Planning for the Future of McHenry County College: Proceedings of the MCC Mid-Management Team Workshop
James L. Morrison, Workshop Facilitator

MCC Mid-Management Team Workshop
January 24, 1996

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, leaders at McHenry County College must be able to anticipate new developments that will affect the institution and its curricular programs. This proceedings records the results of a workshop conducted with the MCC Mid Management Team focusing on the future of the College.


We anticipate the future by identifying trends and potential events that could affect the future of the organization. We prepare for the future by forecasting the implications of the most critical trends and events and deriving recommendations from these forecasts. The objectives of this workshop focused on honing our skills in identifying (a) critical trends that define the context within which MCC functions and will function in the future; (b) potential events that could affect the future of the College; (c) the implications of critical trends and events for MCC; and (d) what recommendations may be derived in light of these analyses.

Exercise: Critical Trends that Define the Context Within Which MCC Will Function in the Coming Decade

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. 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.

The tasks in this exercise were to identify critical trends, select the five most critical ones, select one of these and derive the implications of the trend if it materializes as the group thought it might, and then recommended actions that the College should consider in light of this analysis. The most critical trends identified by the groups are in bold.

Critical Trends Identified in the Workshop


Changing roles of colleges and universities
Family structure/behavior changing (home-alone, single parent, two-income family, abuse, teen's contributions to family income, child care)
Need for creative student/college financing
Increasing proportion of the population is over 65
There is less face-to face-interaction in society
Increasing distance between the haves and the have nots of our society
Increasing health care costs
Increasing numbers of colleges sharing technological resources
Increasing number of people learning at home
Increasing number of non -traditional students
Increasing number of people moving into McHenry County
Increasing number of entering students needing remedial education
Increasing ethnic and cultural diversity in the society
Increases in teenage suicides
Increasing perception that a technological society does not require a liberal arts education


The use of telecommunications systems
The pace of technological change
Integration of technology into the teaching/learning process
Increased power of computer technology
Increased dependency on technology


Business and industry need for a comprehensively trained workforce
Increasing global competition for U.S. manufacturing
Need for new skill training in a downsizing economy
Increase in the number of homebased offices
Increase in the number of people with two jobs
Increasing number of people needing retraining
Increased business and industry's need for a comprehensively trained workforce
Increasing numbers of American companies being purchased by foreign concerns


Environmental pressure for land use
Increased concern for the environment


Education funding
Increasing litigation
There are major changes in government funding programs
Decreasing governmental regulations
Increasing sentiment to make welfare recipients accountable
Decreasing support for affirmative action programs
Decreasing support for public education
Increasing importance of International Quality Standards such as ISO 9000 and ISO 14000

Implications and Recommendations

Each group selected one trend and derived the implications of that trend for MCC, followed by their recommendations for the college. This analysis by group follows.

Group 1

Critical Trend: The increasing use of telecommunications systems


Communication between students and faculty will increase.
The potential for improved internal communications will increase.
There will be less personal interaction/contact.
There will be a bigger division between the haves and the have-nots.
A low cost alternative to increasing library holdings will evolve.
There will an increased convenience for those that have technological advantage.
World-wide access to delivery of programs will be made available.
Training needs and associated costs will be affected.
Purchasing hardware will create new costs.
There will be changes in processing, such as registration and scheduling.
There will be shifts in funding priorities, such as less money will be spent building classrooms.
An implementation plan will be developed with input from the users.
Fear of advanced communication systems may be a problem.
Expanded advertising strategies will become available.
There may be curricular changes as a result of delivery changes.
There may be low cost alternatives for students and high cost alternatives for the college.
The boundaries for service providers will change.
The ability to take electronic field trips will become available.
There will be an increased access to a pool of qualified faculty.
There will be an increased competition for students/clients between educational institutions.
Technical support costs will increase.
There will be a potential for reduction of paper waste.
Psychological addiction to computers/technology may become a problem.


MCC should install fiber optic networks, connecting all parts of the college, and develop a long-term network implementation plan with grass root input.
MCC should develop human resources to support telecommunication from the technical level through delivery of instruction including staff development.
MCC should secure expertise for planning, implementing, maintaining, and evaluating this effort.
MCC should develop a plan for marketing through the use of available technologies, such as a home page on the internet.
MCC should develop an accessibility plan that includes all segments of the population.
MCC should develop a plan to provide a niche for the college by guaranteeing an electronically literate component to our curriculum.
MCC should insure that this is a user-friendly, student sensitive system.

