Effective use of resources: SCUP 11 in retrospect: Integrating Academic, Fiscal, and Facilities Planning.
The author's remarks have been adapted from his presentation at the Society's 11th Annual Conference in Washington, D.C.
The topic of integrated planning is most often approached from the point of view of "How does one make all the numbers come out in balance?" If a particular new program is planned, questions are asked such as, "How many square feet of space must be provided for its implementation; how many faculty and staff will be needed; how many students will be attracted; and how and when will the money be provided to pay for it all?" The mechanics for integrating plans in that fashion are perhaps as old as the simultaneous equation. What is more, integrated planning from that perspective has a very poor record of success because it produces plans whose major virtue is internal consistency and whose principal fault is external irrelevancy. Some of the long-range plans for food supply produced by various nations in the 1960's are classic illustrations of this case. The topic of this presentation, then, is not so much "how to prepare an integrated plan," but rather "how to develop an environment wherein the practice of integrated planning will take hold and flourish."
Aside from strong support by the chief executive, the most important determinants of the ease with which academic, fiscal, and facilities planning will be integrated in any institution are:
* The organizational structure of the institution;
* The charge given the Planning Office; and
* The persistence and relevance of the planning effort.
Organizational Structure of the Institution
Both in theory and in fact, every style of administrative organization has various strengths and weaknesses. In that regard, one of the strengths of the organizational structure at West Virginia University is that it promotes effective coordination of campus-wide activities. The structure is very flat, thus enhancing vertical communications by eliminating the many levels of management often found in a more pyramidal structure. A flat organizational structure also forces a sense of collegiality on the participants, as solutions to complex interworkings must of necessity be resolved through negotiation by co-equals (a "boss" is not readily available to settle disputes).
On the other hand, the early management consultant, V. A. Graicunas, recognized that flat organizational structures and their large spans of control perhaps retard communication simply because the many managers at each level face the limited ability of any executive to listen to and to deal with everyone who needs to see him or her. Graicunas recommended that a manager's span of control should not exceed five persons. (1) However. even in the most pyramidal organizational structures. that limit was reached very early at the bottom of the pyramid and was exceeded routinely even near the top.
To offset the problems faced by the presence of a broad span of control, West Virginia University adopted the concept of the "President's Office. "In this structure, persons at the vice-presidential level are appointed to share a piece of the presidency. While having no line authority in the organization, they typically serve, by specialization in some facet of institutional concern, to expand the capacity of the president and his office to handle the number of persons and problems which normally come before him.
As one would expect, in order to make the system work, the members of the President's Office must come together often for the purpose of making decisions on behalf of the organization. (2) It was in this process of coming together often that another great advantage of this style of organization became evident, viz., it greatly enhanced any institution-wide activities which required substantial amounts of coordination in order to be successful. One activity of that sort is planning, and thus adoption of the organizational concept of the "Office of the President" enhances the potential for effective integration of academic, financial, and facilities planning. With the President's Office, the chief academic officer, the chief financial officer, and the chief facilities officer, unencumbered by line responsibilities and free of any constituents to whom they must "bring home the bacon," can engage in the coordinating activities necessary to produce integrated planning, and can do so from an institution-wide point of view. Because of the lack of operational responsibilities, these same officers also find themselves sufficiently conversant with the details of what is going on within the organization that they are qualified to make the difficult qualitative judgments which must be made in a President's Office. Without senior executives in this type of role, even with a relatively flat organizational structure, Presidents' Offices normally succumb to the temptation to decide more and more things by the numbers-a style of decision-making which has some use in higher education but which is antithetical to the nature and modus operandi of the learning process, and which is surely somewhat more useful in business firms and government.
However, most college and university planners cannot easily implement a change in the organizational structures of the Presidents' Offices of their institutions in order to gain better integration of academic, fiscal, and facilities planning. The motivation for reorganizing a President's Office generally comes from a different direction and for different reasons. Therefore, a second, more practical alternative, is suggested. namely, a restatement of the charge to the Planning Office and its staff.
