Strategic Planning and DAC Update

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The Dean’s Advisory Council (DAC) is working hard to evaluate the many impact proposals (76 by my count) that came to us through Blackboard, the suggestion box, emails directly to me, or brainstorming by the DAC.  Every suggestion is being considered and some of the proposals require a fair amount of discussion by DAC members as we seek to understand them and develop our priority recommendations.

Here is where things stand at the moment.  First, we developed a set of preliminary criteria for this round of planning—2009-2010—to guide our recommendations.  The criteria are drawn from three sources: (1) the areas of work that we developed as priorities through our roundtable meetings, (2) a set of criteria that the former Strategic Management Committee used in allocating faculty positions, and (3) ideas from the DAC.  These criteria will evolve over time as everyone gets more experience in analyzing and explaining why some proposals should be a higher priority than others.

Next, I asked the DAC members to consider all of the proposals in light of the criteria and vote for their top priorities.  The voting was used only to get a sense of those proposals that had the greatest support within the DAC, which has allowed us to allocate our time for more careful consideration of those proposals.  The votes do not constitute final decisions.  We are now in the process of discussing those impact proposals that had the greatest support within the DAC in order to make recommendations to the entire organization as soon as possible.

We do not have the capacity as an organization to work on every good idea that was sent forward—we need to set some priorities.  A major question is how many impact proposals we can work on productively at one time?  The DAC is continuing to focus on impact in developing its recommendations.

The DAC’s work so far falls roughly into the following categories.  New Initiatives.  We have spent most of our time identifying and discussing those new initiatives that should be implemented now.  In thinking about new initiatives, we are trying to consolidate related proposals that might be implemented as part of a more comprehensive initiative.  Existing Initiatives.  We worked with the management team to identify impact proposals that already are being addressed through existing initiatives.  We will recommend their continued implementation.  Further Study.  There may be impact proposals that require slightly more study by the DAC before it can make an informed recommendation to the School.  Defer.  The DAC will recommend that we defer consideration of many proposals.  Proposals in this category may be good ideas, but the DAC will recommend that they be treated as lower priorities at this time—they may be considered and move forward in the next round of planning.  The DAC will recommend that we give no further consideration to a small number of impact proposals.

Next Steps.  The DAC has met three times since the deadline for submitting proposals on June 30, and we meet again next week.  It is unlikely that we will finalize our recommendations in one more meeting, but we will do our best and finish as soon as possible.  As you know, I am moving forward on some of the most time-sensitive (and resource-sensitive) impact proposals.  I have heard no objection to eliminating Popular Government and that almost certainly will happen—the opportunity to comment ends tomorrow.  I also am looking hard at North Carolina Legislation and will make a decision soon about whether to continue it as a print publication.  You have had the opportunity to offer feedback on both of those impact proposals.  The DAC’s  recommendations about the other proposals will carry significant weight with me, but I need your feedback and will not make any other final decisions until after I have heard from you.  Good ideas always are welcome and will carry the day whenever they emerge in this process.

One question the DAC will consider at its next meeting is the most effective way to get feedback about its recommendations from everyone in the School.  I have my doubts about the effectiveness of a single, School-wide meeting.  Please let me know if you have thoughts about how you would like to offer your reactions and ideas about the DAC’s recommendations.  For example, is electronic feedback adequate or do you want the opportunity to give face-to-face feedback? 

Everything is taking longer than I would have liked during this cycle of strategic planning—mostly because we spent a lot of time developing a planning model that makes sense for the School.  Future cycles of planning, and there will be future cycles, will be faster and better.  I appreciate everyone’s patience as we have developed our strategic planning process and then actually implemented that process for the first time.  I am excited about the proposals and look forward to implementing those that can have the greatest impact.  Thanks so much for all of your hard work.

7 thoughts on “Strategic Planning and DAC Update

  1. I think Mike is right about a schoo-wide meeting. Many people will not speak up with their ideas in a meeting in front of many people, however they will follow up with an email. I think electronic feedback is adequate and this will give faculty and staff a way to share their ideas without a fear of backlash. I like the direction the School is going and am eagerly awaiting the results. I have seen implementation of some ideas in different departments and the Facilities Division has implemented some cost cutting measures.