Group 2

Critical Trend: Technology integration into the teaching/learning/delivery process.


There will be less need for classroom facilities new types of classrooms.
There will be a need for more staff training.
There will be a need to identify advanced technological equipment.
We must assess our competition.
The lecture-facilitate role of instructor will change.
There will be a merging of boundaries; combining of resources.
There will be more use of virtual reality techniques in science laboratories.
There will be more careful and ongoing audience needs analysis.
There will be more theory-practice-integration research.
There will be a need for more ability to manage multiple priorities/complex systems.
There will be accreditation issues (e.g., certifying credit).
There will be no need for central registration.
There will be a need for on-going evaluation of effectiveness.
Curriculums will become more highly specialized curriculums and provide more access.
Faculty and staff will need to be sure that technology charisma does not overwhelm effectiveness.
MCC leadership will become more aware and involved with technology requiring technology literacy.
MCC may have a different student mix.


Complete the computer network.
Accelerate staff development.
Set budget priorities to implement the technology program.
Develop a market analysis and plan
Look for partners to obtain and use technological resources.
Design and implement a return on investments study.
Develop an operational plan to integrate technology into the curriculum.

Group 3

Critical Trend: Increase in non-traditional families


Child care will be required for returning students.
Students will not be able to attend traditionally scheduled classes.
Campus security and safety will become an increased concern.
There are more dysfunctional students (academically, socially and emotionally).
Students will have limited discretionary income.


Appeal to legislators (or whomever) for increased student financial assistance.
Increase childcare options.
Become more customer/student oriented when scheduling classes (which is currently faculty driven).
Provide direct counseling intervention to students/staff in need.
Enhance job placement program at MCC for current students and for alumni.

Group 4

Critical Trend: Increased dependency on technology


The community will expect the college to provide access to technology.
Additional expenses will be incurred to keep up with technology.
Additional training will be needed to provide people with competency to use computer systems.
Security issues will arise in regard to hardware, software and the use of the technology.
There will be an increase in ethical issues surrounding the use of the hardware and software (e.g., who will have access at what cost; how will plagiarism be prevented).
There will be changes in job duties, responsibilities, and procedures.
An attitude shift will be required of those who don't want to use the technology, whether in the classroom or workplace.
Users vs. non-users may solidify into two different groups.
There will be less face-to-face interaction; however, technology may stimulate an increase in communication within the college and with colleagues outside of the college via e-mail and the Internet.
Departments will need to share resources and programs.
There will be a change of instructional delivery systems (e.g. less classroom use versus fewer classrooms to use).
We must question how to provide equal access for everyone.


Provide adequate and trained technological staff including a Director of Computer services.
Work with the community at large (e.g., public schools and libraries).
Explore potential funding alternatives (purchase or lease computers? go after industry contributions? apply for grants?)
Employ a consultant to assist with scenario development.
Provide computer equipment and training for the all administrative staff.
Require computer training for all faculty and staff.
Reallocate resources (human, physical and fiscal)
Develop security procedures, guidelines and rules in regard to computer access.

Exercises: Potential Events That Can Change the Future of McHenry County College

Identify Potential Events

This exercise focused on identifying potential events that could affect the future of MCC if they occurred. Events are unambiguous and confirmable. When they occur, the future is different. Event identification and analysis is critical in anticipatory planning.

The read-ahead pointed out that 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 the institution.

Another point was made in the read-ahead: Do 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 and the community college sector. 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 MCC. If, for example, the faculty are not currently oriented to using multimedia technology, the event may adversely affect the competitive position of your 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.

After an initial event identification exercise, each group was asked select those events that may have the most impact on the College in the next decade. We used paste-on dots for this exercise. Group members were given five dots to indicate their selection using the following voting criteria:
Vote for five of the most critical events for the future of the College 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.


The most critical events identified in these exercises are in bold as listed below.


Within a year every McHenry County community will sell Internet access via their WEB site.
Shooting occurs in MCC hallway.
Forty percent of the US population believe that a college education not needed for high paying jobs (trades).
MCC receives million dollar endowment.
Next MCC president is female.
Asian population in McHenry County increases 45% from 1995 level.
MCC students plug into "Default Tech" at half the price.
Minority residents become majority in the county.


Everyone will carry a portable telephone at all times.
Cost of computers cut 50% from 1995 prices.