The Charge Given the Planning Office
In most organizations that have a Planning Office or, as in government, a Planning Commission, the charge to the body is simply "to plan." More precisely, the Planning Office of a college or university may be given the assignment "to prepare a short- and long-term plan for the institution, being certain to establish certain program priorities, and to give consideration to the financial and facilities implications of the plan." Such a charge flies in the face of established management theory, which calls for planning to be the responsibility of every manager and not just the members of a planning body. Moreover, the problem becomes further magnified by the fact that among the major activities of a manager, the one which is most easily and most frequently postponed is planning. The reason for this phenomenon is that planning has to do with the future, and most managers daily face a mountain of routine activities and deadlines which, at any moment, may make it seem more prudent to put off a consideration of the future and to concentrate more on present problems. Whatever the reason for the postponement of planning activities, the establishment of an office charged to do planning merely accelerates the tendency for managers to drop out of the process. The subliminal reasoning of any one manager may go like this: "I never have had time to do planning; thank goodness the boss finally gave the job to a special group."The result is that the typical charge to a Planning Office not only effectively removes many managers from the planning function but, with the presence of so many dropouts, there can be little success at integrated planning.
To achieve integrated planning, the charge to the Planning Office should be "to develop, implement and coordinate the execution of the planning process." Under this system, all managers are required to do planning, and all planning is done as part of an organized process which has as its objective the integration of facilities, program, and financial planning.
Perhaps this proposal can be explained best by looking at the example of the system used at West Virginia University. Within the charge described above, the functions of the Planning Office at WVU are:
* To develop planning tools;
* To see that planning gets done; and
* To see that planning gets done well (a quality control function).
To Develop Planning Tools
Four different kinds of planning tools have been developed at WVU to date. All of them are alike in one way in that they provide a common understanding and a common basis for planning among the 400 or so managers charged with looking to the future of the institution. It is this universal use of a common set of planning tools that sets the groundwork for integration of plans to occur, i.e., everyone's proposed plans begin from the same base.
The tools that have been established are, first, an inventory of the past and present of the institution; second, a statement of the division of labor within the institution and the objectives of the institution and each of its components; third, forecasts of the future; and, fourth, special studies.
The first tool, a common understanding of the past and the present, is manifested in the form of a booklet, Statistical Profiles of West Virginia University, which is published annually by the Planning Office . Through this publication, the recent history and operating data of WVU are described in six of their facets. These six are: scope of the mission; programs; faculty and staff; student body; sources of support; and facilities. Again, since the past is but a prologue to the future, the usefulness of th is planning tool is that the 400 or so managers working throughout the institution all work from the same history of the institution, a situation which is very useful in achieving an integrated, university-wide, planning effort.
The second planning tool is one which provides a common understanding about the division of labor within the institution, as well as the objectives of each component. This information concerning each of the 45 major units of the University is contained in the publication, WVU Organization, which is produced every other year. To be specific, every dean and director is charged with describing both the conceptual and operational objectives of his or her unit. Phrased in terms of output, the conceptual objectives are meant to describe the general direction in which units intend to move during the planning period. The operational objectives, also expressed in output terms, are meant to serve as mileposts along the way against which one can measure progress made toward accomplishing the conceptual objectives. The organization charts included in the booklet are a bit unusual. They do not describe who reports to whom, nor do they describe channels of communication. Rather, they describe where programs are located in the institution; that is, the institutional division of labor expressed in terms of which unit is responsible for accomplishing which objectives of the institution via which programs. This tool helps eliminate unnecessary duplication of effort, and everyone is thus informed concerning program responsibilities. (Parenthetically, the program definitions are tied to the Budget Information System, thus tying the planning, programming, budgeting, and evaluation systems together. The system, therefore, permits the application of PP BS and zero-base budgeting techniques to the extent th at they are desired.)
More important than the above, the common understanding throughout the institution concerning which school, college, or other unit is responsible for which programs helps enormously in the goal to integrate all planning.
