Planning & Implementation: Creating Common Language


When institutions of higher education launch new initiatives they often neglect to define a process to the broader campus to help articulate each stage of planning and implementation. The Integrated Planning model (IP Model) below is an agnostic process institutions as a whole and teams within the institution can use to remind personnel where they're at with their work. After conducting a multitude of trainings on integrated planning and processes, educators more often than not shared with me that they have a tendency to jump directly to "Implement." With the IP Model at-hand, colleges and teams can remind team members of the importance of investing quality time in the "Discover" stage. For example, in this phase, campuses should be brainstorming how to integrate the work. Institutions often experience a lack clarity and coherence when they jump to "Develop" or "Implement" because they didn't take the time to figure out how a new priority, initiative, mandate, etc., integrates with other areas of the college.


While not truly linear in nature, the Integrated Planning Model provides five phases for developing and examining planning and implementation activities:

1. Discover: This is an important but often overlooked component of institutional processes. The Discover phase allows the institution to take a step back and assess how integrated planning is done and its aligned across campus. "Discover" also allows practitioners to figure out how to integrate a new initiative into existing services. Data and information is examined throughout this phase.

2. Develop: The Develop phase includes a focus on forward thinking in the design of tools to collect institutional data and information to support implementation and evaluation.

3. Implement: The Implement phase is the time for action, when the goals, objectives, and strategies of the plan are operationalized. Practitioners should continue data and information validation throughout this phase.

4. Evaluate: In the Evaluate phase, practitioners measure progress toward the achievement of institutional goals and objectives associated with planning efforts. It is important to evaluate the progress being made towards goals on a regular basis, at least annually, but more frequently if needed. For multi-year plans, evaluation may lead to slight modifications of objectives and strategies. Though Evaluate is near the end of the cycle, it is critical to realize that evaluation should play an important role throughout the other phases of the model. This phase provides the opportunity to check the impact of your work.

5. Report: The Report phase provides a means to share results from processes and products associated with the Implement and Evaluate phase. This phase is supported when results of the evaluation are shared broadly and results are viewed as a critical component in the integration process.

While the IP Model may look similar to Appreciative Inquiry, it's not. To be effective, Appreciative Inquiry (Ai) requires a trained facilitator to use prompts throughout Ai's Discover-Design-Dream-Destiny phases. The IP Model is much more agnostic, allowing institutions to tailor it to their needs.

Consider creating common language at your campus (Discover-Develop-Implement-Evaluate-Report) in order to help provide clarity and coherence on where the campus and individual teams are at with respect to planning and implementing initiatives. Also visit Doing the Ordinary Extraordinarily Well to learn why settings are key factor in leveraging the IP Model.


A big thank you to institutional researcher extraordinaire, Maria Narvaez, who developed the IP Model!

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Also visit:

Doing the Ordinary Extraordinarily Well

Appreciative Inquiry for Planning

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Contact me about customized trainings or ongoing coaching support to help your campus plan and implement grants, projects, or comprehensive efforts such as guided pathways.  Use the contact form on the right (bottom of the page for mobile users).

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