Using the Futures Program as a Tool for Transformation

James L. Morrison
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Allan Sargison
Lincoln University (NZ)

Debbie Francis
Lincoln University (NZ)

[Note: This is a modified re-formatted and enhanced manuscript that was originally published in Donald M. Norris and James L. Morrison (Eds.), Mobilizing for Transformation: How Campuses are Preparing for the Knowledge Age, New Directions in Institutional Research Number 94 (pp. 19-30). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, Publishers, 1997. It is posted here with permission of Jossey-Bass Publishers.]

This chapter describes the Lincoln Futures Program and how anticipatory management tools were used to support the transformation of Lincoln's organizational culture. We conclude by describing the lessons learned and the value of this approach to develop strategies to meet the challenges of the 21st century.

Over the past decade Lincoln University in Christchurch, New Zealand, has grown from being a college of Canterbury University with much of its teaching focused on agricultural science to become a full university offering a broad range of programs with a particular focus on natural resources and commerce. As such, it is the smallest university in New Zealand, having 3,900 full-time students and 450 faculty and staff members.

Of the forces of transformation, this case represents:

  • Use of visioning and strategy setting
  • Campus wide dialogue and vision
  • Redirecting campus planning processes
  • Launching the transformation of campus culture

These initiatives are positioning Lincoln University to deal with a dramatically changed and continuously changing educational environment in New Zealand and the entire Australasian region.

Change Comes to Lincoln University

Until six years ago, Lincoln had all the characteristics of a traditional university--comparatively well funded, a collegiate culture with "hands off" management, complex committee structures, and was characterized by slow decision making and resistance to change.

In the 90s, reduced government funding and the opening of the higher education market to polytechnics triggered the development of a more commercial approach to management. This included a more business-like management structure with defined accountabilities, accrual accounting based on cost and profit centers, a relatively comprehensive Management Information System (MIS), developing subsidiary for-profit companies to conduct applied research for commercial firms, a research-based marketing program, emphasis on strategic planning with a ten-year horizon, performance assessment, and a large investment in Information Technology (IT) for teaching and management. A major problem faced the administration and faculty: how to galvanize the core academic culture of the University to realign to meet the challenges that lay ahead.

Overview of the Lincoln Futures Program

The Lincoln Futures Program was designed to use several anticipatory management tools described by Ashley & Morrison (1995). These tools encouraged the widespread use of organizational stakeholders to anticipate changes in the external environment and to link these anticipated changes to internal decision-making. The underlying assumption was that by harnessing the intellectual power of stakeholders to identify signals of change, analyze the implications of these signals for the University, and design actions in light of these implications, not only would the University be able to design and implement creative plans, but that these plans would have the active support of the majority of stakeholders, and, thereby, transform the organizational culture.

Establishing and Staffing the Program

The Lincoln Futures Program was established in mid-1995 via employing a full-time futures analyst to coordinate the program and to work with the vice-chancellor (whose US counterpart would be chancellor or president) and the registrar (whose US counterpart would be executive vice-president) in implementing the program. The goals of the futures program were expressed in a staff newsletter as:

  • To stimulate discussion between Lincoln University staff, faculty, and other stakeholders about the University's best possible/most appropriate future directions 
  • To help develop a shared sense of Lincoln's future direction and core activities within its staff 
  • To anticipate and prepare for potential threats to Lincoln University from the environment outside the University 
  • To be as creative as possible about Lincoln's future teaching, research, and entrepreneurial directions 
  • To position Lincoln University strategically with regard to future markets for our services 
  • To be proactive and cutting edge as a university.

Using Consultation

An outside consultant was employed to facilitate the initial anticipatory management workshop that included all Council members (the University's governing board whose chair was titled "chancellor"), senior administrators, and selected faculty and staff members. This workshop focused on the tools of environmental scanning, vulnerability assessments, and issues management. The design and results of that workshop were replicated by the futures analyst with various groups throughout the university over a 15-month period. In addition, the futures analyst developed and coordinated a comprehensive and systematic environmental scanning process that included some 80 faculty, staff, and students. At the conclusion of the period under review (May 1995-August 1996), the outside consultant facilitated two successive workshops on scenario planning that incorporated the products of the scanning, vulnerability assessments, and issues management processes to flesh out possible alternative futures and to derive creative strategic options for the University to pursue in the corporate (5-year) plan. Throughout this period, University faculty and staff members participated in a number of these activities in a variety of ways as described below.