The third planning tool includes a set of forecasts on which all decisions are based at WVU. The forecasts are published annually in a booklet entitled Planning Assumptions for West Virginia University. The forecasting and planning period extends to at least the next decennial census so as to permit the use of benchmark data provided by the federal government. Like the description of the institution's past, the forecasts deal with the same six facets of the institution; namely, scope of the mission; programs; faculty and staff; student body; sources of support; and facilities. In addition to the above, the dean or director of each of the major academic units within WVU has produced a companion piece that includes planning assumptions on the same topics for his or her part of the institution. All of these latter assumptions about the future have been reviewed by the President's Office and will soon be published. Therefore, every part of the institution will have the opportunity to know what every other part has indicated that it plans to do.
When this activity first started, there were as many as four different enrollment forecasts being used in the institution. Each was prepared by an office that needed enrollment data, but none was known outside the office in which it was made, and all were different. Again, this tool provides a common understanding about the future of WVU for all the managers in the institution, each of whom is charged with planning.
The fourth planning tool is made up of a set of special studies carried out by the three units which comprise the WVU Planning Office. These units are: the Office of the University Architect, which is headed by a registered professional architect and includes two architects in training, a registered professional engineer, two drafting specialists, and a secretary; the Office of Institutional Research, led by a person with a doctorate in higher education administration and which includes a similarly qualified assistant, one statistician, one analyst, two research technicians, and two secretaries; and the Office of Facilities Analysis and Utilization. This latter unit, which manages all space scheduling and space allocation plans and is headed by a professional with considerable experience in the field, also includes two other professional-level persons, a space inventory specialist, and a secretary.
The Office of Institutional Research in the Planning Office completes a bout 30 to 40 special studies per month, mostly at the request of individual managers. These may be very routine things like a report for the College of Arts and Sciences on the number of "F" grades awarded per year per course, a statistic th at may be useful to a particular department doing curriculum planning. Or the Office of Physical Plant may ask for a study on the staffing patterns of similar units in comparable institutions.
The special studies produced by the Office of Facilities Analysis and Utilization and the Office of the University Architect beg an important question concerning the integration of plans. This question is most often phrased in the form of a "chicken or egg riddle," namely, "Which comes first, facilities planning or program planning?" The answer is difficult because questioners often confuse "which comes first" with "which is most important." This dilemma might be termed the "primary/first distinction " because the most important facets of an institution may not be those which need the earliest attention in the planning process. For example, in economic forecasting, the analyst searches for a lead variable, that is, one which naturally occurs ahead of phenomena which come later but which may or may not be an independent variable. The conscious and publicized choice of both "primary" and "first" variables for forecasting and planning in higher education does wonders for achieving integrated planning. For instance, few educators would doubt that program planning is primary; however, there are many times when it cannot be first. As is often the case, in practice one searches for a balance, and planning thus becomes an iterative process in which program plans are developed to a point where it is determined that facilities, personnel, or finances may be a limiting factor. Then one of the latter may become the lead variable until it too is limited by another factor, and planning thus proceeds with the number and the value of the variables in the set changing-ever changing-until the optimum mix is achieved.
The situation is such at WVU that facilities planning typically follows program planning. However, in the detailed design work on the renovation or construction of a building, the facilities constraints occasionally may shape program plans. The latter situation occurs most often at WVU because of the mountainous terrain, because the institution is spread across three campuses, and/or because of the relatively old age and limited design flexibility of a few of the buildings.
To See That Planning Gets Done
The second function of a Planning Office is to see that planning gets done. To understand the approach to this task, one must review the reason the planning may not get done in the first place. To paraphrase the hypothesis made earlier: "A common reason for postponement of planning is that all managers face a mountain of routine activities and deadlines every day. Faced with the pressures of the day-to-day deadlines and routine, managers very naturally tend to put off their responsibilities for planning." The only way a Planning Office can overcome the pressure of routine activity and can see that all managers get appropriately involved in planning is to make planning a part of that routine. This requires the development and implementation of a very tight schedule for all planning activities. The objective is to make deadlines for thinking about and describing the future just as important as deadlines for preparing reports about the past.
