Clear Strategic Principles to Planning

February 28, 2019

This is first in a series of articles sharing insights from our work with St. Cloud State University’s (SCSU’s) Comprehensive Facilities Planning process – a rich experience, full of learning for all.

It’s a basic tenet of planning that clear, aligned, strategic principles, articulated and understood from the highest level and throughout an institution, are foundational for a successful plan. The St. Cloud State University (SCSU) Comprehensive Facilities Planning process had that kind of clarity in spades.

At the start of the Comprehensive Facilities Plan (CFP) update process, SCSU leaders established high-level guiding principles to steer the tone and direction of the plan. These included an integrated student experience, rigorous programs that offer applied learning, community engagement, the development of a diverse campus, sustainability, and a capacity for excellence and innovation.

The guiding principles were fundamental – but they weren’t enough. With the help of their consultants, planning team members created a set of 22 specific priorities they wanted to accomplish with their Comprehensive Facilities Plan – from “Reduce the campus footprint by up to 10 percent,” to “Enhance connection to Mississippi River.”

“These priorities didn’t come just from administration,” said Jonathan Martin, RDG’s project manager for the process. “They came from all kinds of voices across campus – people representing so many different perspectives. The planning group really dug into all the input to come up with a list they could all agree on, and that laid a great foundation of agreement that set the process on a positive track.”

The clear, specific strategic principles and priorities – defined at the beginning of the process – were the underpinning for all other elements of the process, and for the resulting Comprehensive Facilities Plan.

At RDG, we’ve seen this time and again in our work with campus planning projects. The ultimate success of a plan depends heavily on the clarity of principles and priorities laid out at the beginning of the process

Lists like the ones developed at SCSU:

  • Ground the planning team, so they know they’re all on the same page and working toward the same ends.

  • Are a touchstone for planners to return to when (as often can happen) they’re overwhelmed with data and input during the process.

  • Provide a road map for prioritizing decisions and coming to clarity about what should be included in the final plan.

  • Give confidence to those who aren’t on the planning team, that there will be a strategic “through-line” to the process and the resulting plan.

See an extended account of the SCSU Comprehensive Facilities Planning Process here.

Written by Jonathan Martin, Landscape Architect; Jay Weingarten, Architect