A significant economic catastrophe will cause major layoffs county-wide.
New invention/innovation creates a new industry in McHenry County.
Major corporations move into McHenry County.
Annual rate of economic growth in McHenry County is 7%.
Development of a cross-county toll road connected to the interstate system,
Major layoffs county-wide.
Stock market collapses.
Motorola plant does not open.
Electronic automobile becomes commercially feasible.


Support for school funding shifted from local property taxes to state taxes.
Illinois Board of Higher Education (IBHE) authority over community colleges is eliminated.
Community college funding coordinated through the Illinois Community College Board (ICCB).
The state requires basic competency testing for community college degree recipients.
Federal Government eliminates various funding streams.
Flat Tax adopted.
MCC, ECC, RVCC, CLC combine to create a super district.
The ICCB removes all community college district boundaries.
Contact with aliens.
Flat Federal income tax instituted.
State requires a competency test for community college degrees.
Democrats win 1996 national election.
Welfare legislation will require work without concurrent training
Major hiway will be constructed through McHenry County.
The political right controls Illinois politics.
State mandates require community colleges to train the unemployed.

Identify Signals and Implications for Selected Events, and Recommend Actions

The next exercises were for each group to identify the signals of one of the top five events that the event could occur, list the implications of the event if it were to occur, and draft recommended actions given this analysis.

The events, signals that they could occur, and draft recommendations from each group follow:

Group 1

Critical Event: Support for all school funding will shift from local property taxes to state taxes


There have been unsupported local educational referenda.
There is an increase in the adoption of models for state tax supported schools (such as the Michigan Model).
Citizen's have expressed increasing concerns over county property taxes in the form of tax revolts, discussion at local meetings.
A Illinois State educational tax model may be presented in campaign(s) among candidates for state office.
Published reports indicating inequity in money amounts per student are circulating.
The county property tax cap.
Schools downsizing due to lack of funding (California model).
Newspaper, TV, and radio editorials are supporting a reformed model of school funding.


McHenry County and the college may lose of local control over educational programs and policies.
McHenry County College may receive an increased share of funding available.
State agencies may increase their monitoring of college budgets, processes, and outcomes.
The budgeting process would improve as a result of more timely estimates of funds earmarked for education from the state.
Local creativity and entrepreneurship may be thwarted; funding will not be responsive to popularity or appropriateness of new offerings.
The college president and administrators may become more politically involved at the state level.
Character of the college's programs and policies will become more regional; less local.


Plan for a referendum to gather local funding for key projects while there is still an opportunity.
Explore cross-regional marketing as a strategy to position the college vis a vis programs where we have strengths or advantages on a regional or state-wide level.
The Cabinet and the Board need to address the scenarios of state funding options available and determine strategies to maximize MCC's position with the state.
MCC needs to build a politically active coalition of college supporters, based upon entities and organizations that share common needs and concerns with its own.
The College should form local support groups to monitor and influence the process of change from local to state support.

Group 2

Critical Event: Federal Government eliminates funding streams.


Perkins Grants will be cut 10-18 % FY 1997.
Movement toward State block grants.
Elected officials appealing to communities to fund programs.
Elimination/downsizing of Federal Departments.


Less money from Federal and State funding sources.
Programs and services will be in jeopardy.
Students/customers could suffer.
Competitive organizations could assume our functions and services.


Investigate new funding sources (e.g. private foundations, State agencies, endowments, corporate contributions).
Hire full-time administrator of resource development.
Raise tuition.
Hold referendum.
Lobby state, federal, and county funding sources.
Develop partnerships/alliances with businesses and other area colleges.
Evaluate allocation of resources and implement changes where necessary.

Group 3

Critical Event: New invention/innovation creates a new industry.


Hi-tech company (Motorola) moves into county.
Ostrich farm already present in McHenry County
Llama farms already present in McHenry County


Need for occupational training program for technicians to service the new industry.
Hire staff/instructor with expertise in new field.
Cooperation between private enterprise and public agency.
Additional revenue source for the College.


College representatives work with inventor/developer to determine education/training needs.
Consider production becoming an on-campus operation that creates jobs for area residents and generates additional revenue. (Build the plant on MCC property and make financial agreement with the company.)

Group 4

Critical event: The ICCB removes all community college district boundaries.


There is an articulation initiative that includes public and private institutions, affects general education, and affects the degree major.
There are distance learning consortia which include both public and private institutions and which promote negotiations and cooperative arrangements on fees, tuition, schedule, and funding.
There are some approved regional degree programs.
Universities are conducting training in community college districts.
There is an IBHE-PQP (PRODUCTIVITY QUALITY AND PERFORMANCE) activity required of every public college and university in Illinois.


