Report on the Global Change Strategic Management Seminar
Sponsored by On the Horizon
July 27-31, 1995 St. Andrews, Scotland
David R. Hornfischer
Dean of Administration,
Berklee College of
As a subscriber and contributor to On the Horizon, I was most
interested when the
theme of the 5th annual summer seminar was announced as scenario
Morrison, editor of On the Horizon, and Ian Wilson, a corporate
consultant wanted to hear
more about the Berklee experience with scenario planning and encouraged
me to present a
paper on this topic.
The seminar brought together about 25 planning professionals from higher
institutions around the world in Hong Kong, Ireland, Brazil, and Canada
as well as several
US institutions and a representative from TIAA/CREF (the higher education
that is considering using scenario planning in their strategic planning
are my notes from the seminar, which I hope might be of value to those
not able to attend.
Strategic Planning. Since this was a planning seminar, an overview
planning was the first step. While straightforward, some insights were
Following are some thoughts and key concepts from Wilson's lectures on
- "running with vision" vs. mere planning
- periodically "re-perceive " organization
- planning is not a staff function
- real planners are vice presidents, deans, directors, chairs
- strategic visioning encapsulates and communicates strategy and can
drive execution of the strategy
- the management feedback component needs to have a reward structure
built into it.
Three critical internal issues which organizations need to consider as
they plan are:
- how to deal with change in culture
- paradigm shifts needed to see challenges
- form (organization) follows function (strategy).
At present, the impact of technology is a critical issue almost
Strategic decisions are those impacting 5-10 years ahead. Tactical
(current) needs should be
linked in implementation. Planners should focus strategy on 5/6 key
issues that will make
or break the future of the organization. Strategic management needs to
intent, innovation, and implementation.
Scenario Planning. While much of the seminar focused on the
process, what was interesting to me as a user was the discussion of what
do you do once
you have the scenarios done.
The first use of scenarios might be as "test beds" for the strategy that
developed by the planning process. Then, strategies and objectives can be
various external threats, as outlined in the scenarios. This process
tests the resilience or
flexibility of the strategies and perhaps identifies areas where
contingency plans are needed.
In other words, it can serve as a basis for "assessing" the strategy.
A related use is to stimulate discussion of new strategy options as we
see how various
scenarios are playing out in real life. To quote the presenters, "In an
age of incremental
change, it is safe to say that incremental changes in our strategies will
an age of discontinuities and massive uncertainties requires
sometimes radical changes from past practices."
Some key insights about scenario planning:
- Scenarios provide a framework for strategic thinking.
- Monitoring tracks trends, guides operations, and gives feedback
- Scanning for new trends provides early warning input to scenarios,
monitoring process, and to strategic planning.
- Scenarios should be used during each phase of the planning
process: developing a
strategic vision; contingency planning; evaluating options; macro/ micro
analysis: and in
- Scenarios need to be updated every three to four years. Scenarios
may be utilized
to assess decisions in a general manner.
Strategic Vision. The discussion of the concept and process of
was the best part of the seminar. It focused on what happens in the later
stages of a
strategic planning process. Key aspects of this presentation were:
- A strategic vision is a coherent, realistic statement of what our
organization can be
in ten years.
- Key elements include scope, scale, competitive focus, culture,
relationships, and product/market focus.
- A strategic vision is often helpful in defining vision in one word
"irresistible", or as we have done at Berklee, "music-city")
- Strategic vision can be helpful in implementing strategy by giving
- Strategic vision can foster a view of leadership as "building an
organization that is
capable of moving forward."
Using the vision. Departmental plans should be developed within
the framework of
the strategy. Some strategies are cross-departmental and require new
Budgeting usually happens about two-thirds of the way into the process.
plan is one year's increment of the strategic plan. The plan often
communications, management education, measurement, and rewards. Process
consider contingencies. Environmental scanning is important. Have
workshops to evaluate how the plan is doing, identify challenges, and
The Georgia Center for Continuing Education is a good source for external
Outlook newsletter is well done. They have a staff of about 60
working on this
On the Horizon is another good source, of course, as is Horizon
Notes from Presented Papers
I particularly enjoyed the paper by Betty Taylor, Dean of the University
of San Francisco
College of Professional Studies, on using technology. This presentation
alternative educational delivery systems. She noted some examples of
schools who are
doing this now: National Technology University (an engineering school);
Communications (Denver), who have created and who are applying for
Mind University (1-800-777-6463). Mind University uses faculty from other
schools. It is
competitive, venture capital financed, and currently has about 300
courses. They use
electronic registration, cable TV from a satellite, and have a contract
with the League of
Innovation of Community Colleges. Corporations such as Motorola, Intel,
Packard, and AT&T are starting their own schools.
Other notes from presented papers. Conflicts often arise in
budgeting for technology
and in linking planning and budget cycles. A reserve for initiatives was
suggested as a way
to address this in highly bureaucratic state institutions. George Mason
all open positions to see if they can be changed by technology. Teams are
contract to implement a project which includes a budget, a mission, and a
Graduate students are often hired for such initiatives.
Michael Dolance and Donald have a new book out, Transforming Higher
Vision for Learning in the 21st Century. It can be ordered from the
Society for College
and University Planning central office a(313 998-7832, or
University of Montreal (28,000 students) spent $6,000,000 for a budget
funded by $600,000 in reductions per year.
The Seminar Case Study. The University of St. Andrews was used as
a case study
to illustrate the scenario planning approach. Scenarios were created
using a three axis
model: the extent to which information technology is implemented; the
public/private sector balance; and the overall global political/economic
doing so, conference participants developed a list of uncertainties
facing this institution,
and used the concepts presented in the scenario handbook to develop
strategies for the university to pursue.