Imagine you are a student in Professor Rodger’s class. He’s just asked you to make a few notes in response to his prompts so you can deliver a speech to the class in the next five minutes. A pressure cooker situation, for sure. That’s how it felt on January 4th at the first strategic planning retreat.
Allan Rodgers has extensive experience and expertise in strategic planning. We are incredibly fortunate to use his expertise to facilitate this strategic planning process. He knows that a vision statement helps us see where we want to be in five years. It provides the pillars that a strategic plan is built on. As the saying goes, if you don’t know where you want to go, you won’t know if you’ve arrived. With a vision statement, where we want to go is clearly identified and the map for how we get there is defined by the strategic plan. The vision statement becomes a resource and frequent touch point for decision making as a result.
The speech exercise is a tool he frequently uses in the process to develop a vision statement. With little time to prepare, it’s much easier to respond to the prompts from instinct.
So what questions did Professor Rodgers give his class to frame their speech? He directed the Executive Committee (and me) to imagine that Vermont Tech is about to accept an award for the most improved, the highest achieving, the (insert superlative here) in 2023. We were to name the accomplishment, identify the hurdles the College surpassed to achieve its goal, specify what strengths helped us, and thank those that contributed to our success. Everyone participated so we heard eight varieties of that speech. Allan documented unique aspects of each one, while counting repetitions as they arose.
The next challenge, once we had a long list of features and attributes of this 2023 version of Vermont Tech, was to prioritize. We weren’t going to be everything to everyone and do that well, so we had to focus on what could be our SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound). With six key themes rising to the top, it was up to Curtis Ostler and me to articulate them as a vision statement. We ended up creating two versions. And then forced the Executive Committee to choose one. They obliged after much thoughtful discussion.
With their feedback in hand, more word-smithing was needed. We also leveraged a resource that measures readability related to education. We were shooting for something in the 12th grade to first-year college student range to make sure most of our audience would comprehend the statement in the first read. The last, and not least important step, was to take advantage of our own English faculty for final proofing. No one wanted to see something grammatically incorrect get published!
By picking away at that process in between biweekly planning meetings and giving reviewers time to think about their input, that is how we have gotten from an early planning retreat speech exercise to this version of the draft Vision Statement. Our last steps are to gather input from the entire College community by sharing it at various stakeholder meetings (and describing its origin story here), make any final edits needed before the Executive Committee adopts it as our Vision Statement 2023.
I wonder, what would anyone reading this article have said to Professor Rodger’s prompts…?
Current Draft, Version 7:
(Note: Does not yet reflect the feedback from Randolph’s Student Council)
The Vermont Tech community sees a future rooted in our core strengths. The College provides a hands-on education and graduates who are empowered to gain productive, meaningful careers in their chosen fields for a great return on investment. To reach our mission, Vermont Tech will:
- Responsive – Be the “go to” college for students and employers.
- Diversified – Serve students from a wide range of backgrounds, ages, and economic standing.
- Enduring – Continue our 150-year history with robust fiscal strength.
- Innovative – Invest in state-of-the-art technology and spaces that support our dynamic teaching methods and highly technical programs.
- Excellent – Embody a Culture of Excellence so students love us when they’re here and value us as alumni.
- Renowned – Be well-known for what we do best in service to students, employers, Vermont, and our regional economy.