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Jen Wilson Consultant and Owner New Leaf Coaching and Consulting

May 08, 2023 2:41 PM | John Russell (Administrator)

Jen Wilson, New Leaf Coaching & Consulting


A university Dept of Nuclear Engineering was challenged by their external Advisory Board to create a bold 10-year vision and 5-year strategic plan that would earn them #1 academic ranking and position faculty as thought leaders in their field. Their last strategic planning retreat was 5 years ago and consisted of several senior faculty making presentations to their colleagues, and faculty feedback was that it was "deadly boring." Additionally, several new faculty were hired during the pandemic, and the entire faculty had not met face to face in years. The Dept Chair knew something different was called for, but he wasn't sure what. Our first steps were to assemble a faculty Design Team and create a POP (Purpose, Outcomes, Process) that centered relationships as much as product. Next, we conducted a departmental inquiry which consisted of 1:1 learning conversations with Dept heads and surveys (mix of quantitative and qualitative) for students, staff/admin, and faculty. The goals of the inquiry were to engage people in co-creation and allow all voices to be heard equitably. Based on the input we received, the Design Team crafted Guiding Questions to help faculty develop their 10-year Vision and converge on 5-6 strategic goals. The most important innovation was designing an experiential offsite retreat that strengthened relationships by maximizing interaction vs. presentation. Faculty were assigned to various groups throughout the day to ensure they mixed with colleagues both within and outside of their specialties, and long breaks and meal times were designed to support informal collegial interaction. In each round, groups grappled with Big Questions designed to spark innovation, creativity, and bold ideas. To support equitable process, the Dept Chair stepped back to listen and observe, and junior faculty were given facilitator roles to elevate their voices and visibility. The faculty emerged with a bold 10 year vision and alignment around 5-7 strategic goals to take into further strategic planning. Just as importantly, people felt connected and energized at the end of a long day and wished they had another full day together. This comment from a new faculty member illustrated the success of the relational design: "You know, I was skeptical about this day because as a younger woman in this field, I'm often not listened to even when I assert my ideas. But I found out that I have a lot more in common with senior faculty than I imagined, and I feel closer to my colleagues beyond my expectations."

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