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Midwest Region Strategic Planning Report

Executive Summary

The current and upcoming chairs of the CUPA-HR Midwest Region Board have committed to developing and executing a strategic plan for the Region. While the plan is for five years, it is imperative that the chair be in a supportive and leading position with regard to plan and both Nancy Grassel and James Gallaher have made such commitments. The newly formulated board being seated 1 July 2011 will take up the plan, incorporate membership feedback and approve the plan. Team leaders will be identified and teams formed around the five action steps identified as critical to the transformation of the Region.

The Midwest Board has wrestled with the concept of providing more valued services to the Region’s members. This is not unlike most association boards where membership is driven by the perceived value of what one gets out of the membership. The Midwest Board wanted to go beyond providing an annual conference and an occasional newsletter. This strategic plan is their outline of how to make improvements in the services to, and engagement of, the membership.

The plan is not complete nor has any associated action been taken. The plan is published for review, comment, feedback, engagement, additional ideas, and to generate enthusiasm, support and volunteerism.

The Board proposes a mission statement specific to the Midwest Region: CUPA-HR Midwest Region provides innovative services, resources, and leadership in higher education human resources.

The Board proposes vision statements centered around: Continuity, Innovation, Reinventing the conference concept, New member professional development, Leverage modalities of professional development, Initiating/extending partnerships, More engaged membership, and Increasing resources.

The Board proposes to develop action game plans and form teams around five initiatives (Bold Steps): Creating an HR academy, Infuse leading edge technology, Focus resources to improve engagement and alignment, Develop a continuity plan to sustain engagement up the line, and Innovation.

Finally, it should be noted that the Board moved through this process with relative ease. We attribute that to being steadfast and united in purpose and because the ideas and concepts themselves have been the topics of discussion for years (for those with longevity). The Board attributes the strategic planning process with facilitating a comprehensive and cohesive way to look at initiatives and how they inter-relate. The planning process then gave the Board a clearer road map to accomplishing the ideas that have been on the table for a long time.


The CUPA-HR Midwest Region Board of Directors1 met in February 2011 and decided to launch a strategic planning process for the region. Several factors led to this decision, including:

  • unoptimized level of attendance at Midwest Region Conferences
  • concern with providing Midwest Region members with additional association services
  • reducing the risk of conference dependency as the only visible service provided by the Midwest Region
  • increased competition for conference attendees with the growing number of state chapters who also use the conference format
  • concern with establishing a pipeline for Midwest Region leadership positions
  • need to acknowledge and build in multiple means of outreach to Midwest Region members
  • increase engagement of Midwest Region members

In addition, the Board has discussed a variety of options and ideas over the last several years, but has developed a way to develop those into projects, programs, and/or opportunities. The CUPA-HR Midwest Board is not unlike other association leadership groups who are always looking for ways to increase the value of membership.

The Board decided to dedicate the majority of their scheduled meeting in May to the initial phases of strategic planning. Karl Sparks and James Gallaher were asked to lead the effort since they both had experience using the Grove Consulting2methodology (a structured, graphic model based on a set of templates).

Nancy Grassel (continuing as CUPA-HR Midwest Region Chair in 2011/12) and James Gallaher (CUPA-HR Region Chair-elect) both agreed that strategic planning would the major theme of their leadership years, thus providing at least two years of continuity for the effort.

Strategic Planning Process and Outcomes

Fig. 1 – Cover Story Vision (click to view larger image)

Any strategic planning process begins with building a vision of what the end result would look like if the plan were wildly successful. This is a brainstorming session and does not involve in-depth discussion – just “drawing a picture” of what success would look like. The objective of this visioning portion is to pull participants out of the usual discussions that get bogged down in details, roadblocks, execution issues, and/or relative merit. The Midwest Region Board used the “Cover Story Vision” template (Grove) to capture their ideas about success. (See Figure 1. – CUPA-HR MWR’s Cover Story Vision).

The completed template also allowed the Board to visualize their ideas in the context of outcomes and to live in that future time for awhile without having to weigh the effort it takes to get there. Most importantly, the Cover Story Vision begins to provide the basis for more defined vision statements that serve as the building blocks for a strategic plan. The themes that ran through the Cover Story Vision were:

  • new resources for state chapters
  • new professional development opportunities for Midwest Region members
  • partnerships with other CUPA-HR regions and with other professional associations
  • creating pipelines of talent for state chapters and region leadership positions
  • innovation
  • redefining the conference format

Fig. 2 – Vision Themes (click to view larger image)

From the Cover Story Vision, it was an easy segue into a discussion that narrowed the focus to some of the “Vision Themes” that seemed to be running through the Board’s initial brainstorming ideas. Out of that Cover Story, the Board chose some overarching themes:

  • Continuity (citing the need for Region Board succession planning, pipelines of talent and identifying leadership potential early on and engaging those that show potential)
  • Innovation (cutting edge ideas and technology to keep Midwest members tuned into new developments and to take advantage of new ways of providing member benefits
  • Reinventing the conference concept (centering each conference on a theme, forming partnerships with other Regions/associations, using various technologies for content delivery, and exploring new formats)
  • New member professional development services (more educational opportunities for those new to the profession and/or those seasoned professionals who might be new to higher education
  • Leveraging modalities of professional development (using technology and innovation to better serve Midwest members who may not be able to attend a conference
  • Initiating/extending partnerships (at the chapter, region, or with other professional organizations)
  • More engaged membership (in professional development, leadership pipelines, and in mentorships)
  • Increasing resources (financial, knowledge repository, and people)

See Figure 2. for a graphic representation of these vision themes.

