Strategic Planning in a Complex Academic Environment: Lessons from One Academic Health Center
Leaders in academic health centers (AHCs) must create a vision for their academic unit embedded in a complex environment. A formal strategic planning process can be valuable to help shape a clear vision taking advantage of potential collaborations and to develop specific achievable long- and short-term goals. The authors describe the steps in a formal strategic planning process and illustrate it with the example of the Department of Medicine at the University of Toronto Faculty of Medicine beginning in 2004. The process included the active participation of over 300 faculty members, trainees, and stakeholders of the department and resulted in broad-based support and leadership for the resulting plan. The authors describe the steps, which include getting started, committing to planning principles, establishing the work plan, understanding the environment, pulling it all together, shaping the vision, testing strategic directions, building effective implementation, and promoting the plan. Articulation of vision, mission, and values informed the plan's development, as well as 10 key principles integral to the plan. Challenges and lessons learned are also described. The final strategic plan is an active core activity of the department, guiding decisions and resource allocation and facilitating measurement of success or shortcomings. The process the authors describe is applicable to multiple academic units, including divisions/sections, departments, or thematic programs in AHCs.
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