Environmental Scanning Preconference Professional Development
James L. Morrison, Workshop Facilitator
Association for Institutional Research
40th Annual AIR Forum
May 21-24, 2000
We are being bombarded by
tumultuous forces for change as we enter the next decade: 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, college leaders must be
able to anticipate new developments that will affect their institutions and
This workshop is designed to assist college leaders to systematically factor the
external environment into the strategic planning process. The specific
objectives are to:
- identify potential events that could
affect the future of colleges and universities
- derive implications and recommend
actions vis-à-vis these potential events
Please read the following articles that help provide the context for our
deliberations (Note: On the Horizon
articles are reproduced here with the permission of Jossey-Bass
- 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),
- O'Banion, T. "Schooling
is Out--Learning is In." On the Horizon, 1996,
3(5), 1-2, 5-6.
- Morrison, J. L. "Anticipating
the Future." On the Horizon, 1996, 4(3), 2-3.
- Morrison, J. L. "Transforming
Educational Organizations." On the Horizon, 1997, 5(1),
- Boggs, G. R. "Focus
on Learning." On the Horizon, 1998, 6(1), 1, 5-6.
- Norris, D. M. "Perpetual
Learning as a Revolutionary Creation." On the Horizon,
1996, 4(6), 1, 3-6.
We will begin the workshop with
observations on how we can anticipate the future, which serves as an
introduction to linking potential external developments to internal
decision-making. Scanning the external environment for signals of change is a
major step in a strategic management/planning process. For more information
about this process, read "Strategic
Management in the Context of Global Change" (Morrison & Wilson,
1996) and "Analyzing
Environments and Developing Scenarios for Uncertain Times" (Morrison
& Wilson, 1997).
We only have six hours for this
workshop. However, this is sufficient time for you to gain experience in
external analysis to the point that you will be able to replicate the workshop
on your campus.
9:00 - 10:30
Anticipating the Future
(move into small groups)
1: Identifying potential events that would affect the future of colleges and
2: Prioritizing events
3: Defining signals of most critical event
4: Deriving implications of most critical event
5: Formulate recommended actions for college and university leaders to
Potential Events That Can Change the Future of Colleges and
Events are unambiguous and confirmable. When they occur, the future is
different. External event identification and analysis is critical in planning.
It is important that an event statement be unambiguous; otherwise, it is not
helpful in the planning process because (a) it is unclear what may be meant by
the statement (i.e., different people may understand the statement differently)
and (b) we have no clear target that allows us to derive implications and action
steps. For example, consider the following event statement: There will be
significant changes in political, social, and economic systems in the U.S. Each
person on a planning team may agree with this statement, but may also interpret
it differently. It would be far more useful in analysis for a statement like:
"In the next election, the political right gains control of Congress."
Or "Minorities become the majority in 10 states" Or "The European
Community incorporates Eastern Europe in a free trade zone." The latter
statements are concrete, unambiguous, and signal significant change that could
impact colleges and universities.
We will conduct this exercise in small groups using the Nominal
Task 1 (30 minutes). The first task
is to identify those potential external events in the social, technological,
economic, environmental, and political sectors, local through global, that
would change the future of higher education if they occurred.
Task 2 (15 minutes). When I call
time, you will prioritize the events by using paste-on dots. Vote for five of
the most critical events that affect colleges and universities
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
- Put all dots by the beginning of the
event statement (so that we can quickly see the frequency distribution of
Task 3 (30 minutes). The next
part of the exercise is to identify the signals that your three top events (as
indicated by the frequency distribution of votes) could occur.
Task 4 (30 minutes). When you have completed Task 3, derive the implications
of your most critical event for the higher education. In other words, assume
that this event occurs. What would happen to higher education as a result of its
Task 5 (15 minutes). The final task is to develop recommendations as to what
higher education leaders should consider doing 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 of this exercise 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.
Reportbacks and Wrap-up
We have 45 minutes for reportbacks. Each group reporter will report the three
most critical events his/her group identified, the signals that support the
occurrence of the top event, the implications of the event for higher education,
and recommendations as to what higher education leaders should do now. We will
use the remaining 15 minutes of the workshop to address what questions you have.
section leaders were asked to send the proceedings of their group for
publication to this page so that others could see the kinds of information and
analysis we did in a relatively short period of time. Vinnie Maruggi, the
recorder of Group 4, sent the record
produced by that group and Mark Champion sent the record
produced by his group. George Gabriel worked with several members of all groups
after the workshop to produce their document.
These proceedings were written from flip chart notes; we appreciate the extra
effort that Vinnie, Mark, and George made to provide the summaries of group
discussions for us.