Clear planning process used in academic operations

Saint Luke's College uses the Seven Step Planning Process to determine, design and deliver support processes and for evaluating and improving them. This operational tool is designed for academic departments and service units in higher education.

The process is non-prescriptive; that is, units are not told what their goals should be, only that they should have goals. Similarly, measurement instruments or metrics are not prescribed; but again, units must develop a measurement system appropriate to their goals.

All work is process. A process is a sequentially linked set of activities designed to produce a desired outcome. Activities produce results and generate costs. The Seven Step Planning Process defines acceptable results as measurable indicators of quality.

Those who use the process are challenged to think about quality as a measure of value-added resulting from maximally efficient processes. Such a definition does not suggest an indifference to inputs or faculty and staff creativity. It does, however, suggest careful and sustained attention to the links between instructional strategies, support services, student learning results and costs.

The Seven Step Planning Process was developed by Dr. Dean L. Hubbard in the 1990s for Northwest Missouri State University as a planning tool. Others from Northwest contributed to the development of this Process: Dr. Rahnl Wood, Dr. David Oehler, Paul Klute, Jackie Carlson, and Kelly Pierson. Dr. William Massey from Stanford and Dr. John Minter from JMA, Inc. were also instrumental in its design and application.

Seven Step Planning Process Steps

Step 1 – Define and validate Strategic Objectives
- Segment students/stakeholders
- Identify needs and expectations
- Formulate Strategic Objectives
- Validate Strategic Objectives
- Link to University Strategic Objectives

Step 2 – Establish Goals and Performance Targets
- Goals & performance targets (Objectives)
- Determine Key performance indicators
- Determine Key satisfaction indicators
- Determine Key cost indicators

Step 3 – Formulate an Assessment Strategy
- Measures/indicators
- Assessment type
- Frequency
- Audience
- Usage

Step 4 – Develop and Implement an Action Plan and Deployment Strategy
- Primary responsibility
- Deployment strategy (timelines & mileposts)
- Training strategy
- Communications strategy

Step 5 – Establish Baseline; Track Performance Trends
- Baseline results
- Trended results

Step 6 – Search for Better Practices (Improvements)
- Brainstorm
- Activity analysis (Can the process be eliminated or shortened? Can technology or lower-cost effort replace higher-cost effort?)
- Root-cause analysis
- Activity analysis
- Competitive comparisons and benchmarking

Step 7 – Set Performance Targets and/or Stretch Goals
- Reevaluate performance targets
- Stretch goals
- Approach for new targets