UH Hilo Strategic Planning

Action Plan Sponsor Resource Guide

On this page:

1: Switch to a Wider Focus Occasionally

The work of the action plan breathes life into our strategic plan. As we move into action plan work, don't forget that this is an extension of the strategic plan.

Keep the entire effort in view, not just the deliverable. If you are working on 1.1.1., keep reminding yourself that

  • The strategy is to Provide students an equitable experience to ensure student success.
  • The action is to Build an infrastructure that supports the hiring and retention of faculty reflective of our diverse student body.
  • The deliverable is to have Institutionalized an annual campus budget for targeted searches.

Don't lose sight of why you are working on the deliverable - equity and student success. And, that 1.1.1. is part of an effort to build infrastructure that supports diversity.

Every so often, refer to UH Hilo’s strategic plan - the plan you are supporting.

2: Align with the Strategic Direction of UH Hilo

Alignment is key. When checking to see if you are aligned with UH Hilo's strategic direction, start with the basics - our values, purpose, top priorities, strategic anchors, and our vision for the future.

  • If your efforts value diversity, center on students and student success, and build relationships along the way, you are aligned with the core values of UH Hilo.
  • If you are moving forward collaboratively, intentionally, and being innovative, you know that you are stretching into UH Hilo’s aspirational values.
  • If a project positively impacts UH Hilo's campus culture, is collaborative, and is done with built-in accountability, it aligns with the areas that the University sees as top priorities/areas for improvement.
  • If you can answer "yes" to the strategic anchor questions below (or at least three of them), you are very likely on the right track in decision making:
    • Does it contribute to student achievement, persistence and success?
    • Does it make the most of our assets - place and people?
    • Is it scalable across the institution?
    • Does it lift the ‘ohana?
  • If down the line, the work/project empowers leaders (students, faculty, staff, alumni, community members, or partners) who will cultivate opportunity in our communities, you are helping to fulfill UH Hilo’s purpose, why the University exists.
  • Lastly, do a quick check of UH Hilo's vision. If all the stakeholders at UH Hilo can help move the needle toward our vision, imagine what our students could do in the world!

3: Create a Safe Space for a Substantive Conversation

Collaborators are important partners in your efforts. Sponsors may certainly task specific collaborators with certain segments of the project, but don’t forget their critical role. “Equity of voice” is key to innovation. Some of the best ideas are often lost when a person is inhibited from sharing. Try to include every individual in conversations as much as possible. And, letting the entire group know that you are striving for equity of voice can serve as a powerful tool.

If meeting in person, think about the location - does it work for all the participants? Is the space conducive to open conversations in terms of privacy and distractions? Does the space somehow put any of the participants at a disadvantage?

Create a space for deep conversation, not only through equity of voice and physical location, but also by creating a safe space for people to share ideas and to respectfully disagree. In many ways the sponsor's job is that of conversation shepherd - you may need to lead from behind, get out front, or come alongside to encourage your collaborators. The idea is for the group to uncover solutions collaboratively. You are there to keep them moving in a positive and productive way.

4: Frame your Inquiry for Success

The goal is substantive conversation. Don’t start your inquiry with deficit-based language that stifles ideas. Identifying problems is typically much easier than finding new pathways. If we spend too much time wallowing in our failures, we often are caught in an endless loop and we won’t have the time and energy to imagine what could be. Compelling framing questions can transform conversations and inspire a group to action and innovation.

Try one of these appreciative visioning question openers to begin the conversation:

  • What if we could…
  • How might we improve…
  • Imagine if…

If you are looking to institute new, broad, and innovative change, appreciative questions are a fit and are appropriate, especially when the problem has no obvious answers. Rather than getting stuck on what’s broken, this approach reframes the discussion so it focuses on what you value, want to grow, and what you’re willing to make happen. This positive approach allows your group to envision and build shared dreams for the future.

5: Bring in New Voices as Needed

Expanding your network and bringing in new ideas and voices may help your group to access new assets and resources. The goal is not necessarily to increase the size of your high-functioning core group, but to bring in adjunct members as needed. Inviting new people to take part in targeted conversations and to share their work on a specific topic can have great impact.

If you are facing barriers to progress, many times it is worth asking the group who they know who may have insight, passion, or experience in the area. Bringing new adjunct people to your next discussion may help you navigate those barriers.

Example: A committee was pursuing an idea that had been discussed at the University for years. There seemed to be a feeling of helplessness to make progress. We discovered that a person on campus had written a proposal several years before. That person was invited to the meeting, a subgroup was then formed and met once, and then another group formed that included one member of our team and other people from across campus. Now, the project is launched. The core committee helped to reignite passion for the project while connecting stakeholders and resources.

