Draft Narrative and Strategy Document

I’m finalising this post at Sydney airport, waiting for a plane to Bathurst after delays due to storms.  It has been nice to have some time to sit down and attend to things after a hectic couple of weeks.

If you’ve been following this blog, you will know that we have been working on revising the narrative and strategy for the university.  As I noted back in May while we have a strategic plan that covers the bases, I feel we are still lacking clarity about our overall mission, institutional story, or narrative as I have called it.  I believe we need this to ensure we are all on the same page and focussed. That post kicked off discussions to find a more powerful expression of what we are truly about.

I have enjoyed the robust conversations, feedback and comments from many forums since. I have found everyone’s contributions to be very valuable in testing new and refined ideas.  I’ve also been put on to some great readings (have been really enjoying David Whyte’s ‘The Heart Aroused’).

As the new narrative started to emerge, in discussions I think it also confirmed that the existing 2011-15 University Strategy document needed to be distilled into a new condensed and more focussed format.  This is not to throw out the old, but builds on and clarifies the best parts of our work over the last few years.

With your help, we have made significant progress in our narrative and documentation to a stage where I think it is in a suitable format to seek broader comments and feedback.  Although still draft, the latest version of the University Strategy and Actions 2013-2015 is provided here – CSU Strategy Draft.

If it is to be effective, strategic planning needs to be tested against the reality of an organisation and its communities.  I would welcome your honest opinion on how this document is shaping up.  I also plan to test this with our students and alumni and our community through our Heads of Campus and this blog.

I think it is good and getting close; it will never be perfect.  I have found that exposing and testing drafts through the process has really helped to clarify thinking and wording on the document and this will really be the last chance for this year.  We are intending that the second page (as printed – page 3 in this PDF draft) stays fairly constant but that the detailed priorities on the third page (as printed – page 4 in this PDF draft) will probably be updated each year with the planning cycle.  I think the final paragraph in the narrative – talking about using technology to achieve mobility and reach people wherever they are – needs a tweak of some sort still.  One challenge from a staff member was that many university mission statements read as ‘middle-aged whitefella dreaming’.  I hope that’s not all it is: I can’t avoid two of those tags, if I’m dreaming I’d like them to be good dreams.

There has been strong approval for the inclusion of the Wiradjuri phrase and I have to say that personally I love it.  I have pointed out that we need to honour this by being serious about living up to the challenge it sets.

The back page of the document articulates how it is intended it to be used.  However, a key point to keep in mind is that this document is not intended to be completely inclusive by naming everything that is happening in the university. I think one of the problems with strategic planning is that you can end up with a document that attempts to honour every part of the organisation, and lacks clarity as a result.  This does not mean that functions or areas that are not directly referenced are not important nor that they will not still have actions or responsibilities in the overall plan.  However, it probably does mean that change in those areas is not our most important priority in the short term.

Your feedback would be appreciated in the form of a comment to the blog, or if you prefer, a quick email or blog of your thoughts, hand written mark-ups, and/or ‘tracked changes’ to vc@csu.edu.au by COB Friday 16 November 2012.  A refined and final version will ultimately be presented to University Council in December 2012.

I really  look forward to hearing from you.

About andrewvann
Vice-Chancellor and President at Charles Sturt University

8 Responses to Draft Narrative and Strategy Document

  1. csuscience says:

    I like the commitment to using the technology to engage the community more… this is an aspect that we should keep in mind as part during the trial phase of the LMS systems under consideration. Improved community engagement will enhance our capacity to design effective inter-professional experiences commensurate with our unique course profile. The carbon neutral statement is a big goal for a multi-campus university with a lot of time spent in vehicles, however, the journey to that status would be a great thing to incorporate into teaching given its direct relevance to what our students will experience over the next three years. The only indicator I do not see is staff satisfaction, it would be great if we could also say we are one of the top preferences for tertiary employment in Australia or at least regional Australia.

  2. Trish Murphy says:

    Gets my vote – Well Done

  3. Kathryn Pitkin says:

    Well done! I really appreciate that now I have an emotional as well as an intellectual response to the document. Because of its simplicity it has integrity. I love that the opening heading is For the Public Good, words I am always proud to connect to CSU. I also love the impact of the three statements under that heading – just great. The document makes sense to me for the first time, on all levels.

    • sabanabi says:

      Well said Andrew.
      In my view,for a success of any Strategy,effective planning,a great collaborative workforce and a superb Risk assessment tool need to be taken into consideration.The students and the staff are like the two faces of a coin,both complement each other.The staff have their sayings in the various meetings but the students feedback too play a very crucial role in the functioning of a University.Can we get the students feedback and response too on this University’s Strategy so that we can come across their expectations too from CSU.
      Let our actions speak for our work.I am sure with our dynamic leadership,we will surely achieve a remarkable feat in the field of education.

  4. Alison Mitchell says:

    This is great and thank you so much for the opportunity to comment. My only concern is that the section on sustainability is really talking about environmental sustainability and could contribute to the widespread confusion of the meaning of “sustainability”. It is wonderful to see so much social sustainability throughout the document. Wonderful!

  5. Natasha Hard says:

    I think it works really well and has a nice human touch. It also effectively presents a strong vision that is ‘CSU’ as well as providing or highlighting strategies by which that can be achieved. As someone highly passionate about the area of sustainability I am also happy to see the commitment to a carbon neutral university by 2015. However, as an educational institution I feel that we need to have a focus on communicating the university’s position on Education for Sustainable development and how it may be looking to embed such principles in the way it operates and teaches across disciplines to support CSU staff and students as ‘Agents for Change’. I am really happy that the university is having these conversations.

  6. Frank says:

    The document is a much needed ‘road map’ which has never really been constructed in the past. I appreciate the opportunity to think about this and provide feedback in a public forum. Although the document has nailed down many things we might wish to pursue, I wonder if actually committing to areas of strength by naming them is beyond the document? Naming our key research strengths might signal to others what we are known for, prepared to do and even be a beacon for. On a separate but not disconnected point; I understand that the new logo is something that was launched not long ago and there has been money spent on this, but in reality it does not portray anything scholarly about our great institution.

  7. Margaret Van Heekeren says:

    I think the text is all good – maybe some minor tweaking here and there but overall it has a great balance between the general and specific – traditionally a problematic equation for mission statements/strategy documents. LOVE the Wiradjuri phrase. BUT…
    I feel the text and the images are mismatched. The committment to regional Australian communities is the dominant theme of the text (as it should be) but the selected people images are not an accurate representation of the predominantly Anglo-Saxon populations of regional Australia. Visually, would this document engage an 18 year old John Smith or a 40 year old Mary Brown? I have no problem at all with the images that are are there – I firmly believe in representing cultural diversity – but if we want regional communities to read and engage with this document the first step is to create visual affinity. I wouldn’t be making this argument if regional towns and cities were not predominantly inhabited by people of Anglo Saxon descent – but the fact is they are and I would like to see more images added to represent this reality.

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