Planning for Higher Education Journal

Building Trust Through Stategic Planning

Journal Cover
From Volume 27 Number 2 | Winter 1998–1999
By Patrick Opatz, Kevin Hutchinson
Planning Types: Strategic Planning

If a strategic plan at a college or university is to succeed, the process must be participative. For true participation to occur, a basic level of trust must exist among the key stakeholders of the institution. Trust presumes risk. For true participation to occur, the president (and other leaders of the institution) must risk trusting the stakeholders in the planning process. The president must provide the participants with the capacity and support to make changes so that the plan succeeds. Effects of Low Trust on Strategic Planning Practical experience, supported by an extensive literature review, indicates that lack of trust in an organization manifests itself in several forms: poor communication; increased suspicion of others' views and proposals; and inaccurate perceptions of others' motives and actions. More specifically, when an organization with low trust attempts to develop a strategic plan, the following problems arise: little or no involvment of certain stakeholders; not all ideas are offered because of fear of rejection; tough issues are avioded; and the document becomes an inflexible, legalistic contract rather than a flexible guide. Building Trust Organizational development literature, as well as, our experiences in planning indicates that trust can be development in several ways: demonstrating competency, opening communication, building relationships; and creating a fair process. Competency means demonstrating technical and professional ability and good sense. Without achieving results, the rest of the "softer" approaches for building trust will fail. (Shaw, 1997). Colleges need to rebuild relationships within the insitution. When trust ca be first developed at the personal level, it will be easier to develop trust at the organizational level (Alberthal, 1995). Creating a fair process is an intergral step in building trust. Trust is strengthened when individuals feel they are treated as legitimate participants in the process

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