"Implementing Strategic Plans-Using a Database to Manage Communication and Tracking"

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April 2003


Thomas Streveler,
Director of Enrollment, Penn State Capital College

Robert Russell,
Assistant Professor of Management and co-chair of the Strategic Planning Steering Group, Penn State Capital College

Rebecca Gardner,
Director of Marketing Communication, Penn State Capital College

Penn State Capital College is using a database to ensure that the goals in the College’s strategic plan are widely communicated and successfully implemented. Through an online intranet database, large numbers of the College’s faculty and staff are engaged in monitoring and updating strategic objectives, action plans and outcome assessment measures. In addition, they are able to generate reports and perform ad-hoc queries as they track strategic plan implementation.

After Robert Russell described the College’s strategic planning process and the structure of the 13 units’ separate strategic plans, Tom Streveler, who used Access to develop the database, gave the standing-room only audience a demonstration of its “ins and outs.” Rebecca Gardner followed up by walking through an example to demonstrate the flexibility of the database, which has been designed to handle input for the 85 different strategic planning initiatives that the College has identified. Each initiative has at least one objective, and keeping track of the action plans associated with each objective is the most dynamic part of the database. Strategic performance indicators have not yet been determined for all 85 initiatives.

Reports from the evaluation teams for each of the 13 strategic planning units in the College are due in May-use of the database will be put to the test at that time. The slides[PDF] that were used in the presentation are available for viewing . (Please do not use slides without permission from Thomas Streveler) The demonstration spawned many questions from the audience:

How does the dean use this database?

The dean uses the database to determine the status (and costs associated with) each initiative.

How successful has buy-in been? How successfully have the data been kept up-to-date?

The Dean expects the data to be current and teams are in place to evaluate its use in the near future. Use should increase as people see how quickly it allows measurement of progress and the success of action plans.

Does the database keep historical data?

Each week Streveler downloads the data and makes a copy, but the dated comment section serves as the primary historical log.

How well does the database facilitate the implementation of the strategic plan?

The extent to which the database engages and encourages more participation and interest among the planning groups to some extent depends on the educational process, i.e., teaching the units how to use it. But it is not a substitution for the “planning process;” it is a tool for monitoring the progression and progress of the plan.

Are you willing to share a replica and the documentation of the database?

Yes. Please contact Tom Streveler at tis1@psu.edu.

The Quality Advocates Network meets several times each semester to share ideas and examples of improvement and change. To join the Quality Advocates Network mailing list or to learn more about the meetings scheduled, contact the staff at psupia@psu.edu.

The Quality Advocates Network is open to all Penn State faculty, staff, administrators, and students.