Searching for the Future of St. Cloud Technical College: Proceedings of a Workshop
James L. Morrison, Workshop Facilitator

St. Cloud Technical College
November 2, 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, two-year college leaders at St. Cloud Technical College (SCTC) must be able to anticipate new developments on the institution and its curricular programs.


In this workshop we focused on (a) identifying events that may SCTC's future, (b) selecting the most significant events, (c) identifying the signals that indicated these events could occur, (d) drawing out the implications of each selected event if it were to occur, and (e) concluding with a set of recommendations for the college to consider as SCTC faces the challenges of the future.

Exercises: Potential Events That Can Change the Future of St. Cloud Technical College

Identify Potential Events

The first exercise focused on identifying potential events that could affect the future of the College 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 St. Cloud Technical College. 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 events identified in these exercises are listed below. Those statements in boldface are events deemed most critical when group members voted. Many of the events nominated were really trends, or included impact considerations in the statement. The statements below were edited from all statements identified.


Minority population in St. Cloud increases 20% from 1995 to 2000
40% of two-year college students in Midwest take classes via Internet
50% of all families will have only parent in the home
40% of colleges and universities in the Northeast require entering students to have a laptop computers
15% of students in Minnesota colleges are non-English speaking
Prominent psychologist declare that 20% of Minnesota youth sociopathic
60% of college students in Minnesota classified as non-traditional
Proportion of college students in Minnesota entering four-year schools increases 25% from 1995-2000
Proportion of college students in Minnesota entering two-year schools decreases 25% from 1995-2000
New survey finds that 80% of American public work for personal gain rather than for the good of the community


25% of the technical colleges in the U.S. provide community access to their servers
40% of postsecondary educational institutions allow any member of the local community to have an institutionally sponsored Internet address
35% of all two-year classroom instruction in Minnesota is through telecommunications


Cost of college attendance (in constant dollars) in the U.S. increases 30% between 1995 and 2000
General Motors CEO charges that colleges are not preparing entry workforce workers with sufficient critical thinking, technical, and communication skills
Major new employer moves to St. Cloud
Large industry moves out of St. Cloud
70% of all jobs in US involve full- or part-time telecommuting from the home
3M CEO announces that Minnesota industry needs four technically trained employees to every person with a BA or BS
70% of all jobs that will be created in the next five years will involve telecommuting
40% of Minnesota businesses open 24 hours
Minority woman elected as US president
Third political party formed for 1998 election
School vouchers predominate form of funding in West


EPA regulations change quarterly
Reliance on fossil fuels in US cut 35%


Share of Federal and state budget allocation to Minnesota colleges and universities cut 35% from 1995 to 2000
Welfare reform bill enacted eliminating state-sponsored training
Eight million dollar capitol bonding bill approved
40% of all books published are on CD ROM
Federally sponsored student aid cut 20%
Affirmative action repealed
Congress passed new legislation requiring greater accountability
Military expenditures cut 20%
Terrorists destroy nuclear power plant

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:

Event: Death of distance/Acceptance of on-line learning at home/work


Web site/internet growth
People have less time
Businesses are demanding more of education
Growth of computer use by youth


Need for less brick and mortar
More competitive environment for technical colleges
Need for retraining of technical college staff/faculty
Reaction time/flexibility are diminished
Shorter cycle for curriculum (programs need to change quickly)
Changed demographics force marketing changes
Stronger partnership with business
Develop new system for determining credits and evaluation


Develop a more sophisticated understanding of the market
Enhance internal telecommunications staff capability
Develop partnerships with business and industry
Develop partnerships with other postsecondary
Develop programs and staff capacity to continuously improve
Reexamine our market/goals/mission
Continue need for hands-on-learning
Develop a pilot for internet application-funding
Develop a low cost personal computer rental program for students who do not
have access to a P C

Event: Republican proposed welfare reform passed by Congress


Dialogue already happening in Congress
Minnesota is already working on welfare reform


Training burden shifted to employers
Schools will need to be more accountable
College hours will have to change to nights and weekends to allow for both work and training
Daycare costs will necessitate students to bring their children to school


Develop more school/industry apprenticeships to assist school to work transition
Increase awareness of and linkage with community partners
Increase SCTC sponsored daycare to keep costs down
Offer satellite classrooms in the community or workplace
Develop additional student services

Event: 60% of SCTC student population is non-traditional (e.g., over age 24, from various ethnic groups, single parents, and/or with various disabilities)


30% of current student body now is non-traditional
Median age of student body (27) has increased
Projected increases in ethnic populations
Increase in single parent students
Larger population of hearing-impaired students
More international students
Students with B.A. degree, also only GED, in same classroom
SCTC daycare center has waiting list


Diverse students have different curriculum needs
Diverse students have different facility needs (e.g., daycare, student lounge, ADA accommodations in classrooms/labs, etc.)
Diverse students place greater demands on support and social services/counseling.


