A Department Chair’s Guide to Strategic Planning

Higher Ed Leadership Series

On week 1 of our higher ed leadership series, we talked about the importance of understanding your university’s high-level strategy. As a department chair or other senior leader, it is expected – expressed or implicit – that you will have a plan to move your department forward.

This may seem obvious, but often leaders can feel so overwhelmed with putting out fires that they forget to focus on strategy development. While firefighting is a necessary aspect of the role, it is extremely important that you begin to craft a strategic plan.

A strategic plan helps to identify short-term and long-term goals, prioritize resource allocation, identify the strengths and weaknesses of the department, and determine clear benchmarks for you to measure progress.

Crafting a collaborative plan allows for members of your department to incorporate diverse perspectives, take ownership of individual activities, and help further the mission of your department, and of the university as a whole. This plan will serve as a road map to guide departmental roles and measures of success.

Follow these reflection questions and action steps to help you begin to map out a strategic plan for your department:

Reflection Questions

1. What is your vision for the work?

2. What legacy do you want to leave?

3. What do you want your department to be known for?

4. How will you align your department’s work with the university’s goals?

Action Steps

1. Meet with stakeholders to understand the current state of the department, including strengths and challenges.

2. Connect with each member of your team to understand their thoughts on the strategic direction for the work.

3. Develop a high-level outline of your plan to share with stakeholders, including your boss and team.

4. Once finalized, communicate the plan and begin to articulate a series of short-term goals, focusing on high-priority goals.

Developing and executing a thorough strategic plan as a department chair is much more in-depth. However, these steps will help you get started and build a solid foundation for your senior leadership role.

Want more tips for creating a strategic plan? Check out this article from Chronicle.

Are you looking for additional resources to help you navigate senior leadership in higher ed? Download our free University Leadership Roadmap: 7 Steps to Jumpstart Your Leadership Journey for Women of Color in Higher Ed.

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