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How this University Created Their Strategic Plan

By Anthony Taylor - December 22, 2020

Alison Van Rooy is a Senior Advisor to the President of Strategic Planning & Institutional Initiatives at Vancouver Island University (VIU), as well as a long-time policy planner for the Government of Canada. After working with the government for several years, she learned the strategic planning process is quite similar with other public sector institutions, so she decided to help Vancouver Island University with their brand new plan.

On this episode of the Strategy & Leadership Podcast, Alison joins us to discuss the creation of VIU's strategic plan, how the strategic planning process is different during a pandemic, as well as how to make it enjoyable.


  • What she's learned about strategic planning

"The important part of strategic planning is the strategic doing that follows".

Over the course of her career, she's learned that most people hate strategic planning. The process takes lots of time, subcommittees and meetings, which is made worse during a pandemic, when people are already tired, uncertain and anxious. She's also learned that time like these require strategic planning the most, because people will be forced to make big decisions anyways, because of the rapid change around us.


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  • Her strategic planning approach at VIU

Alison breaks down the four ways her strategic planning experience with VIU (during a pandemic) has been different. To start, they've focused on the users (students) that the organization delivers services to. They've also had to be laser-focused on results - asking "What does better look like from the perspective of the users"? Next, they've had to work extra hard making sure it's a positive experience. This means building on the organization's strengths and making it personally rewarding for participants. Finally, keep it simple. The process, plan and activities should be clear, transparent and easy for people to execute.

  • How VIU did external stakeholder engagement 

Alison breaks down the stakeholder engagement process for VIU. She explained how they talked to about 1,000 people over a 6 month period - asking "what's great about our organization and what's your vision of the future"? This engagement resulted in 18 commitments, which ultimately acted as the backbone of the strategic plan. Once the plan was complete, they turned around and asked 30,000 community members students, alumni and teachers for their feedback. What happened? They were able to generate meaningful conversations among over 1,500 community members about VIU and what's important to them.

  • How VIU will role out and execute their strategic plan

Alison explains the role out process for their strategic plan, following the original sessions. After a couple months of working its way through committees and the board (because it's a university), it's passed on to someone dedicated to moving the plan forward. It's crucial that the strategic plan lives somewhere within the organization, and that there's no need to add groups, structure or committees. On top of that, she talks about a measuring system, which not only promotes transparency but allows everyone to track and view their progress.


Want to learn how to create your own strategic plan and lead the session yourself?

Enroll in our Aligned Strategy Course Today

To learn more about VIU's strategic plan and leave feedback of your own, visit their website

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