To aid in scheduling planning activities, some organizations employ the Program Evaluation Review Technique (PERT) and/or the Critical Path Method (CPM). At WVU, a comprehensive schedule of planning activities is passed out to all deans and directors at the beginning of the planning period which describes on a day-to-day, and, on some days, an hour-by-hour basis, the planning sessions which will be held and who will be taking part in the discussion. That is, each of the steps in the process is laid out in advance, subject, of course, to change as events unfold. There is a schedule for developing the annual plan and operating budget request; another for putting together the expenditure schedule after funds are received; a third for the capital improvements plan; another for planning all repairs and a Iterations projects; and another for personnel planning. Some activities in the process are unique at WVU, but overall the system is believed to have rather general applicability. Again, the detailed schedules are designed to merge planning into the manager's routine, and to make the point that the deadlines for thinking about the future are just as important as the deadlines for reporting about the past.
It is also through these schedules that integration of the planning process is achieved. The role and expectations of each participant are laid out in advance, and each person knows when he or she is to become involved and what is going on when they are not involved.
To See That Planning Gets Done Well
The third function of a Planning Office is what was referred to earlier as the quality control function; that is, to see that planning gets done well. One problem in finding out whether planning has been done well is that if it is really long-range planning, there is a good chance that those involved will not be around to see the results. As a consequence, the Planning Office must develop proxies for being able to review the actual results of planning, and these call for the use of statements of probability. Simply expressed, there is a higher probability that planning done in a systematic and orderly manner will be successful planning, as compared to that which is done on an ad hoc or random basis. Secondly, planning which has the greatest participation by the persons who will have to carry out its results will have a higher probability of success than that which is not attended to by those who will have to implement it.
Attention to the need for a systems approach to planning already has been demonstrated. However, the notion of participatory planning also begs a question. With over 1,200 faculty members, approximately 4,000 other employees, and 20,000 students, how does a Planning Office achieve meaningful participation by those who should be involved?
The answer to the above question is important, especially because of the manner in which participatory governance contributes to the integration of the planning process. The first two functions of the Planning Office contribute to the integration of the planning process across the breadth of the institution. That is, since all managers are charged with planning, by providing them the tools with which to plan, and by seeing, through the use of planning schedules, that planning gets done, the Planning Office helps to assure that the final product of the planning effort is a well coordinated plan for the institution as a whole. However, for effective integration of planning, there also must be coordination in depth. That is, there must be a process by which persons other than managers may become involved--a process wherein programs, finances, and facilities get discussed at every level of the organization. For instance, within a college or university setting, there should be participation in the planning process by members of the faculty and student body.
At WVU, participation comes about through a unit called the University Council on Planning. The Council is chaired, ex officio, by the Provost for Planning. There are nine members from the faculty and three members from the student body, all of whom are recommended by the University Senate to the President. The Senate recommends two persons for every position; the President selects one. These persons do not have constituencies, and are meant to be University states-persons. Part of the function of the Council is to provide a broad perspective on University affairs and general issues in higher education for its members. This function is accomplished through regular briefings on a variety of topics. Most important, however, the members of the Council are not called upon to be planners. Rather, their function, as members of the student body and faculty, is to bring the perspective of their situation in the University to the considerations of the long-range future of the institution.
Again with an eye toward integrating the planning process, there are two other ex officio members of the University Council on Planning. These are the University Architect and the Director of Physical Plant. They attend every meeting of the Planning Council and take part in all of its deliberations, thus laying the groundwork for tying together facilities planning with program planning. If this marriage does not occur, it seems unlikely that a Director of Physical Plant or a University Architect--whether one reports to the other, or whether they work independently as they do at WVU--could ever meaningfully do his or her job, especially the parts of the job that have to do with the distant future of the institution.
However, if a university is to have faculty and staff participation, the participation must be substantive in nature. At WVU, careful attention is given to three things related to participation. The first is that persons from the faculty and student body who work with planning must be thoroughly immersed in what is going on at the institution. As mentioned earlier, members of the University Council on Planning are briefed regularly on topics related to higher education both at the national and local levels. Emphasis also is laid on involving members of the Council with the managers. For example, whenever any of the deans or directors is visited relative to his or her planning reports, a member of the faculty or student body chairs the session and reports on the results of the meeting to the Council on Planning.