The Transformation Tools Used by the Futures Program

The Futures Program deployed four transformation tools:

  • Environmental scanning
  • Issue management
  • Vulnerability assessments
  • Scenario-based planning

Environmental Scanning

Environmental scanning entails actively seeking signals of change in the social, technological, economic, environmental, and political sectors in the external environment. The external environment consists of the market environment, and the macroenvironment. Scanning the market environment, for example, involves seeking signals of change in the demographics of students served by the institution. Scanning the industry environment involves looking for signals of change in ways other educational providers are serving their clientele. Scanning the macroenvironment includes seeking signs of change, local through global, that could affect the future of the organization.

We began the Lincoln futures program with an introductory presentation on major change drivers that could affect colleges and universities in the 21st century. The presentation was followed by a day long workshop with Lincoln's council, senior staff, and selected faculty members where, in small groups, they identified key emerging trends and potential events that could affect the future of Lincoln. We also conducted several exercises following the outline described by Morrison (1992) where participants prioritized the trends and events and conducted several elementary analyses on the implications of the most critical trends and events followed by draft recommendations as to what actions Lincoln should take given the analysis. The intent of this workshop was to introduce the concept and process of scanning in a workshop format so that participants would experience the process and willingly agree to participate in this aspect of the Lincoln futures program.

The scanning workshop was well received; some 80 faculty, students, and staff members agreed to review assigned information sources and send the futures analyst either abstracts or full copy of items they found worth attention. The futures analyst in turn summarized these items and distributed the summaries with key questions to various constituencies within the Lincoln community. For an excerpt of this summary, see /projects/seminars/exhibits/exhibit1.asp. The intent was to focus the attention of Lincoln University stakeholders on developments in the external world and raise questions vis-`a-vis their implications for the future direction of the University.

Issues Management

Issues management is a structured process to identify emerging issues that the University must address in organizational planning. The general concept is that the scanning committee identifies salient issues through the use of issues analysis worksheets and develops issue briefs on those most salient for use by the Vice-Chancellors Futures Group (VCFG) as illustrated in Figure 1. (For an example of an analysis worksheet, see /projects/seminars/exhibits/exhibit2.asp) This committee, composed of senior administrators through academic program directors and scanning and focus group conveners, reviews the issues briefs, prioritizes them, and assigns selected issues for inclusion in the corporate planning system, the issues management system, or the strategic scenarios group. For examples of such assignments see /projects/seminars/exhibits/exhibit3.asp. VCFG decisions are described in futures newsletters and discussion papers distributed throughout the University community.

Vulnerability Assessments

Vulnerability assessments are designed to identify the organizational supports that underpin the university's successful functioning, to analyze the threats to which these supports are vulnerable, and to outline anticipatory responses to these threats (Morrison & Keller, 1992-93). This is another approach to stimulate the development of flexible strategies to deal with expected and unexpected events or trends in the institutions external environment. At Lincoln, we conducted the vulnerability assessment through a workshop format using Council members, faculty members, and key members of the university staff.

Step 1: Specify critical supports on which the organization depends and then identify specific organizational strengths. Strengths are viewed from the perspective of how well the institution addresses these supports. Further steps focus on those forces, conditions, trends, and events that could damage organizational supports. Note that a support can be tangible (e.g. a physical resource) or intangible (e.g., legislation, or social values that make a service/product desirable).