  2. I like the fact that comments and feedback can now be given anonymously…like this one.
    You say “…the opportunity to comment ends tomorrow…you have had the opportunity to offer feedback on both of those impact proposals.” Where would be the best place to provide last minute comments/feedback? Here on your blog? On the DAC Blackboard site? In a suggestion box?
    –happily anon

    1. I would say in the suggestion box. I honestly didn’t fully realize that people could leave anonymous comments on my blog, and I plan to change it so that is not longer the case. Please don’t be offended, but I do not want to encourage anonymity in the School’s culture. Maybe it’s the lawyer in me, but I give much less credence to anonymous comments than to comments that people are willing to stand behind. Our culture is not one where people have any reason to fear retaliation or punishment for offering their opinions, and I don’t believe anyone has reason to believe that I would judge someone based on their expressed opinions. Views can be evaluated and answered in a much more constructive way if people identify themselves. I think that anonymity generally encourages some people (not you) to engage in irresponsible behavior that lowers the quality of our discourse, and that only happens because they don’t have to take responsibility for their statements. The opportunity for anonymous comments on the blog will be short lived. I don’t want people to have to login and remember a password, and so I don’t know how to have open access without allowing anonymity. I will work with our IT people to figure it out. If you want to comment on PG, or anything else for that matter, I wish that you would send me an email. If you are only willing to do it anonymously, then I would use the suggestion box. As I said earlier, however, I will read anonymous comments in the suggestion box–but they will carry less weight with me than a signed comment. Thanks.


  3. Mike – to better understand the DAC’s work and prioritization, it would help me to have at least thumbnail descriptions of the New Initiatives and Existing Initiatives.

    As I interpret your blog post, the model is for the DAC to do the analysis, choosing and recommending, and for the rest of SOG to respond. But I suggest a high value be placed on transparency.

    Are there minutes/notes from DAC meetings that the SOG community can review? Can it be appropriate for various SOG folks to add comments about New Initiatives and Existing Initiatives as the DAC deliberates?

    I’ve checked the Blackboard-SOG Strategic Planning section, and the SOG Intranet Strategic Planning/DAC information on and do not see any notes or summaries of DAC work since the review of the proposals has begun.

    Thanks, John Stephens

    1. Hello John,

      I need to think about your suggestions. For me there is a need to balance the opportunity for participation (which I think is slightly different than transparency) with the need to move forward. Our process will become completely transparent once we share materials with the entire School, which will include explanations of the process for making our recommendations and the rationales for them. The DAC was created to have a reasonably representative group across the entire School provide advice to me on strategic priorities and other issues. The rest of the School still has the opportunity to provide feedback and I trust that changes will be made based on that feedback. The kind of involvement you are suggesting minimizes the role of the DAC, and if I were a member of that group I would be less willing to make the time commitment. I’m not convinced that the greater involvement that you describe can be done in a meaningful way that is manageable, or that it is worth the time required to do it. I worry a lot that anything less than full participation by everyone, which would fall of its own weight, will be misleading because people other than DAC members will have only thumbnail descriptions and summary notes. It means that any impressions they form or comments will be based on shadowy information, which could create many more problems that it would solve. The DAC members have read all of the full proposals and we are discussing many of them at length. There is no way to produce notes that convey the nuanced issues and discussion, and so non-DAC folks will be forming impressions and possibly reacting based on skeletal information. For me it makes more sense to focus energy on how to insure that the opportunity to offer feedback and suggestions about the recommendations is meaningful and makes people feel like things are not set in stone by the time it reaches them. In terms of commenting on the proposals, people have had the opportunity to do that through the Blackboard from the very outset of the proposal process, and some people took advantage of that opportunity. Those comments have been considered by the DAC. All in all, not many people commented and my guess is that the participation rate would not be much different even if I spent a lot of time developing information for the broader organization so that people other than DAC members could participate throughout the process. As I said earlier, I think it will be more efficient and effective to develop a feedback process for the recommendations that is robust and meaningful. That’s my thinking at the moment. Thanks for sharing these thoughts.


  4. Please take this in the positive, constructive spirit in which it is intended.

    The dean has blogged about the DAC
    And now wants to hear our feedback.
    Alas, alas, though, the report was all about process,
    So the substance of the work we still can only guess.
    Strategic planning has been a wonderful ride
    In which we all share a great deal of pride,
    But the process began, I am sure,
    Before Lawrence even had tenure.
    And, as time goes on, we seem determined to save
    The real discussion until after we have retired Dave.
    An apt SOG motto, in one view:
    May The Process Be With You.

  5. I like the idea of providing electronic feedback because it gives me a little time to ponder the recommendations before responding. I also think that you will get a broader and deeper response electronically.

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