Montana State University (MSU): University-Wide Strategic Planning and Engaging Complex Stakeholder Groups

This large university engaged the SBI team to facilitate the creation of a new university-wide strategic plan, with a critical goal to engage a depth and breadth of unique stakeholder groups in a public process. Our team conducted interviews and listening sessions/public forums with over 150 MSU stakeholders across 12 groups including community leaders, staff and faculty, students and alumni, and governance leaders to solicit input for the new plan. We then provided an analysis of the early data points, worked with a strategic planning committee to develop the new plan, facilitated six on-campus planning sessions over an eight-month period, and engaged campus and community stakeholders in a series of Town Hall meetings to drive adoption and buy-in for the new plan.

As a result of this work:

  • MSU has a new plan that sets the direction for the university for several years into the future, aligns with regional accreditation standards, was iterative, public, and highly participatory, and engaged both on-campus and off-campus stakeholder groups.
  • Throughout the planning process, the public was encouraged to review the work and MSU posted frequent updates on their website (see screen shots below).
  • The Vice President of Planning and Analysis stated, “We engaged a wide variety of stakeholders across the institution. Being able to document the steps in the process and who was involved was very useful so we can document to our creditors that the planning was ongoing and inclusive. Having a set of external eyes and ears is helpful for hearing our input more objectively and helping us to approach the process from a fresh perspective.”

We were later hired by the MSU College of Arts and Architecture (CAA) to facilitate a strategic planning process which would result in an effective strategic plan that enables the four schools within the college to move forward together with collaborative goals that mutually reinforce the connections within the college and throughout the MSU community. This was the first time that the CAA underwent a formal strategic planning process. The process included working with department directors, broader CAA faculty, the MSU Alumni Foundation, the external community (e.g., local firms that hire CAA graduates), graduate students, undergraduate students, donors, and the MSU Administration to ensure that all relevant voices were heard and understood.