Strategic planning with VMOSA can help institutions focus on their goals—and the success of those goals—as they reopen and resume practices.

Post-COVID plans should focus on program values and evaluation

Strategic planning can help institutions focus on their goals—and the success of those goals—as they reopen and resume academic practices

As the restrictions of the COVID-19 pandemic begin to relax, many institutions are going to step back and try to reestablish institutional norms. Many educational organizations have struggled through a year or more of remote learning. The instructional and technology systems of many organizations have been strained.

Some of this stepping back may be as simple as trying to return to a pre-pandemic normal. More of this review may be revision and redevelopment of institutional strategic plans, technology plans, and other such planning documents.

Many of those planning processes have utilized the VMOSA standard as a guide to ensuring a coherent and complete final plan. VMOSA generally stands for vision, mission, objectives and goals, strategies, and action plans. However, as defined, VMOSA is missing a couple of key facets that are required for a truly holistic plan. V should be expanded to provide the planning process not only a guiding vision for the organization, but also the guiding values under which the organization is hoping to operate.

Organizational mission statements are core to their planning process and are potentially the most frequently-recited portion of the strategic plan. All organizations should hope that all aspects of an organization’s strategic plan or initiatives focus on mission completion either directly or indirectly. The mission statement is directly supported by the organization’s values. Those enumerated values support and provide the context in which the mission will be accomplished. Leaving off the values portion of the VMOSA rubric does not provide most organizations the same rich context that values statements can provide to both internal and external stakeholders.

The objectives portion of VMOSA is often the most obvious portion of the planning process. What is less obvious is that objectives and goals need to be measurable, following the SMARTE goal format of creating, specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, time-based, and equity-focused.

As an example, “improve undergraduate student satisfaction with the advising process” is a laudatory goal, but would be difficult to measure. A stronger SMARTE goal would be: “Over the next three years, annually improve undergraduate student satisfaction on the annual advising survey for students both holistically and within each demographic subgroup.” The more measurable strategic plan objectives, goals, or action plans are, the easier it is to measure organizational growth and the ultimate success of the plan.

That leads to the need to measure the effectiveness of the plan. Therefore, VMOSA needs an E. Just as modern SMARTE goals have evolved to add an E for equity, VMOSA needs an E for evaluation. For any strategic document to be worthwhile, there must be a complete and thorough evaluation plan. The evaluation plan should identify who will be responsible for each facet of the evaluation process, how each item will be judged to be successful, and upon what timeline the evaluations need to be competed.

Too often, strategic documents are created to last a specific timeframe, three and five years both being common. However, true strategic vision–and the plans to support achieving the goals and objectives that support those vision–requires ongoing and active care. Governance bodies should be reviewing facets of the strategic documents each quarter. Such ongoing review and evaluation are essential to ensure strategic success.

If the pandemic has taught organizations one thing, it might be that you can’t simply maintain the status quo and expect previous success to continue. Organizations will have to adapt more quickly and be more fluid in delivering key services. Strategic documents must become more fluid and include ongoing evaluation and revision as a fundamental piece of the process. VMOSAE and SMARTE can help organizations build strategic success.

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Steven M. Baule, Ed.D., Ph.D.
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