Must find more global ways of teaching instead of just Western philosophies.
Develop more flexibility in delivery
times class offered
off campus
self paced
at home teaching,(internet, education access channel)
learning disability accommodations
Expand daycare and student lounge
Increase classroom ADA accommodations
Create a non-traditional student center, which will house support, social and counseling services

Event: 50% cut from Minnesota legislature


Republican Congress
Demand for balanced budget
Less post-secondary funding from state in the immediate past
Privatization of education
Voucher system
More agencies seeking funds


Develop more partnerships with industry
Increased student/teacher ratio
Increased funding needs for computers
Search for foundation/corporate grants
Require faculty to take grant writing course and write grants
Increased accountability of program effectiveness
Seek revenue producing options (increased student activity fees, royalties, marketing)
Employ more part-time teachers
Specialized campus; narrowed focus on market niche
Contract out basic educational services (food service, counseling, assessment, remediation, custodial).
Sublease open space for income


Create a task force made of up of faculty, students, community leaders, major community employers, and government (both state and federal) to develop a strategic plan with specific milestones and timeframes specific to each implication of this event.

Event: Merger with St. Cloud State University (SCSU)


Increased bureaucracy


Share resources now
Be responsive/flexible to community needs
Partner with high schools,
Take the lead in the creation of a seamless pre-K through 16 system
Implement school-to-work program
Capitalize on the voucher system
Embrace conversion to semester system
Lobby at the state level for federal block fund distribution

Event: By the year 2000, SCTC will have 25% less taxpayer support


Gradual trend in decreased spending in the last 10 years in higher education
Conservative political landscape
Declining political support for higher education
More self reliance for education
Increasing tuition
Increase in user fees


Further capping of enrollment
Exclusion of economically disadvantaged students resulting in increased costs to society for other programs
Must find "out of the box" thinking of how to serve student needs
Search out other sources of funding
Revenue enhancement
Need of only market driven programs—high wage, high, skill


Make a more compelling case for both public and legislative support
Look at new streams of revenue—increased foundation support.
Convert programs to building profit making enterprises
Increase productivity (e.g., student-teacher ratio, distance learning in interactive TV)
Increase partnership with education, industry, labor, government by increasing worksite learning
Better job of marketing the value of education to the general public.
Partner with SCSU to blend practical skills with theory
Make learning more exciting (e.g., multi-media, video, world-wide web)

Event: Federal Balanced Budget in Seven Years


Passed Minnesota House & Senate
Industry's voice in educational spending is much louder


Dollars will come directly from business to education avoiding tax stre
Educational selectivity = no more open door
On-work site learning
Faster and more results based on education
Quality is what ever the customer wants, needs and is willing to pay for (perception varies with the customer)
Students and employees will be surveyed
Union and management relationship needs to change partnership
Just in time learning
More flexible worker training
Performance based terns and conditions of employment
Redundancy will be driven out of the system
Accountably systems will be developed and "enforced" by government and business
Educational practices need to improve and meet more and varied learning needs


Define quality with all stake holders' involvement
Develop steps that will lead to this outcome
Conduct employer/employee surveys
Ensure that K-12 schools in SCTC's market area know SCTC's quality
Improve educational practices

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 St. Cloud Technical 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 SCTC with a focus on the threats and opportunities these external changes present to SCTC. The external environment includes social, technological, economic, environmental, and political trends and developments.

This workshop constitutes a good beginning for a comprehensive external analysis. We did not, however, have sufficient time to consider critical 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:
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.

The next step in developing this component of your strategic planning process, therefore, is to conduct a similar workshop focused on trends.

Use the trend and event statements derived from both of these workshops as a guide to collecting information about them. These activities can constitute 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 SCTC 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 SCTC's capacities—its management, program operations
    • evaluate the SCTC's resources—people, money, facilities, technology, and information
    • review the SCTC's current capacities and future needs
    • compile a list of the strengths and weaknesses that will have the greatest influence on the SCTC's ability to capitalize on opportunities

Strategic Direction

SCTC has a mission. In this step make explicit the strategic vision for SCTC's future--an idea of where SCTC 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 SCTC's mission, set goals, develop strategic vision, and determine the most critical issues SCTC 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 SCTC to achieve. Strategic issues are the internal or external developments that could affect SCTC's ability to achieve stated goals.

Use these criteria to identify crucial strategic issues: (a) The impact they could have on SCTC, (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 SCTC's mission and goals:

    • are compatible with SCTC'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 SCTC'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 SCTC 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 SCTC. If the critical strategic issues are truly important, and if the mission statement reflects SCTC'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 SCTC's important constituencies, both internal and external
    • consistent with SCTC's direction as expressed in its mission and goals
    • position SCTC 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 SCTC strategically. From day to day, leaders must manage SCTC 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 SCTC'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 SCTC's objectives. The plan must remain a highly visible driving force within SCTC. 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 SCTC 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 SCTC. Hopefully, you can use these proceedings to guide you in developing a planning process that will indeed assist you in shaping the future of St. Cloud Technical College.

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