Developing Foresight Capability at William Rainey Harper College 3


Higher education leaders are being bombarded by tumultuous forces for change as they face the twenty-first century: virtual classrooms, global communications, global economies, telecourses, distance learning, corporate classrooms, increased competition among social agencies for scarce resources, pressure for institutional mergers, statewide program review, and so on. It is no exaggeration to say that, in total, these forces hold the potential for a radical rethinking of the mission, structure, curriculum, student body, and stakeholder relations of colleges and universities.

In order to plan effectively in this environment, college and university leaders must be able to anticipate the impact of new developments on their institutions and curricular programs. Efficient contextual planning in uncertain times depends on obtaining accurate and continuous intelligence about changes in the institution's external environment. As leaders, you must develop foresight capability to anticipate changes in the external environment that can affect how well your institution functions in the future.

The purpose of this workshop is to describe how you can design and implement a scanning process at William Harper Rainey College. I trust that this workshop will enable you thereby to develop a foresight capability that will enhance your ability to plan more effectively in the future.

Note: Much of the material for this handbook came from "Analyzing Environments and Developing Scenarios for Uncertain Times," by James L. Morrison and Ian Wilson. (In Marvin Peterson, David Dill, and Lisa Mets (Eds.), Planning and Management for a Changing Environment: A Handbook on Redesigning Postsecondary Institutions. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers, 1997.)

James L. Morrison
Chapel Hill, NC
June 1997