In addition to bringing new voices to meetings, you may want to gather information by polling/surveying groups of people, the campus community, or people off campus. If a member of your group is connected with a service group or nonprofit organization, you may have an opportunity to gather their opinions. Expertise and ideas are typically out there to tap into.

6: Assess Solutions for the Challenge

Each problem has various criteria to consider, and looking at options regarding budget and impact may be critical. Using a matrix may be helpful in evaluating all the ideas on the table. It certainly will not provide your final solution but it does allow the group to consider where each idea fits within the criteria. This basic 2x2 matrix takes into account both cost and impact.

Note that other criteria could be used, like ease of implementation/complexity, level of importance or urgency, and possible risk.

2x2 Matrix Example

7: Maintain Momentum

Sometimes it takes nudging to keep your team moving and to move the group’s ideas into action. Because our schedules are packed, the reality is that some people won’t find the time to do what needs to be done without a little reinforcement. When you nudge team members, you are helping to ensure that the work gets done and you are setting a work norm for the team. A call, email, or stop by an office, depending on the individual, may keep you on track. This practice may feel like you are “bugging people,” but ultimately it builds team trust. If you shepherd the entire group forward, all members will feel like their time and effort is worthwhile and they will stay invested. It’s difficult and can be much like managing a “group project” in class.

There are many ways to keep the group’s effort on track:

  • A shared folder on Google drive where members store research, notes, information.
  • Working documents where collaborators can comment and add ideas.
  • Polls that provide opportunities for feedback, especially if you want input before a meeting.
  • Use of “reply all” when project updates are shared, so the group is kept up-to-date.
  • Field trips or connections with organizations that are working on similar projects.

8: Don’t Only Look at Ideas, Consider Outcomes

Once you have developed ideas and directions for your effort, have a conversation about outcomes using visioning questions.

  • When this effort is in place, what will we see?
  • When this effort is in place, how will this make our students' (or other’s) lives different?
  • When this effort is in place, how will campus feel different?

These are qualitative questions by design. This type of discussion often takes a somewhat vague idea and makes it more real for all involved. It may even encourage your collaborators to lean in and align more closely in their vision for the project.

A discussion around possible outcomes also allows you to begin talking more concretely about what is important to measure. That is the next step - if you see the outcomes, then you can determine how to measure success.

9: Report Your Progress

Twice a year, we will reach out to sponsors to ask about progress. Questions in the second survey may be slightly different than those in the first. These are the questions in the first survey:

  • Who are your collaborators?
    • Please name all units/offices/groups/individuals so we can report up-to-date information. This may include core members and new adjunct voices brought in for specific conversations.
  • What progress have you made toward your deliverable?
    • Tell us the story of the project. What has happened so far.
  • What challenges have you encountered?
    • This may allow us and others with an interest to see if we can help in any way.
  • What are your plans for the next six months of this project? Please include a projected meeting schedule in addition to other actions.
    • Share the basic guideposts marking your projected path. We don’t need a detailed project plan this early in the process. If you are pursuing several lines of inquiry, let us know about them. We know that project trajectories change, so don’t let this report determine your final course. Just report changes in your next report.
  • Have you identified long- and/or short-term measures of success for your initiative? If so, please share them.
    • Long-term measures may be found in UH Hilo’s current institutional research dashboards - anything from enrollments to graduation rates to faculty and staff composition. Short-term measures of success might be attendance at certain events, launching a piece of the project, drafts of documents, etc.
  • Have you identified resources (materials, money, services, staff, knowledge) needed for this project? If so, please share them, indicating most critical needs.
    • Make sure to grade each resource needed for the project. It could be that there is only one or two needs. Perhaps staffing is most important or a particular piece of equipment or dedicated funding. It is also helpful to know why one resource is more important than the others.
  • Confirm that your project collaborators have had an opportunity to review the information in this report.
    • Your communications with project collaborators are very important. Keeping them updated is key and it will also bring misalignments to light.

10: Share Your Success Stories

The campus community wants to know what progress is being made. As a matter of fact, one common criticism of the last strategic planning process was that people were unaware of what had happened as a result of the planning effort. As our new action plan moves forward, we want to tell its success stories and keep our stakeholders in the loop and engaged. Please think about this as your efforts unfold.

Your good news could result in social media posts, news stories, mentions during one of Chancellor Irwin’s speeches or blog posts (see an example), event promotions, an entry in the University’s Collaboratory database, or other communications opportunities. It might also result in funding opportunities, stronger community engagement, and support across campus. Getting the word out may have a profound impact.

11: Ask for Help

If you find yourself at a loss about what to do next, ask for help. It might just be a short conversation to spark a new idea or it could be much more complex. Wherever your need falls, we are here to help. Email Kathleen Baumgardner, and I will do my best to assist you.