Fig. 3 – Five Bold Steps (click to view larger image)

Once the Vision Themes were established, the Board set about using those themes to develop a Midwest Region mission statement and a set of cohesive vision statements. These mission and vision statements became the basis for “5 Bold Steps” – a manageable set of initiatives that would begin to address the vision statements and fulfillment of the mission statement.

  • Create an HR academy
  • Infuse leading edge technology
  • Focus resources to improve engagement and alignment
  • Develop a continuity plan to sustain engagement up the line
  • Innovation

See Figure 3.

This was also the first time in the process that the Board had in-depth discussions about the plan components, what might help them achieve success and what might be standing in the way. Certainly, having a shared set of values would be an important building block. The Board took their initial lead from the values expressed by the CUPA-HR national organization, confirmed those, and added a few more that would promote success in the strategic plan:

  • Innovation
  • Collaboration
  • Partnerships
  • Stewardship/sustainability
  • Leadership
  • Responsiveness
  • Knowledge
  • Diverse Perspectives
  • Integrity
  • Excellence
  • Outreach
  • Advocacy

Supporting the strategic plans, the Board identified Region membership support (and building on that), national organizational encouragement, and past leadership (developing this “lost” resource). The Board also has access to fiscal resources that it could bring to bear on these initiatives. Challenges identified included the difficulties of resource coordination, change management issues, lack of documentation of region history, and the fact that CUPA-HR Midwest Region is an all-volunteer organization. Who will have to time to do the work?

The draft mission statement, then, was: CUPA-HR Midwest Region provides innovative services, resources, and leadership in higher education human resources.

The vision statements were synthesized to: increasing resources to chapters/members, more engaged membership, continuity/innovation, leverage modalities of professional development, professional development for new members, initiate/expand partnerships.

Follow-Up and Feedback

Since the success of any strategic plan relies on broad stakeholder input and support, the Board felt that before proceeding further in the planning process, the mission, vision and bold steps needed to be reviewed by the Midwest membership and others. To that end, a session at the ensuing Midwest Region Conference was used to introduce the templates to an audience of CHRO’s. The templates were also posted in the general assembly area of the conference and attendees were asked to look at them and engage board members with their ideas and feedback.

The plan was also briefly presented to Andy Brantley and Jane Federowicz during the second day of the Board meeting. Andy agreed to add the presentation of the plan to the ALP agenda in July 2011. It was also the plan of the Board to share the plan with Midwest state chapter chairs at ALP for their input. There may be a general distribution to members for their input, also. Board members (and other advocates) may attend state chapter meetings to promote the plan and get additional input. Finally, it was thought that dedicating a portion of the annual conference to the strategic plan (communicating results, updates, and additional future planning) would be an important vehicle in keeping the membership engaged in the plan.

Fig. 4 – Game Plan (click to view larger image)

The Board also began to develop a game plan for executing the “5 Bold Steps,” to familiarize themselves and the Region membership with how the plan phases might materialize. See Figure 4. This is the least develop aspect of the plan, so far, but it serves to show how a five year plan might be accomplished by looking in six month increments out over the next two years. Objectives for the two years are established and specific steps are outlined for the increments. Once the Bold Steps are solidly in place with input and support from the membership, the idea is to form 5 teams, one around each Bold Step. Recruiting past Region leadership, retirees, and members at large who have a “passion” for that particular Bold Step would be invited to work on the six month activities to bring about the objectives for the period. A side benefit would be increased member engagement and more opportunity to identify and develop leadership prospects for chapter and Region posts.

Next Steps

ALP will be meeting in July 2011 and the Board intends to finish up their input solicitation and teams formation by the end of summer. Formal board action for approval of the plan will be forthcoming at a special meeting of the Board (by August 2011)


1 Board of Directors: Nancy Grassel, Chair (Black Hills State University); Karl Sparks, Chair-elect (University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee); Gary Johnson, Past Chair and National Board Representative (Drake University); Kelli Shuman, Treasurer (South Dakota School of Mines and Technology); Gary Janikowski, Director of Communications (Minnesota State Colleges and Universities Systems Office); Patrick Rhoton, National Board Representative (Mount Vernon Nazarene University); James Gallaher, Director of Membership (Eastern Michigan University)

2 Grove Consulting at http://www.grove.com