Supports were specified in such categories as:

  • Needs and wants served by the organization that that underpin the demand for its products and services
  • Resources and assets
  • Stability of costs relative to competition
  • Technologies

For example, in the needs and wants served by the institution category, society needs graduates who are computer literate as well as computer systems analysts. Many academic programs across Lincoln have modified their curriculums in order to train graduates to work effectively in an interdependent global society based upon information technology. The workshop participants identified the strengths of Lincoln in this area include the following:

  • educates the work force
  • conducts basic research
  • preserves and disseminates knowledge
  • assists maturation of late adolescents
  • provides leadership to the society
  • focuses on students' skill development

Step 2: Identify the vulnerabilities to which each support category is exposed. In this step, workshop groups proceed through their responses to the categories in step 1, but this time target vulnerabilities or threats expressed as events/trends/issues. That is, they use the ideas developed as strengths in step 1 to ask questions about what could occur in the external environment that could affect these strengths. For example, for the first category, needs and wants served, relevant vulnerability questions are:

  • Could a need or want be served some other way by some other institution?
  • Could the need for a product or service disappear? If so, under what circumstances?

The vulnerabilities identified in response to these questions, stated as potential events, were as follows:

  • corporations become educators of choice
  • Lincoln is inflexible to a changing marketplace
  • public loses trust in Lincolns ability to deliver
  • universities oversell their ability to cure society's ills
  • rise of religious fundamentalism in Asia raises questions about the value of education faculty alienated from customer base
  • education becomes less esteemed (e.g., as in China in 1950s)
  • animal rights movement leads to legislation banning scientific research
  • Lincoln University loses credibility because of extreme actions of staff member(s) (e.g., bad publicity from bad research)
  • actions by overseas governments affects tourism and international travel (e.g., tension between Taiwan and China)
  • external professional bodies change course requirements strong job market
  • people will not pay for education when they can get jobs readily
  • quality distance education programs offered by other institutions
  • Lincoln location is a deterrent to accommodating part-time students

Step 3: Analysis of Key Vulnerabilities. After using the first two steps to identify a rough description of vulnerabilities, council members, managers, academic and general staff members refined the descriptions into the following sets of key threats that Lincoln faces. They are as follows:

  • public policy changes in an MMP environment, particularly those which relate to the funding, governance and ownership of higher education
  • increasing competition from international education providers (e.g., through distance delivery or franchise)
  • increasing competition from non-credentialed, non-traditional or non-institutional providers
  • increasingly diverse and demanding clients
  • increasing complexity of knowledge and need for high risk decisions under uncertainty at both corporate and business unit level
  • changes in stakeholder perceptions of universities
  • increasing requirements to utilize technology and a variety of delivery modes in order to achieve efficiencies, to respond to divers learning needs, and to access markets.

Lincoln specific vulnerabilities include the following: 

  • small size
  • south island location
  • distant from population center
  • inflexible human resource management
  • overly diverse product portfolio
  • interdisciplinary focus leads to degree complexity and to high transactions costs
  • low critical mass in areas central to mission
  • lack of management capacity for product development
  • danger of losing focus on core competencies
  • insufficiently differentiated market positioning

Step 4: Identify anticipatory actions and assign responsibility for these actions. The next step after vulnerabilities of the institution were agreed upon was to develop recommendations, decide what actions were needed, and assign responsibility and time lines for each action. For an example of such recommendations after the vulnerability audit, see /projects/seminars/exhibits/exhibit4.asp.

Scenario-Based Planning

The inputs and experience gained from the environmental scanning process, the issues management process, and conducting vulnerability audits around campus served as feedstock for the last tool we used: scenario planning.

Scenarios are comprehensive, internally consistent, long-term perspectives on the future. They serve as a framework for strategic thinking. They provide insightful understanding of the dynamics of change, a fuller consideration of the range of opportunities and threats facing the organization, thereby reducing the organizations vulnerability to surprises. They encourage an expanded range of strategy options; a more resilient, flexible strategy; and a better assessment of risks. They also provide a sound basis for continuous monitoring of the institutions environment and a common framework for our thinking about the future.

A small team of senior administrators and selected faculty members spent four days in the initial scenario development process. This team was supplemented by Council members who helped scrub the scenarios and develop strategic options to be included in the corporate plan. We used the six-step process originally developed by SRI International as modified by Morrison & Wilson (1996; 1997). This process and the outputs are described below.

