CSU Faculty Institute: Seminar Description CLOUDS AND SUN

Cardinal Stritch University Faculty Institute
January 16, 2004

James L. Morrison, Institute Facilitator

We are being bombarded by tumultuous forces for change as we go into the 21st Century: Virtual classrooms, global communications, global economies, telecourses, distance learning, corporate classrooms, increased competition among social agencies for scarce resources, pressure for institutional mergers, state-wide program review and so on. In order to plan effectively in this environment, we must be able to anticipate and plan for new developments that will affect higher education generally and Cardinal Strich University and its curricular programs specifically.


This institute is designed to assist Cardinal Strich staff and faculty members to systematically factor the external environment into the strategic planning process. The specific objectives are to:

  • identify trends that define the context within which American higher education will function in the next decade
  • identify potential events that could affect Cardinal Strich University's faculty and students.
  • derive implications and recommend actions vis-a-vis these potential events
  • review the next steps in the planning process


Please review the following publications prior to the workshop the following publications (particularly those distinguished by an asterisk):

Approaches to anticipating the future:

  1. *Ashley, W. L. & Morrison, J. L. (1996). "Anticipatory Management Tools for the 21st Century." The Futures Research Quarterly, 12 (2), 35-49.
  2. *Ashley, W. L. & Morrison, J. L. (1997). "Anticipatory Management: Tools for Better Decision Making." The Futurist, 31(5), 47-50.
  3. *Morrison & Wilson. "Strategic Management in the Context of Global Change." In Didsbury, Howard (Ed.). Future Vision, Ideas, Insights, and Strategies. Bethesda, MD: The World Future Society, 1996 
  4. Morrison & Wilson. "Analyzing Environments and Developing Scenarios for Uncertain Times." in M. W. Peterson, D. D. Dill, L. A. Mets, and Associates (eds.), Planning and Management for a Changing Environment. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1997
  5. Morrison, J. L., Renfro, W. L., & Boucher, W. I.  Futures Research and the Strategic Planning Process. ASHE/ERIC Clearinghouse on Higher Education Research Report Series Number 9, 1984. 

Perspectives on the future of higher education:

  1. *Mack, T. "An Interview with a Futurist." Futures Research Quarterly, 2003, 19 (1), 61-69
  2. Boyett, J. & Snyder, D. P. "Twenty-First Century Workplace Trends." On the Horizon, 1998, 6(2), 1,4-9.
  3. *Snyder, D. P. "High Tech and Higher Education: A Wave of Creative Destruction is Rolling Toward the Halls of Academe."   On the Horizon, 1996, 4(5), 1, 3-7.
  4. Boggs, G. R. "Focus on Learning." On the Horizon, 1998, 6(1), 1, 5-6.
  5. O'Banion, T. "Schooling is Out--Learning is In." On the Horizon, 1996, 3(5), 1-2, 5-6.
  6. *Morrison, J. L. "Anticipating the Future." On the Horizon, 1996, 4(3), 2-3.
  7. Morrison, J. L. "Transforming Educational Organizations." On the Horizon, 1997, 5(1), 2-3.
  8. Norris, D. M. "Perpetual Learning as a Revolutionary Creation." On the Horizon, 1996, 4(6), 1, 3-6.


8:30-8:45 Introduction/Orientation

8:45-9:45 Anticipating the Future

Introduce and discuss Joel Barker video, Discovering the Future: The Business of Paradigms

9:45-10:00    Break

10:00-10:45    Identifying critical trends

10:45-11:00    Prioritizing critical trends

11:00-11:25    Preparing reportbacks

11:25-12:00    Reportbacks

12:00-1:00      Lunch

1:00-1:45        Identifying potential events

1:45-2:00        Prioritizing potential events

2:00-2:25        Defining signals of most critical event

2:25-2:45        Deriving implications of most critical event

2:45-3:00        Formulating draft action plan

3:00-3:30        Prepare reportbacks

3:30-4:15        Reportbacks

4:15-4:30        Next Steps

First Exercise: Trends Defining the Context for Higher Education

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:

  • the number of computers with voice recognition software sold in the U.S.
  • the number of U.S. colleges & universities requiring computers of entering freshmen
  • the number of students 18-21 applying for admission to U.S. colleges and universities

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.

We will begin the exercise by forming into 6-8 person groups and selecting leadership roles in each group. The roles are facilitator, flip chart scribe, reporter, laptop recorder, and paper hanger. We will change roles for exercises as described below so that you may expect to have at least one role during the workshop. No one is allowed to serve in the same role twice, except for laptop recorder, who will record the group proceedings throughout the workshop. Thus, you may concentrate on the discussion, and not worry about taking notes.

