What to Be, Where to Go: The ASCCC 2014-15 Strategic Planning Process


Any strong organization or institution should take careful thought for its own future direction, determining in a deliberate and explicit manner what it wants to achieve and what it wants to be.  For this reason, strategic planning is a concept discussed throughout the California community college system, from the Board of Governors down to the level of local colleges and even individual departments. Likewise, the Academic Senate for California Community Colleges should have a vision for the future and a plan for achieving that vision, and therefore the ASCCC Executive Committee has begun a strategic planning process that will be informed and guided by the will of local senate leaders and faculty throughout the system.

The ASCCC’s strategic planning process began at a special meeting of the Executive Committee on September 6, 2014.  The meeting was facilitated by Steven Weiss of the Weiss Group, a Sacramento-based strategic consulting firm. Weiss and his company have experience working with the Los Rios District and other higher education institutions, so he is not a stranger to community college processes and issues.

The meeting began with Weiss stating a very simple principle:  “The best time to start a planning process is when things are going well.”  With the current positive energy within the ASCCC Executive Committee and an improving economic climate in the state as a whole, this statement was easy to apply to the Academic Senate in this moment.  Weiss then mapped out a process for developing a strategic plan, noting clearly that his group would “provide a framework but this is your work — you wrote it, you own it” and stressing the importance of creating a plan that is “authentic to your organization.”  With this background, the Executive Committee spent several hours developing the initial elements of a draft plan that could, after further consideration in October, be presented for input and revision by the attendees of the Fall Plenary Session.

By the end of the special meeting, the Executive Committee had developed five draft goals addressing areas such as equity and diversity, communication, fiscal stability, and the role of the Academic Senate in statewide discussions of educational policy and faculty professional development.  These broad goals were then assigned to a sub-group for wordsmithing, to be returned for further discussion at an extended Executive Committee meeting on October 10-12.  At the October meeting, Executive Committee members will again consider the draft goals and will also draft objectives through which the organization’s success in achieving the goals can be assessed.

The draft goals and objectives will be presented for input and discussion in a breakout at the Fall Plenary Session.  Attendees will have the opportunity to critique the work done by the Executive Committee and to offer suggestions for modifications or additions.  Discussion at the breakout will also serve to begin drafting strategies through which the goals and objectives can be pursued.  In addition, the draft goals and objectives will be published for vetting electronically so that faculty throughout the state can examine them and offer input.

The product developed at the plenary breakout and through the electronic vetting process will be discussed and modified as necessary at a special meeting of the Executive Committee on December 6, at which time the strategies will also be further developed.  In the spring, the draft plan of goals, objectives, and strategies will be further refined and will again be published for input, with the final draft being submitted for approval by the ASCCC body at the Spring 2015 Plenary Session.

The Executive Committee considers this planning process to be of great importance.   The strategic plan will help the organization to more effectively identify opportunities for the Academic Senate to benefit faculty and students.  It will strengthen engagement within the Executive Committee and with the faculty statewide that we serve, and it will provide greater transparency and accountability in the Senate’s decision making.

The plan will also provide direction regarding what the ASCCC wants to be and how it wants to operate.  It will allow the Academic Senate to develop its own consciously chosen image, both for itself and for our system partners, the legislature, and others.  More importantly, because the plan will be constructed through input from the faculty statewide and approved by the delegates at the plenary session, that direction and image will be determined not by the Executive Committee itself but by the faculty that we serve. 

A question was raised in the September meeting regarding what would happen if a new president is elected who has a different vision from that of the current president or the current Executive Committee.  Certainly the strategic plan should be written broadly enough to allow for new leaders to pursue the Senate’s goals in their own ways, and the plan should always be subject to discussion and revision if a need arises.  As Weiss noted at the September meeting, strategic plans should be “dynamic, living documents, not rigid or ‘set in stone.’”  However, if the plan is to be approved by the delegates at plenary, then no new president or other individual should be able to truly change the goals or structure of the organization without first receiving support for the change from the body.  The direction and image of the ASCCC should never be determined by the president; they should reflect the will of the faculty statewide as represented by the plenary delegates.

In this way, one of the greatest benefits of the strategic planning process is to provide stability for the organization.  No matter who the elected leaders of the ASCCC may be, their primary obligation should be to serve the will of the faculty as indicated through the resolutions process at plenary sessions. The strategic plan will be a broad expression of the faculty’s voice and of the direction in which faculty want the organization to move, and it will help to ensure that this obligation to uphold that direction is respected by ASCCC leaders. 

The Executive Committee encourages attendees at the plenary session to join us for the strategic planning breakout, to discuss the plan with us, and to participate in the electronic vetting of the draft goals and objectives when they become available.  In order to be effective and useful, the plan must reflect the will and the voice of the faculty statewide.  Only with your input and assistance will the ASCCC be able to develop a plan that truly achieves this purpose.