continued from page 13 Assessment K-State regularly assesses the community quantitatively in the following areas: recruitment, retention and graduation rates, academic performance, social responsibility compliance, program effectiveness, and the perception of fraternities/sororities by members, faculty, staff, alumni, non-affiliated students, and parents. Therefore, the decision was made to assess the community qualitatively through a series of focus groups, concentrating on chaptersâ€™ congruence to their mission. Graduate students from K-State and the University of Nebraska at Kearney were trained as facilitators for 37 focus groups. In January 2007, more than 500 people were engaged in these focus groups, including each chapterâ€™s past and current executive boards, faculty, administrators, alumni, and community leaders. The assessment done at the U of A was ethnographic in its approach. Given the fact that certain issues existed on a community-wide level, the task force was able to target areas for improvement based on the behavior of the
committee can make the process efficient. Spend face-to-face time developing themes, and allow the facilitator/task force leader to wordsmith between committee sessions. Utilizing electronic mediums, such as email, webinars, conference calls, or online meeting services, is increasingly important for gathering feedback and for communities isolated by distance from a considerable portion of the alumni and advisor base. Visionary Leadership through the Planning Process The strategic planning process should include activities such as: SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) analysis, brainstorming, team building, and developing creative solutions to the common problems that effect the fraternal movement. Such activities guide the development of community mission, vision, shared values, outcomes, and strategic issues. During the K-State strategic planning process, the facilitator had to reframe and restructure activities, create effec-
The resulting K-State plan was divided into five categories: mission and action congruence, community, collaboration, sustainability and growth, and technology and related infrastructure. It defined a community mission, vision, values, and outcomes. Each strategic item was assigned a completion date and prioritized as critical, essential, or important. At the U of A, guidelines were established for a new chapter accreditation process and Standards of Excellence as a result of the strategic planning process. In addition, office staff members were asked to continually work to obtain donor support for the Legacy Program, a five-pronged program designed to address specific needs of the U of A fraternity/ sorority community: academic success, health and wellness, advisor training and support, leadership development, and social justice education. Initially, fraternity/sorority organizations were given the option to partake in a voluntary trial period, where they could be a part of the newly implemented accreditation system as a way to acclimate into what would soon become a permanent campus feature.
[...the strategic plan is a living and organic document.] fraternities and sororities. Additionally, with the wide variety of constituents represented on the task force, various perspectives on what needed to be improved within the fraternity and sorority community were voiced. Based on this assessment, areas of reform and improvement were pinpointed and the strategic planning process began with information grounded on specific areas. Capitalizing on Strengths and Communicating Effectively Strategic planning requires significant time and commitment from any fraternity/sorority community. The planning process requires long days of committee work, assessment, coordinating logistics, communicating progress, and creating opportunities for stakeholders to provide continued feedback. It is imperative to discuss the planning committeeâ€™s expectations and outcomes. Without a clear understanding of the issue(s) at hand and the desired outcomes, a strategic planning committee will be lost. Making sure everyone is on the same page and that enhancing student learning is a main component to the overall fraternity/ sorority experience will set the committee up for success. Effectively utilizing technology to communicate with stakeholders and to continue dialogue between the facilitator and the planning
Perspectives / Spring 2009
tive and efficient workgroups, challenge the committee to trust where the process was going, and push the committee to stay on task. His constant guidance, structure, and management of the planning process allowed the committee to focus entirely on the development of a plan that met the expectations of the community rather than the administrative and functional parts of the process. Similarly, a sense of urgency and a desire to see a quick move toward an increasingly relevant fraternity/sorority community provided motivation for the U of A task force to stay on task. In addition, the structure and content of a plan needs to work for the community in regards to the degree of specificity and flexibility of the strategic outcomes. Being specific while remaining flexible will have the benefit of allowing the fraternity/sorority community to adapt better to the implementation of the strategic plan as well as allow for continued improvement to the plan. Understanding the strategic plan is a living and organic document allows the community to grow and change. Furthermore, the utilization of deadlines will increase community accountability for accomplishing strategic planning tasks, making the implementation of the plan less intimidating and more manageable.
The staff at the U of A consistently reviewed the outcomes of the strategic planning process, with feedback from stakeholders, to assess what may need to be updated or amended given the current needs of the community, and made changes accordingly. How to Market Your Strategic Plan Fraternity/sorority professionals must gauge their communities and choose the appropriate method for unveiling a strategic planning process. Prior to unveiling the K-State plan, several forums were held for undergraduate and alumni leaders to review the proposed plan, allowing them to understand the strategic items and rationale and offer feedback to be considered in the final committee session. The consideration of stakeholder input and the adjustments made to the plan created a sense of shared ownership, making implementation more effective. The strategic plan was then unveiled to stakeholders through a series of meetings and retreats according to the role of the specific group within the community. In all, the K-State strategic planning process took nine months to complete, encompassing approximately 50 hours of focus group activities, 40 hours of committee work, and hundreds of additional hours spent working from a distance.
AFA Perspectives Spring 2009