Identify Potential Events. The first exercise will be to identify potential events that could affect the future of the institution if they occurred. Events are unambiguous and confirmable. When they occur, the future is different. Event identification and analysis is critical in strategic planning.
It is important that an event statement be unambiguous; otherwise, it is not helpful in the planning process because (a) it is unclear what may be meant by the statement (i.e., different people may understand the statement differently) and (b) we have no clear target that allows us to derive implications and action steps. For example, consider the following event statement: There will be significant changes in political, social, and economic systems in the U.S. Each person on a planning team may agree with this statement, but may also interpret it differently. It would be far more useful in analysis for a statement like: In the next election, the political right gains control of Congress. Or Minorities become the majority in 10 states. Or The European Community incorporates Eastern Europe in a free trade zone. The latter statements are concrete, unambiguous, and signal significant change that could impact the institution.
Another point. We should not include an impact statement in the event statement. Consider the following event statement: Passage of welfare and immigration reform will negatively impact higher education. First, we need to specify each welfare reform idea and each immigration reform idea as an event. Second, it may well be that an event can have both a positive and a negative impact. For example, there may be signals that within five years 30% of college and university courses will use multimedia technologies in instruction. This event could have both positive and negative consequences on the institution. If, for example, the faculty are not currently oriented to using multimedia technology, the event may adversely affect the competitive position of the institution. On the other hand, distributing the signals of this event in a newsletter to the faculty may bring about an awareness of what is happening and assist in developing a desire to upgrade their set of teaching skills.
Select the Most Critical Events. The second exercise is to select those events that may have the most impact on the institution in the next decade. We will use paste-on dots for this exercise. Group members will be given five dots to indicate their selection. Voting criteria are as follows:
Identify Signals. The third exercise is to identify the signals that your top two events (as indicated by the frequency distribution of votes from exercise two above) could occur.
Derive Implications. The fourth exercise is to take one of your top two events and derive the implications of that event for the College. In other words, assume that this event occurs. What would happen to the institution as a result of its occurrence?
Develop Recommendations. The final exercise is to develop recommendations as to what institutional leaders should do now in anticipation of this event occurring. Again, do not be concerned about the probability of occurrence of the event. Let's see what recommendations you invent, and then examine the recommendations to see if they make sense to implement regardless of whether the event occurs or not. One outcome is the creation of plans that we could not have conceived without going through the process, but, when we examine the plans, make sense to begin implementing now.
Trends. Trends are estimations/measurements of social, technological, economic, environmental, and political characteristics over time. They are gradual and long-term. Trend information may be used to describe the future, identify emerging issues, and project future events. Trend statements should be clearly stated, concise, and contain only one idea. Examples of trend statements are:
Identify Critical Trends. Trends define the context within which organizations function. Therefore, it is important to identify critical trends, particularly those that are emerging, forecast their future direction, derive their implications for effective planning, and construct plans to take advantage of the opportunities they offer or ameliorate their consequences if they may negatively impact the institution. In trend identification, it is important to look widely in the social, technological, economic, environmental, and political (STEEP) sectors, locally, regionally, nationally, and internationally.
Prioritize Trends. Each planning team member has five "dots." The criteria for voting is to select the five most critical trends. Put a dot on the left hand side of each trend statement (so that we can see the frequency distribution easily). Remember: one dot per trend.
Develop Implications. Select one trend and derive the implications of that trend for the institution. When the discussion is exhausted, we will then proceed to the bottom line of the exercise: what should the institution do in light of the implications of the trend?