Step 1: Framing the decision focus. This step has two objectives:

  1. Determine which decision(s) the scenarios should be designed to illuminate
  2. Identify issues involved in the decision

Workshop participants determined that for Lincoln the decision focus involved answering this question: What will Lincoln University be doing in 10 years? Key questions revolving around the decision focus were:

  1. How will Lincoln survive in a global economy?
  2. What are the expectations of key Lincoln University stakeholders and clients (society, government, staff, students, industry)?
  3. What is Lincoln's "corporate" strategy?
    • Will Lincoln go it alone?
    • Will Lincoln seek alliances with other institutions (education, industry, research)?
    • How does Lincoln improve national and international reputation of the university?
  4. What is Lincoln's "business" strategy?
    • What will Lincoln need to be good at?
    • What will be Lincoln's product mix?
    • How does Lincoln cope with a South Island location?
    • To what extent will Lincoln become a research/postgraduate institution?
  5. Who will be Lincoln's primary clients (e.g., students? research funding agencies? industry? public and international agencies?)?
    • How will client profiles change over the next 10 years?
    • What will they want?
  6. How does Lincoln deliver products (e.g., curricular programs, research programs, trading activities, extension activities, consultancies) to increasingly diverse and demanding clients?

Step 2: Identify the key decision factors (KDFs): KDFs are "things we would like to know about t he future when we make the decision." Key decision factors identified by workshop participants included the following:

  1. How and by what mechanisms will universities and students be funded by government?
  2. What are the demographic trends?
  3. What is the future of computer technology? Will we continue down workstation path? Will we go to Internet connection machines?
  4. Will NZ industry place more importance on R&D?
  5. What non-traditional funding opportunities exist?
  6. What will the accreditation environment be like?
  7. What will the student view of value for money be?
  8. What environmental/natural resource mgt. values will prevail in society?
  9. Domestic and international societal perceptions and concerns about growth, sustainability, conservation paradigm?
  10. What are the projections for academic staff availability?
  11. Likely tertiary education liberalization? What will be the structure of tertiary education?
  12. What threats and opportunities are posed by world population growth?
  13. What will be international student portability and opportunity?
  14. What will be the percent of GDP on research?

Step 3: Assess environmental forces. Which forces/trends/events will do most to help shape the future course of KDFs? Workshop participants determined that the underlying forces were as follows:

  • World population growth and limited land area.
  • Information/communication technology
  • Repositioning of universities in post industrial society
  • Individual choice/client orientation
  • Global economy
  • NZ economy/well being
  • Complexity of knowledge
  • Pacific Rim geopolitical development

Major trends included:

  • Progressively greater societal emphasis on public, socio-economic return of key outputs e.g. programs, research, consultancy.
  • Declining public contribution to higher education as a percentage of operating income declining.
  • More client (investors and consumers) uncertainty regarding return on investment in higher education.
  • The decision making environment in both the institutional, public policy and client contexts is increasingly complex - i.e. subject to more uncertainty, higher risk and opportunity cost exposure.
  • Developing global environmentally sustainable production practices.
  • Reducing ability of agricultural systems to meet world requirements for cereal and protein production.
  • Commercial and intellectual information is becoming increasingly open to all. (Higher education has a reducing capacity to protect commercially leveraged intellectual property).
  • Increasing global economic and environmental interdependencies
  • Progressively widening participation in higher education
  • Increasing "massification" of education.
  • Reinvigoration of elite higher education.
  • Increasing demand for Just in Time (JIT) post-education training/education.
  • Increasing client demand for access to individually tailored and specified education/training packages/experiences.
  • Emerging internationalization of accreditation and standard setting.
  • Increasing demand for graduates to have "soft skills" ( e.g. inter/intra personal communication skills) .
  • Inadequate supply of "elite knowledge workers"
  • Increasing capacity of Pacific Rim higher education infrastructure.
  • Global demand for education/training packages premised on holistic, inter- disciplinary, "organic" system focused metaphors.
  • Accelerating move towards an information skill based "class" system - information poor and rich, unskilled and technologically skilled - and away from the traditional class structure
  • Increasing number of "Networked organizations" delivering diverse/multiple organizational missions/programs (e.g., educational consortia) on a global basis.
  • Increasing societal value placed on work/life experience and non-credentialed learning.
  • Growing acceptance of electronic publications as being acceptable vehicles for scholarly purposes.

