The Importance of Planning

The Importance of Planning

Ken Shaw

I am not sure if you are like me, but I tend to be much more productive and efficient if I spend time planning.  Careful planning is beneficial in many aspects of life.  

My wife and I used to go camping a lot when our kids were young.  We would often pack the night before, pick up the kids from school, and head on our way to one of the local state parks.  Often, we would go with friends, so coordination of menus, itineraries, campgrounds, etc. were required, sometimes months in advance.  The better we planned, the more we could enjoy our time together in the great outdoors.

In my academic work as a mathematics educator, I learned that when I needed to solve a mathematics problem, it was helpful to follow a well-used four-part heuristic by George Polya.  First, I needed to understand the problem; second, it was crucial to devise a plan to solve the problem; third, it was necessary to implement the plan; then fourth, when the plan was completed, it was essential to review the work and ensure the problem was indeed solved.  In many respects, planning is like solving mathematics problems.

Planning is important for anybody or any organization.  I often ask the question, “What’s next?”  To answer that question, one needs to have a vision about where one is heading or where the organization needs to go.  Once the vision is clear, one must devise a plan to help move from where they are to where they desire to be.  While attending college in Tennessee, a couple friends and I decided we wanted to travel to Brandon, Manitoba to observe the total solar eclipse.  The vision was clear, but how did we get there?  The technology back in the day was limited to road atlases that had the main highways in the U.S. and in Canada.  We charted our way, calculated the distance, anticipated the driving time, called friends that could house us on the way, raised a few dollars to cover our expenses, then we set out.  Planning paid off as we arrived the night before and were able to experience the total eclipse for nearly three minutes.  The only part of the trip that I was not prepared for was the extreme cold temperatures.  Better planning would have included many additional layers of clothes!

So, what’s next for Southwestern Adventist University?  We have nearly completed our last strategic plan (2015-2020) and we are well on our way to creating a 3-year strategic plan that will carry us into 2023.  For an organization to make plans for the future, it takes much coordination.   We began planning in the summer of 2018 with the vice presidents meeting regularly to help shape where we desired to be in 2023.  We conducted workshops and all university meetings in the summer of 2019 to help strengthen our proposal and to obtain buy-in.  Since that time, five task force committees were established and a variety of meetings were conducted (2 faculty meetings, 3 workshops with faculty and staff, and each academic department) to provide input into the process.  In February, the Board of Trustees reviewed the document, offering yet another level of involvement in anticipation of final approval in May.  

In summary, we have settled on six overarching goals.  We desire to: 1. Have quality academic programs, 2. Promote an environment that inspires personal faith and Christ-centered relationships, 3. Create a transformative and immersive experience in all phases of university life, 4. Establish our university as an innovator in Christian higher education, 5. Ensure the campus facilitates a vibrant environment for student learning, and 6. Develop and implement a sustainable financial model that ensures financial vitality.

Planning is a lot of work, but crucial for intentional progress to occur.  I am honored to work alongside individuals who desire to strengthen the organization for the next cohort of students.

It matters not whether you are thinking about “What’s next?” for a large organization or if you are looking at the next chapter in your personal life, taking time to think about and plan for the future is a significant and worthwhile investment. 

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