Although the McKinsey team shared their view of best practices for an annual planning and budget process, they recognized that we would have to identify our own methods for implementing such a process at Dartmouth.
A divisional and department-based annual planning process that is linked to resource allocation and forms the basis for operating budgets should have certain characteristics in order to be successful. It should:
- Reflect the mission, vision and core values of Dartmouth;
- Directly reflect the strategic plan of the College, which is a faculty effort led by the Provost;
- Be consistent with the priorities set by the President;
- Stimulate discussion and allow for input within and across divisions and programs;
- Align resources and management attention to priorities;
- Allow for regular assessment of progress against mutually agreed upon goals;
- Be transparent, communicated broadly, and increase the clarity of the plans and priorities of the College;
It is important to be clear in differentiating the annual planning process from the budget process. While both are critical, closely linked components of a resource allocation strategy, planning addresses priorities and programs, while the budget helps to understand the costs of programs and support the leadership tradeoffs between programs across campus.
A successful planning process focuses both on new resources as well as reallocating existing resources to support high priority programs. In fact, this will be the primary means of support for new initiatives. To affect this kind of reallocation, it is important for divisions and departments to identify programs that are at the bottom of the priority list as well as those at the top. The planning process assures that there is institutional knowledge, discussion, and coordination of both growing initiatives and those that can be downsized or discontinued.
With preliminary work prepared by the Executive Vice President’s office, the process for annual planning at Dartmouth was tested with selected senior staff, Deans and Vice Presidents.
Strategic and tactical planning already exists in many departments and programs at Dartmouth, and the Amos Tuck School of Business Administration has particular expertise in the methodology of developing strategic plans. A small ad-hoc work group of staff across campus was formed, consisting of staff that have been engaged in planning in their own departments and divisions. They provided input into the further development of the annual planning process, and a set of materials that would be useful in consolidating and assuring consistency of planning efforts across campus.
We outlined a set of steps that would be conducted annually as major elements of the planning process and that would link to the budget process.
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