Participants also focused on potential developments in the external environment that would affect the future of Lincoln. Stated in "event" terms, they included:

  • In 2001 NUT, the Networked University of Technology, is established by 4 domestic polytechnics and two offshore universities.
  • NUT implements a student service charter guaranteeing work placement and employment within 6 months of graduation.
  • In 2004 New Zealand's first private university opens focused exclusively on the provision of elite postgraduate programs utilizing with the key infrastructure provided by a pool of private and public organizations on a fee for service basis.
  • The NZ and Australian Societies of Accountants (an ITO) contracts provision of pre- and post- employment accounting and finance training to a regional consortium of Private Training Establishments and corporate. Six vice-chancellors resign in protest!
  • Four consortia of Australian and North American universities telecommunications companies (including Telecom NZ) sign contracts in 2002 to meet 75% of East Asia's international education/training needs.
  • Fundamentalist/sectarian regimes in four East Asian countries ban Western educational programs that are not culturally safe with immediate effect in 2008.
  • In 2009 an international university funded by multi- lateral agencies and focused on food and environmental security and issues is set up in New Zealand in 2009
  • The percentage of GDP allocated to basic research funding diminishes to 0.35 by 2005.
  • In 2005 public funding for research/development doubles.
  • The NZ government removes the requirement for first and professional degrees to be delivered by institutions involved in research.
  • Mad cow disease migrates to NZ.
  • Collapse of Chinese state.
  • The pernicious cereal fungus, fieldorum grandiloquent, destroys 30% of the cereal production in East Asia.
  • Average age for retirement in OECD nations 70 by 2006.
  • In 2002 three NZ higher education institutions - including one university - go bankrupt.
  • The Pacific Rim nations sign free-trade agreement in 2010.
  • In 2008 NZ science degrees accreditation withdrawn by ASEAN authority.
  • All technical texts will be electronically based by 2009,

Step 4: Determine scenario logics. In this step, we first identified the critical "axes of uncertainty" and then defined the logical extremes of each axis. Scenario logics are differing theories about the w ay the world might work. From the logics available, the scenarios to be elaborated were selected on the criteria that the total group needed to be different, plausible, internally consistent and useful for decision making. Using these criteria, the following logics were considered for scenario production:

  • Economic well-being in New Zealand
    • Low
    • High
  • Environmental
    • Sustainability
    • Degradation
  • Power-sharing
    • mono(multi) cultural
    • bicultural
  • Provision for higher education
    • Low competition
    • High competition
  • Global economy
    • Led by nation states
    • Led by multinationals and NGOs
  • Government
    • Small
    • Big
  • Relevance of higher education
    • Low
    • High
  • Ownership of NZ universities
    • Private
    • Public
  • Dominating values
    • Individual
    • Collective
  • Pacific Rim
    • Stable
    • Instable
  • World population growth impact on NZ
    • High
    • Low
  • Wars
    • Large
    • Small

Step 5: Elaborate scenarios. Scenario writers used the "ends" of three logics to elaborate scenarios. For example, one of the scenarios was titled "Sustainable Political Correctness." This scenario, which may be found at /projects/seminars/exhibits/exhibit5.asp, was based on bi-culturalism in New Zealand, sustainable practice in global environmental management, and a hi-growth NZ economy. The logic of scenario analysis is that there are critical "axes of uncertainty"; the future will be different depending upon which axis develops. The purpose of the analysis is to describe alternative, plausible, and structurally different views of the future so that we can confront and structure the spectrum of planning uncertainty in a usable manner, identify the full range of opportunities and threats likely to confront the institution, and use scenarios as "test beds" for assessing the resilience and payoff of alternative strategy and resource allocation options. And, in order to use scenario planning as a transformation tool, we involved a number of stakeholders from across the institution to analyze and develop strategic options for consideration in the corporate plan. The results of this process are summarized below in the overall context of the Lincoln futures program.

