknesses that you do not see? Are your competitors doing any better than you? It is best to be realistic now and face any unpleasant truths as soon as possible.

Opportunities

  • Where are the good opportunities facing you?
  • What are the interesting trends you are aware of?

A useful approach to looking at opportunities is to look at your strengths and ask yourself whether these open up any opportunities. Alternatively, look at your weaknesses and ask yourself whether you could open up opportunities by eliminating them.

Threats

  • What obstacles do you face?
  • What is your competition doing?
  • Are the requirements for your program changing?
  • Is program funding a problem?
  • Are changing demographics threatening your program?
  • Could any of your weaknesses seriously threaten your program?

By looking both inside and outside of your program for things that could damage your program, you may be better able to see the big picture and deal with threats in a timely manner.

Developing a Vision Statement

Definition

Vision: A statement of what the program wants to be in the future. The Vision Statement provides the major long-term direction for the program's planning and is the ultimate outcome to be achieved through the planning process.

Current Program Vision Statement

[Insert current Vision Statement if available.]

Process for Developing a Vision Statement

Developing a Vision Statement involves looking at the future and deciding where the program wants to be in the future by doing the following:

  1. Address the following questions:
    • What will the discipline of communication sciences and disorders look like in the future?
    • What will the program of the future be like?
    • What role should the program play in the future?
    • How should the program be different than it is now?
  2. Discuss what the future might look like for the program. Identify possible scenarios.
  3. Draft the Vision Statement
    • External-How the program intends to change the discipline and the professions.
    • Internal-What the program will look like when it is operating effectively and efficiently in providing value-added programs.

New or Revised Vision Statement

[Insert new/revised Vision Statement.]

Developing a Mission Statement

Definition

Mission: A statement that indicates what the program plans to do and to whom it will be done. The statement indicates the reason the program exists. The Mission Statement serves as the basis for the development of the program's focus areas/issues, outcomes, and strategies.

Current Program Mission Statement

[Insert current Mission Statement if available.]

Developing a Mission Statement: Some Things to Remember

  1. Adoption of the Mission Statement should change the behavior of the program.
  2. The Mission Statement should provide the basis for evaluation of the program's outcomes and strategies to determine if the mission is being accomplished.
  3. The Mission Statement should differentiate the program from other programs.
  4. The Mission Statement should define the "business" the program wants to be in, not necessarily the "business" it is in.
  5. The Mission Statement should be relevant to all of the program's identified customers.
  6. The Mission Statement should be exciting, inspiring, and motivating.
  7. The Mission Statement should be short and concise.
  8. The Mission Statement should answer the following questions: Who are you as a program? Why do you exist? What do you do? Whom do you serve?

Process for Developing a Mission Statement

Developing a Mission Statement involves determining who the program's primary customers/users are and what the program wants to deliver to the identified customers. The program's Mission Statement will be related to its purposes and to the Vision Statement.

Current Program Mission Statement

[Insert current Mission Statement if available.]

New or Revised Program Mission Statement

The mission of the program is to...

Create a compelling Mission Statement by answering the following questions:

Why does the program exist?

What is the purpose of the program? (This answers the question of why you exist, but does not describe what you do.) This should be a short succinct statement that describes the ultimate result you are hoping to achieve. The purpose typically will include a verb that indicates a change-increase, decrease, improve, provide, prevent, and so on.

Example: The purpose of the program is to provide quality programs for its students.

What makes the program different from other programs?

What is unique about the program? Is there overlap with what other programs do?

Example: Only program that has the primary responsibility to develop and provide quality educational programs for students in communication sciences and disorders.

Who are the program's primary customers?

Does the program serve students, faculty, practicing speech-language pathologists and audiologists, consumers, or other individuals or groups?

Example: All students who are enrolled in the program for communication sciences and disorders, and consumers who are in need of clinical services in audiology and speech-language pathology.

What services/programs/products does the program want to deliver to its customers?

Describe the primary services, programs, or products to be provided by the program.

Example: Provide quality undergraduate, graduate, and postgraduate education for students and quality clinical services in speech-language pathology and audiology.

What does the program want to have happen as a result of providing such services/programs/products?

Example: An improvement in the quantity, quality, and availability of value-added programs and services for program customers.

Envisioned Future

An Envisioned Future is a simple and concise scenario/picture of an ideal, desired future for the program at the end of a specific period of time (10-20 years). The envisioning process involves the faculty team coming to consensus concerning what the future program will look like. By engaging in an envisioning process, the program is beginning to create its own future. The Envisioned Future sets direction and helps to focus the program's strategic planning efforts. The Envisioned Future does not supplant the 3-year strategic plan. The Envisioned Future sets the tone and direction for the strategic planning process.

What will the program look like in 20XX? Write a memo describing what the program looks like 10 years from now.

Start the memo-"It is 20XX and the program..."

Note: Review the memos prepared and combine the information to develop an agreed upon Envisioned Future scenario for the program.

Strategic Plan: Focus Areas for the Program

Definition

Focus Areas: Major areas of the program that are of concern and that need to be addressed to enhance or improve the program (e.g., administration/governance, research, professional development, clinic, etc.).