The tasks in this exercise are to identify critical trends and prioritize them. You will use the Nominal Group Process (see below) for this exercise. That is, I will pose the question: What are the critical trends that define the context within which American higher education functions? Take five minutes to think about the question. Think broadly through the social, technological, economic, environmental, and political sectors, locally and globally. Then begin the round robin process to post nominations from individual group members to the flip chart. We will spend 20 minutes this part of the exercise. When I call time, you will go to the discussion/clarification phase, where the facilitator will ensure that group members understand and agree with the trend statements (prepare for some rewriting!).

We will then prioritize the trend statements by each person in each group voting the four "dots" you will be given. The criteria for voting is for you to select the four 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.

The reportback should focus on the six most critical trends for the University to consider as it plans for the future.

Exercise: Potential Events That Can Change the Future of Higher Education

The next exercise is to identify potential events that could affect the future of higher education if they occurred. We will change group leadership roles for this exercise.

Events are unambiguous and confirmable. When they occur, the future is different. Event identification and analysis is critical in anticipatory 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 and the presidency. 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 higher education.

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 70% of college and university courses will use multimedia technologies in instruction. Or, there may be signals that within five years 30% of college and university courses will be taught by the project method. Both events could have both positive and negative consequences on the University. If, for example, the faculty are not currently oriented to using multimedia technology or the project method of instruction, the events may adversely affect the competitive position of your institution. On the other hand, distributing the signals of these events 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.

Finally, it may be helpful to write event statements as headlines in a newspaper.

You will use the Nominal Group Process for this exercise. The group facilitator will pose the question: What are the potential events that would change the future of the University if they occurred? Take five minutes to think about the question, remembering to think broadly through the STEEP sectors, locally through globally. Then begin the round robin process to post nominations from individual group members to the flip chart. We will spend 20 minutes this part of the exercise. When I call time, you will go to the discussion/clarification phase, where the facilitator will ensure that group members understand and agree with the event statements (prepare for some rewriting!). We will have 25 minutes for this phase.

The next part of this exercise is to select those events that may have the most impact on the University in the next decade. We will use the paste-on dots for this exercise. Group members will be given four dots to indicate their selection. Voting criteria are as follows:

  • Vote for four of the most critical events for the future of Cardinal Strich University that have some probability of occurrence within the next decade. Do not be concerned about the event being high or low probability; be concerned only about the severity of the impact (positive or negative).
  • Do not put more than one dot on one event statement.
  • Put all dots by the beginning of the event statement (so that we can quickly see the frequency distribution of dots)

We have 10 minutes for this exercise.

The next part of the exercise is to identify the signals that your top event (as indicated by the frequency distribution of votes from exercise two above) could occur. Use the Nominal Group Process. We only have 15 minutes for this part of the exercise.

The next phase of the exercise is to take one of your top event and derive the implications of that event for the University. In other words, assume that this event occurs. What would happen the University as a result of its occurrence? Use the Nominal Group Process. We have 15 minutes for this and the following phase.

Now develop recommendations as to what University 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.

The reportback should focus on the four most critical events for the future of Cardinal Strich University, the signals that the top event could occur, the implications of the event if it should occur, and recommendations as to what the University should do.

The Nominal Group Process

The Nominal Group Process is an efficient tool that ensures balanced participation. It requires participants to first think about the question (e.g., what potential events can affect the future?) and write down their thoughts on a sheet of paper. After a suitable time the facilitator uses a round robin approach where each participant in turn is asked to nominate an event. Only one nomination is given by each participant. Participants are asked to nominate those events that could be most critical to their organization. Each statement is written on the flip chart in large text so that all can see the nominations. Each statement should be numbered to facilitate discussion in the discussion phase. The next person is asked to submit his or her "best" candidate. During this time the only person talking is the person nominating a statement; all others are requested to think about the statement to see if it stimulates an idea that they had not had before.

Under normal circumstances this process goes on until there are no more nominations, at which time the facilitator guides the group in a discussion of each nomination to clarify, discuss, edit, and remove redundancies. Of course the discussion may uncover more events, which will then be posted on the flip chart. (Given time limitations, we may have to curtail the discussion to two rounds before we begin the discussion phase.)


You will hone your anticipatory skills and produce valuable planning information for the University, which will be in the form of the published workshop proceedings. Moreover, you will learn to implement the Nominal Group Process, a valuable tool when working with groups regardless of the topic.

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