The Lincoln Futures Program in Operation

The futures program was developed as a mechanism for merging the outputs from the application of different transformational tools and was designed to coordinate with existing planning processes. It was based on the activities of scanning and focus groups, as illustrated in Figure 1. These groups of faculty, staff, and students were organized around mission-critical disciplinary and process areas of the University's operation. Each had a convener and a number of external advisors located in business or in government. They posted their insights about future trends, issues, or problems to a Website on the University's Intranet called "Environmental Scanning." Contributions varied from aphoristic one-liners to detailed analytical theses, some of which were circulated in print versions. Within three months of commencing their activities, these groups had posted some 300 items to the Website. Group members were located at all levels in the organizational hierarchy; they were asked to be involved because of their ability to think creatively. Even so, they needed practice before they became comfortable with thinking in the long time horizon required by the futures program.

Any faculty or staff member (or student) was able to view the items posted to the Website and was encouraged to comment on them. Scanning group conveners then sorted these items, correlated them with the results of the vulnerability assessments and internal analyses, and referred them to the Vice-Chancellors Futures Group (VCFG), which included the senior managers of the university and the vice-chancellor. Scanning group conveners were excited by the opportunity to advocate their response to issue analysis directly to those with the organizational power to implement changes. While senior managers were sometimes forced to confront issues they would rather have avoided in these meetings, they too valued the process involved. Issues surfacing from this activity were sent, for example, to an issues management team for the development of a specified action plan. A great deal of material also fell out for inclusion in the corporate or operational plans. Broad or clustered issues were be referred to the Councils Strategic Scenarios Group for the later production of alternative scenarios, which then formed the basis for a review of the existing corporate plan and for the development of new strategic options.

Administrators and faculty were kept informed of all of these developments through the Intranet website and by means of regular newsletters and discussion papers. The relative priorities assigned to various issues, for example, were posted to the site following each meeting of the Vice-Chancellors Group.

From Tools to Strategy

Lincoln University's Council and senior administrators believe that the tools of transformation used over the past year have provided a set of imperatives for the strategic re-positioning of the institution. These are being translated into the university's corporate plan, which has a one-to-five year time horizon, as well as into longer range contingency plans. The scenario production process culminated in a major review of existing strategy and in a workshop exercise to generate new strategic options, which was attended by line and corporate managers, and by members of the Lincoln council. In this workshop, the nine scenarios were analyzed in small group format; both vertically, in terms of what each implied for new strategic options, and also horizontally across particular areas of strategic operation. In the latter exercise, groups were formed to discuss Lincolns processes, products and financial viability. These general topics were then disaggregated into particular issue areas. Processes, for example, included such issues as out-sourcing of services, the re-engineering of core processes, and product development processes. The product group worked on issues such as undergraduate/postgraduate mix and franchising, while the financial analysts examined issues such as capital structure, disinvestment and risk profiling. Each of these issue areas was analyzed against the nine scenarios. These exercises, when collated, generated a set of strategic options that then provided the top layer of Lincolns corporate plan. For example, the strategic options drafted for products were:

  • Focus on core areas of critical mass that are viable in the market (e.g., multi-disciplinary focus on natural resources and the management of the environment)
  • Ensure that the alignment between teaching and research capacity results in learning (core areas of teaching are supported by research)
  • Concentrate on areas in which we can do well and which encourage the development of strong postgraduate and professional schools.
  • Teach transferable skills contextually
  • Where it is cost effective to do so, purchase services to support our core competencies
  • To secure research funding using the full range of funding strategies to maximize and secure the strategic benefits of Lincoln's intellectual property

The strategic options drafted for processes were:

  • Use process innovation tools to transform core value adding processes.
  • Develop an organizational culture that
    1. applies quality improvement tools to university processes.
    2. recognizes and rewards performance at both an individual and team level.
    3. sees the student as a primary client.
    4. values innovation and creativity.
  • Provide for as much contestability in service delivery as possible
  • Map teaching, research and support services
  • Introduce best practice into core processes
  • Seek partnerships to access IT
  • Develop change management skills throughout the organization
  • Introduce best practice into research bidding
  • Improve understanding of client and stakeholder expectations
  • Adapt organizational structure and management in response to emerging issue

The strategic options drafted for finances were:

  • Ensure on-going financial viability.
  • Require a return on assets of x% after making full provision for the use of capital.
  • Realign assets with mission critical core competencies.
  • Manage the exit from non-core business.
  • Use strategic alliances to access capital and resources and manage risk.