We will enter an competitive market requiring developing auxiliary services to attract students from other counties, pricing services competitively, providing excellent instruction, and providing student centered services.
Departments within MCC will compete for money to support programs.
MCC must engage in Continuous Quality Improvement


Do environmental scanning for emerging community and occupational needs.
Do an internal analysis of strengths and weaknesses.
Assess existing programs
Compare MCC programs with programs offered in neighboring colleges.
Market our programs.
Engage in CQI (Continuous Quality Improvement) to continually improve the quality of our program offerings.

Next Steps

Implementing The Strategic Planning Process Model

The building blocks for a comprehensive strategic planning model are shown in Figure 1--external analysis, organizational assessment, strategic direction, strategic plans, implementation, and performance evaluation. This section of the proceedings constitutes recommendations for the next steps you should consider in shaping the future for McHenry County College.

External Analysis

A key premise of strategic planning is that plans must be made on the basis of what has happened, is happening, and will happen in the world outside MCC with a focus on the threats and opportunities these external changes present to MCC. The external environment includes social, technological, economic, environmental, and political trends and developments.

This workshop constitutes a good beginning for a comprehensive external analysis and the beginning of an effective strategic intelligence operation to continuously scan and monitor the external environment.

Establishing a strategic intelligence component

Establishing a comprehensive environmental scanning system on campus to inform planning requires a good deal of time from everyone involved in the process. Fortunately, you can take advantage of the information highway and can share resources via Horizon List and Horizon Home Page. Horizon List offers the opportunity to respond to draft articles focusing on emerging trends and potential events. Horizon Home Page has a futures planning database of abstracts describing signals of change in the macroenvironmen t that can affect education; please review this section and please add to it. You may subscribe to Horizon List by sending the following message to subscribe horizon <yourfirstname> <yourlastname>. You may view and contribute to Horizon Home Page by turning your browser to the following URL address: And these services are absolutely free to those who have access to the Internet.

To stimulate and focus discussion of the implications of emerging tends and potential events, view each issue of On the Horizon as a pump-primer to organizational planning. When the planning committee chair distributes a new issue of OTH, the cover letter should urge planning committee members to consider how the content of particular items in the newsletter affect the institution and to write down their thoughts (or send them to the group via e-mail); their collective thoughts would be used to begin discussion at the next committee meeting.

Before the meeting, the chair could compose a questionnaire identifying those articles in On the Horizon that may affect either the organization as a whole or particular curricular programs. He/she should ask committee members to rank-order the most important ones, and follow this rank order for the discussion agenda.

As the committee becomes accustomed to this process, the chair should request members to send articles, notes, or commentary that they encounter in their reading and at conferences about potential developments that could affect the organization. They should use the structure of the newsletter: send information about signals of change in the STEEP (i.e., social, technological, economic, environmental, and political) categories, particularly on the local and regional levels (On the Horizon tends to focus on the national and international levels). The reason for using this structure is that developments in one sector affect developments in other sectors (i.e., a war in the Middle East affects fuel prices everywhere); therefore, in order to anticipate change, we need to look for developments that may have direct or indirect effects on the organization.

Committee members should examine sources for change in relevant variables (e.g., immigration, price of computers, mood of voters). What change is already taking place? Is there a movement upward or downward? What are the projections? What are the emerging trends (i.e., what combinations of data points--past trends, events, precursors--suggest and support the early stages of a possible trend)? What external events, policies, or regulatory actions would affect or be affected by the projections? They should look for forecasts by experts, and append their own implications section to the emerging issues, critical trends, or potential developments when they send their information items.

The chair should summarize the articles and their implications in the cover letter when sending the next issue of On the Horizon, and include a questionnaire asking each committee member to rank the five most important items submitted by the committee or included in the newsletter.

The agenda for the planning meeting should include the top items. At the meeting, focused around these items, committee members should draw out the implications of the potential developments for ongoing organizational and program planning. They may want more information about a particular trend or potential event. In this case, enlist the aid of a research staffer or librarian (who should be on the planning committee anyway).

Regularly circulating information about potential developments and asking committee members to think of their implications reinforces a future-oriented posture in our colleagues. They will begin to read, hear, and talk about this information not only as something intellectually interesting but as information they can use in practical organizational planning.