The second foundation of sound participation is that students and faculty members should work with a period of time over which their recommendations can have some bearing. The appropriate time frame will vary according to the topic, and there are two extremes: one is that a planner typically should not come before a group and ask its members to deliberate over the next century; similarly, one must never come before a faculty and student body to tell them something that was decided yesterday, and then ask if the decision meets with their approval.
The third foundation for effective participation in planning is administrative allegiance to the planning process. This standard of behavior guarantees that all program proposals are evaulated in the same manner. Even if managers want to make changes to plans in midyear, the proposed changes go through the same decision-making process as the original plans went through the first time. In that way, as much as possible, the priorities set for the institution consistently govern decision-making.
Persistence and Relevance of the Planning Effort
A final important factor in integrating the planning process concerns the persistence with which the process is applied and the relevance of the planning effort to resource allocation. At West Virginia University, about 15 percent of the time of each manager is spent engaged in formal planning activities. One reason for this level of involvement is that all of the plans of the institution are regularly cycled through a scheduled process of review. There is no leather-bound book of plans produced by a single-effort task force at West Virginia University. Typically, one can identify a plan produced in that manner simply by brushing aside the cobwebs and dust on its cover. Rather, at WVU the attempt is to have a set of documents that are living and used-documents that are reviewed annually or biennially at the latest; documents containing plans which play a role, almost daily, in the allocation and reallocation of resources within the institution. The latter is the acid test of the relevance of the planning effort.
Just as an architect must integrate all the systems in a structure because he or she knows that without such integration the structure will fail, so managers who know that plans are used and reviewed regularly will come to put more effort into their own planning and its integration with that of other managers. Perhaps because of this sense of relevance, the Council on Planning regularly ranks in the top two in the annual poll of members of the Faculty Senate at WVU concerning preferred committee assignments.
In conclusion, integration of the planning effort at a college or university can best be achieved when the organizational structure of the institution is designed to encourage that practice. The use of an organizational structure which employs the concept of a President's
Office is most conducive to the attainment of an integrated planning effort. Recognizing that institutional reorganization as a means of achieving integrated planning is not a strategy available to all, it is suggested that the role of the Planning Office should be clearly coordinative in nature to the point where its only responsibility for actual planning should be in planning the planning process. Finally, it is recommended that integrated planning can be achieved only when planning is a regularly scheduled activity which occurs frequently, and which produces results that manifest themselves in the allocation, reallocation, and effective use of resources within the institution.
It is important that the preceding commentary be kept in a proper perspective. The political pundit. Emmet John Hughes, once commented on the role of a columnist in a manner which is applicable to discussions of planning. Hughes said that one of the tasks faced by a political commentator is to describe highly complex events in an orderly manner so that they may be understood. He went on to say, however, that the problem with this approach is that readers often assume that because the description is orderly, the process being described must be one which occurs in an orderly manner. Obvously, no such assumption could be farther from the truth. Similarly, while the planning process must be described in an orderly manner or no one could ever comprehend its operation, no one studying such descriptions should be deluded into thinking that a planning process is ever orderly. In fact, more often than not, planning is a pushing-and-pulling, herky-jerky process which can be integrative in nature only through the application of considerable, though beneficial, effort.
by Raymond M. Haas
(1) V.A. Graicunas, "Relationship in Organization," in Papers on the Science of Administration, editors Luther Gulick and L. Urwich (New York: Institute of Public Administration. 1937). pp. 181-187.
(2) The style of decision-making varies among organizations that have tried this form of organization. However, while it often involves consensus, the final decision must rest with the President. In any case, the structure is not meant to promote management by committee.
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|Title Annotation:||planning for higher education; Society for College and University Planning|
|Author:||Haas, Raymond M.|
|Publication:||Planning for Higher Education|
|Date:||Apr 1, 2015|
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