Writing the Strategic Plan: List Focus Areas

List general areas of focus or areas of concern for the program (e.g., undergraduate programs, master's programs, doctoral programs, administration/governance, clinic, research, professional development, liaisons/collaboration, etc.), that need to be enhanced/improved.

Focus Areas

[List Focus Areas]

Strategic Plan: Issue

Definition

Issue: Identified major concern to the program that is a barrier to positioning the program in its desired future and achieving its Vision/Mission. Identified issues are based on current and future trend information related to the program, its customers, and the internal and external environments that have an impact on the program, and are related to an identified Focus Area. Identified issues provide the basis for deriving the program's outcomes to be achieved through strategic planning. Issues are written as cause and effect statements.

Writing the Strategic Plan: Identify Issue

Example Focus Area: Research

Example Issue: An enhanced culture for conducting and publishing applied and efficacy research is necessary to foster a research community and to increase the current level of faculty research and publications, and is essential to provide evidence-based clinical practice.

Issues

[Develop an issue statement for each of the identified Focus Areas.]

Strategic Plan: Baseline Data

Definition

Baseline Data: Extant or new data and information collected to verify that a suggested issue is of such magnitude that it requires action by the program. The Baseline Data are used to determine the quantitative level for the indicators of success and indicates how much change will occur if the desire outcome is achieved.

Writing the Strategic Plan: Collect Baseline Data

Example Focus Area: Research

Example Issue: An enhanced culture for conducting and publishing applied and efficacy research is necessary to foster a research community and to increase the current level of faculty research and publications, and is essential to provide evidence-based clinical practice.

Baseline Data for Example Issue: For 20XX-20XX only X% of the faculty conducted research activities related to communication sciences and disorders. There were only X number of presentations related to research conducted by faculty and only X number of articles published related to faculty research in communication sciences and disorders.

Baseline Data for Each Issue

[Identify extant Baseline Data for each issue. If none are available, decide if there is a need to collect Baseline Data.]

Strategic Plan: Outcomes

Definition

Outcome: An explicit statement of the changes the program must make and the results that it must effect in its environment to deal with an identified issue and achieve its desired future/vision/mission. An Outcome is a specific, vital, positive organizational or environmental change that moves the program forward to its desired future. The Outcome must be based on identified issues and they must provide the basis for developing strategies to achieve the outcome. The Outcome indicates the direction of change desired (increase, decrease, maintain).

Writing the Strategic Plan: Outcomes

Example Focus Area: Research

Example Issue: An enhanced culture for conducting and publishing applied and efficacy research is necessary to foster a research community and to increase the current level of faculty research and publications, and is essential to provide evidence-based clinical practice.

Baseline Data for Example Issue: For 20XX-20XX only X% of the faculty conducted research activities related to communication sciences and disorders. There were only X number of presentations related to research conducted by faculty and only X number of articles published related to faculty research in communication sciences and disorders

Example Outcome: Increase number of faculty who conduct research activities.

Outcome

[Identify one or more Outcomes for each identified issue.]

Strategic Plan: Indicators of Success

Definition

Indicators of Success: For each Outcome statement, one or more Indictors of Success will be identified as a way of determining if the Outcome was achieved and if achieving the Outcome had an impact and provided a return on investment or was cost-beneficial. The Indictors of Success are agreed upon by program staff.

Writing the Strategic Plan: Indicators of Success

Example Focus Area: Research

Example Issue: An enhanced culture for conducting and publishing applied and efficacy research is necessary to foster a research community and to increase the current level of faculty research and publications, and is essential to provide evidence-based clinical practice.

Baseline Data for Example Issue: For 20XX-20XX only X% of the faculty conducted research activities related to communication sciences and disorders. There were only X number of presentations related to research conducted by faculty and only X number of articles published related to faculty research in communication sciences and disorders.

Example Outcome: Increase number of faculty who conduct research activities.

Example Indicator of Success: X% increase in presentations and publications of faculty/student research.

Indicator of Success

[Identify one or more Indicators of Success for the identified Outcomes.]

Strategic Plan: Strategies

For each Outcome Statement, one or more Strategy Statements will be developed. The Strategy Statement will indicate a specific activity that will be necessary to accomplish the Outcome. Each Strategy Statement indicates the following:

  • When it will be done-specific date
  • Who will do it-person responsible
  • What will be done-specific activity
  • To Whom it will be done-target group
  • Criteria that will indicate success-a number or quantitative indicator
  • Evaluation procedure/tool that will be used to indicate if the what and criteria were met.

Strategy Statement Components

For each of the following components, indicate the requested information:

  • When
  • Who
  • What
  • To Whom
  • Criteria
  • Evaluation

Strategy Statement Narrative: Using information from the above components, write the Strategy Statement narrative.

Example Strategy: By (when, who), will establish a research seminar once a semester that can serve as forum for all faculty and students to share their ongoing and proposed research, manuscripts, and grant applications. A copy of the seminar agendas and list of participants will be submitted to the Program Director.

Strategic Planning: Template

Develop content for each component below to come up with a strategic plan for your program.

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