Organizational Assessment

We must understand why MCC has succeeded in the past, what it will take to succeed in the future, and how it must change to acquire the necessary capabilities to succeed in the future. To do this, we need to

    • evaluate the MCC's capacities--its management, program operations
    • evaluate the MCC's resources--people, money, facilities, technology, and information.
    • review the MCC's current capacities and future needs.
    • compile a list of the strengths and weaknesses that will have the greatest influence on the MCC's ability to capitalize on opportunities

Strategic Direction

MCC has a mission. In this step make explicit the strategic vision for MCC's future--an idea of where MCC is going and what it is to accomplish.

Use the information developed in the first two steps, external analysis and organizational assessment, when you review MCC's mission, set goals, develop strategic vision, and determine the most critical issues MCC must address if it is going to achieve this vision. Mission review is the foundation and authority for taking specific actions. Goals are broad statements of what the senior leadership wants MCC to achieve. Strategic issues are the internal or external developments that could affect MCC's ability to achieve stated goals.

Use these criteria to identify crucial strategic issues: (a) The impact they could have on MCC, (b) the likelihood that they will materialize, and (c) the time frame over which they could develop. Limit the list of issues to a manageable number (three to nine) to enhance the chances of securing the commitment and resources necessary to effectively act on them.

The objective of the strategic direction component is to help ensure that MCC's mission and goals:

    • are compatible with MCC's capabilities and complement its culture
    • foster commitment and cooperation among key constituencies
    • maximize the benefits inherent in environmental opportunities and minimize the liabilities inherent in environmental threats
    • enhance MCC's position relative to critical success factors (i.e., those organizational elements that distinguish success from failure)

Strategic Plans

Once you agree on the direction MCC should take and the issues you must address to get there, you must derive strategies of how to get there. Developing strategies is the fourth step in the strategic planning process. We call this step strategic plans.

Strategic plans are the documented, specific courses of action that define how to deal with critical issues. They result from the development and evaluation of the alternatives available to MCC. If the critical strategic issues are truly important, and if the mission statement reflects MCC's fundamental priorities, the strategic plan should--with periodic updating--endure major changes for three to five years.

In this step develop plans that reflect the following characteristics:

    • creative and flexible, reflecting input from all MCC's important constituencies, both internal and external
    • consistent with MCC's direction as expressed in its mission and goals
    • position MCC so it can capitalize on its greatest strengths and opportunities and mitigate the effects of the most serious threats and weaknesses
    • action-oriented and can adapt--while remaining effective--to a variety of conditions


Strategic planning is more than just developing strategic plans. It involves managing MCC strategically. From day to day, leaders must manage MCC so that its strategic plans are implemented.

Implementing strategic plans calls for development of the right organizational structure, systems, and culture, as well as the allocation of sufficient resources in the right places. Organizations generally plan for implementation in their annual and multiyear operational plans. The relationship of strategic operational plans, annual operational plans, and individual performance plans is depicted in Figure 2 below.

Implementation--the execution of selected courses of action--is a crucial step in the strategic planning process. It tests MCC's competencies most severely.

Successful implementation begins early in the strategic process, because it requires "up-front buying in" of key constituencies. Therefore, it is essential to involve, from the very beginning of the process, individuals and groups who will help to carry out the strategic plan.

Implementation also requires ongoing motivation. This means showing individuals and groups how their work has helped achieve MCC's objectives. The plan must remain a highly visible driving force within MCC. Implementation of the plan must become an integral part of day-to-day operations. It is not something extra to do; it is the thing to do. As such, it is the impetus for motivation, recognition, and reward.

Performance Evaluation

One important system needed to support the strategic plan is a performance evaluation system. You need this to know if the plan is being carried out and if it is achieving the anticipated results.

Performance evaluation is the comparison between actual results and anticipated, or desired results. It keeps the planning and implementation phases of the management system on target by adjusting strategies, resources, and timing, as circumstances warrant.

In this step, establish a system to monitor how well MCC is using its resources, whether or not it is achieving desired results, and whether or not it is on schedule. The monitoring and reporting system is continuous, with periodic output reviewed by teams, while major evaluations are conducted on an annual basis. A dual benefit of performance evaluation is that it subjects the strategic plan to discussion and testing in the context of the real world.


The workshop was conducted in a restricted time frame. It was, however, sufficient to give you experience in using several basic approaches to transform information into strategic intelligence for MCC. Hopefully, you can use these proceedings to guide you in developing a planning process that will indeed assist you in shaping the future of McHenry County College.

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