Original Query from Don Tritschler, Explorers LLI, Salem State College, MA
How do we turn long-range plans into action? Explorers LLI at Salem State College in Massachusetts completed its long range plan last year. The EIN Miscellaneous Articles Archives contain a feature about it, “Long Range Planning: Ready for Action.” Our Board has now begun this most important phase of the planning process—the drive for results. Will any LLI which has been able to keep dust from accumulating on its long range plan please give us any tips it has discovered in pursuit of its plans.

From Ely Meyerson, Lifelong Learning Programs, Florida Atlantic University
Like many programs, the Lifelong Learning Society at Florida Atlantic University has wrestled with long range planning for some time. We have found that the following principles/practices should underscore any long term planning process:
1. The respective plan should cover a two year plan and no longer. One reason that many plans gather dust is that they are unrealistic since it is almost impossible to determine long term resources, changing needs and the market place.
2. The goals and objectives of the plan should be integrally related to the program's mission. Too often long term plans attempt to be all things to all people and in the process often fail to meet the needs of the student/customer group.
3. The goals and objectives that are set forth in the plan should be both attainable and measurable. Lofty ideals and platitudes may sound right, but they are easily forgotten since they do not provide a pathway for the program to proceed.
4. The format of the plan should include the overall goals and supportive objectives. Each objective should have a time line, discuss the fiscal, facility and staff resources needed to the job done, itemize the outcome measurements that will be used to determine success/failure factors and the staff/group assigned responsibility for making it happen.
5. The plan should be updated every two years: it then become more a living document and not something in the archives.

From Anita Revelle, Senior Professionals, Illinois State University
Here at Illinois State University, the Senior Professionals have retreats every other year and we do come up with some great new planning ideas. Our strong board and committee system keeps new ideas flowing. Sometimes the ideas don’t arrive for awhile but we do explore them and continue to see if there are other issues that can be addressed. I do find that the board and committee chairs are receptive to change. Part of this stems from the constant flow of new members in each. A few years ago we did decide on a term limit for both and I believe that has helped keep us moving in a
forward direction.

From Patricia Edie, OMNILORE, California State University
I have read your article on Long Range Planning and I commend you on this accomplishment. It will provide an over-arching vision for you. It is specific enough that over time, as you move forward, you can periodically measure yourselves against the vision to see how you are doing and if you are truly moving forward. It is also specific enough that it can be broken into small objectives that can be defined and achieved. As to how to keep it from gathering dust, I have one suggestion.

In our organization, we periodically have ideas for new objectives we want to achieve. However, people who are already in positions of responsibility, don't want the additional task placed on them...they are busy enough with what they have already said "yes" to...so the task lies there, remaining a good idea whose time has not come. We found that if we created a small (5 people) ad-hoc group, (we called it a working group) and asked them to take a small piece of the task with a short duration time commitment, they were able to move us forward. Let me give you two examples.

1. One goal we had was to create a website that would be a real-time method of communication to perspective and current members. We had a person with the technical know-how but he didn't want to be carrying the entire responsibility. Besides it is no fun to work alone. So we created a Website Working Group. This group met once or twice a month. They generated ideas, made decisions by consensus, wrote the text, gathered the pictures and graphics and gave it all to the technical Webmaster, who got the site up and running. The small group knew their task was not going to last forever. Their combined creativity generated an atmosphere of energy that kept the task moving forward. Here is their final product: www.Omnilore.Org.

2. Many times members had asked to have a survey that would query the membership regarding their past experience, expertise and current interests. Having a database with the information available to members and committees would allow the organization to benefit from what at the time were "hidden gems." No committee had the energy to take on the task so we created another "short-term" working group. This group met, designed the survey instrument, made decisions by consensus, printed and distributed the instrument. Their task is completed. The task of collating the data received and creating a database will be passed to another "working group."

Somehow the short-term commitment and the spirit of camaraderie with a common purpose has made these two efforts successful.

From Ara Rogers, Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at USF, Tampa
The focus is on honest assessment of where the organization made progress—and where it didn’t, and if possible, why progress did not occur. Was the goal unrealistic? Do you have unforeseen internal structural or institutional barriers? Did a committee “fall down on the job” or get sidetracked by other priorities? Did your vision get derailed by a large and unexpected event—good or bad? This assessment is not to assign blame, but to better understand how to improve the details of the plan while you carry it out. Your plan should be a living document, not set in concrete.

I believe that we can improve anything we elect to focus on. The challenges are to get agreement as to the focus, and to keep it on the table—or in our case, on the agenda. The goal here is institutional learning, which hopefully we all gain as we work on improving our LLIs. Not all the learning happens in the classroom!




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