A senior member of the Council concluded the last workshop with these words:

To transform we must:

  • leverage technology intelligently to improve the quality of our products
  • exploit the emerging lifelong learning markets.
  • enter into dynamic strategic alliances
  • rebalance the infrastructure, physical and human, to support necessary investments in innovation and excellence
  • build strong leadership in Lincoln's core business
  • be responsive to markets
  • become market leaders in our core business
  • improve program development and other core processes

He stressed that the key strategic positioning question for Lincoln University is: How does a small, niche university which is remote from its markets survive in an increasingly competitive environment? His answer: Focus on a few areas of core competency in which Lincoln has sufficient critical mass to be successful by doing its business well. What Lincoln does must be first class; products must be supported by high value-adding processes. Lincoln can only build on a sound financial base. To remain small Lincoln must use alliances and at all times ensure quality. Therefore, Lincolns key strategies must be to:

  • Enhance the alignment of market demand, strategic positioning and product mix.
  • Align research capacity to strategic positioning.
  • Foster postgraduate programs, with quality experience and supervision.
  • Develop and manage sustainable strategic relationships to give effect to our strategic positioning.
  • Use information technology innovatively to gain strategic advantage.
  • Ensure that people are valued, involved, supported, and developed throughout the organization.
  • Ensure that the organization is a fun place to work and learn.

Overall, the scenario analysis workshop provided for lively and productive debate among governors ands managers with regard to strategic positioning. A major redefinition of Lincoln's positioning was agreed upon, which de-emphasized the university's earlier "growth at all costs" strategy, which h ad led to an unhealthy proliferation of programs, a lack of focus on Lincoln's knitting and to risky cross-subsidization practices; to a more tightly defined niche positioning on Lincoln's natural resources core competencies and a decision to remain small . Lincoln's senior leadership believe that the small size can be hedged by creative use of strategic alliances and joint ventures, particularly those involving the franchise of program products.

Having concluded this exercise, it remains for Lincoln's leaders to promote the revised strategies and to maximize buy-in from internal stakeholders. This is a demanding change agency task and one that will be run by academic rather than corporate managers. On the other hand, the futures work on the Lincoln campus over the part year has ensured that the items in the plan are not a surprise to Lincoln's faculty and staff. They have been clearly signaled through the scanning process, and much discussed in vulnerability workshops, issues meetings and other e vents. The progress from scanning to eventual strategy has been much more visible and interactive than was formerly the case in Lincoln's corporate planning rounds.

As Lincoln's Vice Chancellor Bruce Ross stated, "Through the futures program the information and issues it generates and the internal debate which flows from it, Lincoln aims to develop a compelling vision for learning in the 21st century."


Ashley, W. C. & Morrison, J. L. Anticipatory Management. 10 Power Tools for Achieving Excellence into the 21st Century. Leesburg, VA: Issue Action Press, 1995. [Note: a condensation of this book was published in the summer 1996 issue of The Futures Research Quarterly as " Anticipatory Management Tools for the 21st Century."]

Morrison, J. L. (1992). Environmental Scanning. In M. A. Whitely, J. D. Porter, and R. H. Fenske (Eds.), A Primer for New Institutional Researchers. Tallahassee, Florida: The Association for Institutional Research, pp.86-99.

Morrison, J. & Keller, G. (1992-93, Winter). Newest Tool: The Institutional Vulnerability Audit. Planning for Higher Education, pp. 21, 27-34.

Morrison, J. L. & Wilson, I. The Strategic Management Response to the Challenge of Global Change. In Didsbury, Howard (Ed.). Future Vision, Ideas, Insights, and Strategies. Bethesda, MD: The World Future Society, 1996.

Morrison, J. L. & Wilson, I. Analyzing Environments and Developing Scenarios for Uncertain Times. In Marvin Peterson, David Dill, and Lisa Mets (Eds.), Planning and Management for a Changing Environment: A Handbook on Redesigning Postsecondary Education. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1997.

JAMES L. MORRISON is professor of educational leadership at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. ALAN SARGINSON is the registrar of Lincoln University, New Zealand. DEBBIE FRANCIS is futures analyst at Lincoln University, New Zealand.


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