Integrated Planning Glossary

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Do you call it a “goal,” “objective,” or “priority”? The terms used to describe planning vary from campus to campus. That’s why it’s critical that your college or university creates a shared language around planning that everybody understands. The SCUP Integrated Planning Glossary gives you a place to start. Use our list of common planning terms and our definitions to begin conversations about your institution’s unique planning language. Updated October 2021.

Find this helpful? Creating a common language is one of the many vital points discussed in the SCUP Planning Institute workshop—designed to help you and your team move from goals to implementation together.



Academic planning. Planning that outlines an institution’s overall academic goals and how those goals will be met. [1] It can include academic program planning, academic structure, organizational framework, institution-wide outcomes or competencies, and division or department goals and how they align to the overall AP. Academic planning is also known as educational master planning or academic master planning. See also academic program planning.
Learn more about how academic planning works.
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Academic program planning. A subset of academic planning, academic program planning measures, analyzes, and prioritizes academic programs to help institutions achieve strategic balance. [2] See also academic planning, institutional effectiveness planning.

Accreditation. Higher education accreditation is a type of quality assurance process under which services and operations of institutions or programs are evaluated by an external body to determine if applicable standards are met. If standards are met, accredited status is granted by the agency. In most countries around the world, the function of higher education accreditation is conducted by a government organization, such as a ministry of education. [3] See also institutional effectiveness planning.
Learn more about how to deal with the challenge of accreditation pressures.
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Action planning. See tactical planning.

Advancement planning. Outlines how relationships outside the institution will be built and nurtured so people and communities understand an institution’s impact and support its initiatives.

Alignment. A state of agreement and cooperation among individuals, groups, processes, documents, etc., about what should be done, how, and why.
Learn more about how to deal with the challenge of planning alignment.
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Alignment, horizontal. The coordination of groups across boundaries so they effectively work together toward the same goals.

Alignment, vertical. The direct connection of desired outcomes from mission to on-the-ground operations.

Assessment. Processes that use data and information to measure the effectiveness of institutional efforts and identify how those efforts can be improved. Includes strategic plan evaluation, student learning outcomes, institutional effectiveness, etc. See also institutional effectiveness planning.
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Benchmarks. Specific performance indicators used to compare institutions or programs against established criteria. See also metric.

Bottom-up leaders. These are informal leaders who use influence and politics to persuade and bring about change.

Budget, capital. A plan of funding and expenditures for future buildings, major renovations, and remodeling.

Budget, operational. A plan of revenue to be generated and expenditures (or transfers) from that revenue over a finite period of time (such as a fiscal year).

Budget planning. The process for allocating funds in an institution. See also resource planning, capital planning.
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Budget process. The method and timeline (or cycle) used by an institution to create its operating budget.


Campus master planning. While campus planning occurs every day as an ongoing process, longer-range recommendations are often documented in a report called a campus master plan or campus land use plan (plan). See also campus planning.
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Campus planning. Planning that outlines the long-term direction of the physical campus. It includes elements such as open space, buildings, non-motorized circulation (walking paths, bike lanes, etc.), motorized circulation (roads, public transportation access, etc.), and utilities. It ensures the highest and best use of land to meet an institution’s academic, research, and outreach missions. See also campus master planning, capital planning, facilities planning, strategic planning.
Learn more about how campus planning works.
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Capabilities. How an institution uses its organizational capacity (the things it does). See organizational capacity (Leinwand and Mainardi, 2016).

Capabilities, basic. The capabilities every institution should be proficient in (Leinwand and Mainardi, 2016).

Capabilities, distinctive. What your institution does well, what the stakeholders you serve value, and what your competitors can’t beat (Leinwand and Mainardi, 2016).

Capital planning. Within the context of its strategic plan and campus master plan, the process by which an institution decides which long-term investments in future buildings, major renovations, and remodeling to make. [4] See also budget planning, campus master planning, campus planning, facilities planning, resource planning.

Change management. A systematic approach to dealing with change, both from the perspective of an organization and on the individual level.
Learn more about how to deal with the challenge of change management.
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Coalition. A group of people—often from disparate parts of a complex organization—who have joined together for a common purpose. These groups are either formal (see steering committee, planning team, or implementation team) or informal (see kitchen cabinet). Coalition-building is a required element of integrated planning. [5]

Collective leadership. Leadership by group—either a group of top-down leaders or a group of bottom-up leaders.

Communication plan. A document that outlines how you will inform, engage with, and seek feedback from your plan’s stakeholders, including specific audiences, messages, delivery methods, and frequency.

Conflict. A struggle or contest between people with opposing needs, ideas, beliefs, values, or goals.

Consultant. External agent who provides guidance for fee on any part of the integrated planning process. [6]

Continuity planning. Planning that provides a framework for higher education institutions to respond to emergencies and disasters. The framework is flexible enough to adapt to different events and circumstances, yet comprehensive enough to give peace of mind.
Learn more about how continuity planning works.
Learn about how to deal with the challenge of COVID-19 response and planning.
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Critical success factor. A condition or variable that is necessary for an institution or project to achieve its mission. Answers the question: What must we do to be successful?


Difference. A way in which ideas, people, or things are not the same.

Disruption. Short for “disruptive innovation,” which is an innovation that makes a complicated and expensive product simpler and cheaper and therefore attracts a new set of customers. (Christensen and Eyring 2011).

Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) planning. Planning that outlines how a college or university will:

  • Gather a community of students, faculty, administrators, staff, and alumni who have a wide spectrum of characteristics, backgrounds, and identities.

  • Empower each member of that community to achieve their full potential by removing barriers, addressing the impacts of historical injustices, and adopting just policies, practices, and structures.

  • Foster an environment and culture that values, welcomes, and respects differences.

Learn more about how diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) planning works.
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Enrollment planning. See strategic enrollment management planning.

Environmental scanning. An exploration and analysis of the external factors affecting an institution. See also STEEP analysis.
Read SCUP’s latest trends reports.
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Execution. See implementation.


Facilities planning. Planning that outlines goals and uses for all of an institution’s owned and/or leased space. It includes short-term tactics and prioritization of, and funding for, annual facility-related projects. While a facility plan, which has a shorter time horizon, typically responds to a campus master plan (which generally has a time horizon of 10 years), it also aligns with other unit plans (academic plan, technology plan, budget plan). See also campus master planning, campus planning.
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Financial planning. See budget planning.

Futuring. An exercise that helps institutions plan for future forces by thinking in the future tense, then using the resulting insights to shape plans and actions, both today and into the future.


Gap analysis. A method to assess the current state, the desired future state, and what an institution needs to move from the current state to the desired future state.

Goal. A broad, general statement of intended outcomes or results. See also GOST.

GOST. Pronounced “ghost,” GOST is an acronym for Goals, Objectives, Strategies, Tactics.


Implementation. The process of putting a plan into action.

Implementation plan. A document that outlines how the strategic plan will be put into action, monitored, and revised.

Implementation team (I-Team). The group of people who coordinate implementation of the strategic plan. [7] See also planning team.

Information technology planning. Information technology (IT) planning guides the use of resources for IT systems and services used throughout the higher education institution.
Learn more about how information technology planning works.
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Initiative. A general term for a strategy, program, product, service, or project.

Institutional context. An institution’s distinct set of challenges, conditions, and history that shape planning and strategy (Norris and Poulton 2008).

Institutional effectiveness planning. A higher education institution’s effort to organize evaluation, assessment, and improvement initiatives so the institution can determine how well it is fulfilling its mission and achieving its goals. Institutional effectiveness (IE) planning may cover (The Association for Higher Education Effectiveness, 2018):

  • Institutional research

  • Program review (academic and/or administrative)

  • Student learning outcome assessment

  • Accreditation

  • Plan measurement and decision support

See also academic program review, accreditation, assessment.
Learn more about how institutional effectiveness planning works.
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Institutional plan. A plan for a specific aspect of operations or for cross-boundary initiatives that cover the entire institution. Examples: academic plan, campus master plan, budget plan, IT plans, student life, enrollment services, etc.
See SCUP’s Example Plans collection (member-only resource).

Integrated planning. A sustainable approach to planning that builds relationships, aligns the organization, and emphasizes preparedness for change. Integrated planning is both an overarching model of alignment—the connective tissue amongst disparate institutional planning efforts— and a process of planning within each of the institution’s component planning efforts. See also strategic planning.


Kitchen cabinet. Informal or unofficial group of trusted advisors often, but not always, involved in an integrated planning process. [8] See also consultant, sponsor, planning team.

Key Performance Indicator (KPI). A quantifiable metric used to evaluate the success of an organization, employee, etc., in meeting objectives for performance (Oxford English Dictionary). See also metric.


Landscape. See environmental scanning.

Library planning. Establishes how the library (or libraries) will support a higher education institution’s strategies and operations. In particular, it looks at how the library can advance a college’s or university’s learning, research, and/or service programs and initiatives.
Learn more about how library planning works.
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Mandate. A directive an institution is required to do (or not do), often imposed by an external actor or force. Mandates may be formal, such as laws, rules, regulations, or informal, such as political mandates for change or deeply held public expectations.

Maturity model. A step approach that enables institutions to assess their planning capability. The integrated planning maturity model can be used as a tool for institutions to develop a roadmap for improving integrated planning.

Metric. A measurement that tracks, monitors, and assesses the effectiveness of an objective, initiative, or plan.

Milestone. A significant date or event during the implementation of a plan.

Mission. An institution’s stated purpose or reason for existence.


Objective. A specific, measurable outcome an institution intends to accomplish. See GOST.

Operational planning. A process for determining the day-to-day operations of an institution or unit over the next one to 12 months.

Opportunities. See SWOT analysis.

Organizational capacity. The resources an institution has available to use, including physical resources (land, buildings), IT, budget, and human resources (time and skill).

Organizational culture. A system of assumptions, values, and beliefs that drives behaviors, actions, roles, and practices in an organization.
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Outcome. A result from the implementation of a plan or any of its components.


Performance measure. See metric.

Physical planning. See facilities planning.

Plan to plan. See planning roadmap.

Planning horizon. The amount of time an institution will look into the future when preparing a strategic plan (or the amount of time covered by a particular plan or planning cycle). In general, its length is dictated by the degree of uncertainty in the external environment. The higher the uncertainty, the shorter the planning horizon. [9]

Planning roadmap. The “plan to plan” that documents the planning process to be used, including activities, timeline, stakeholders, planning horizon, and scope.

Planning team (P-Team). A formal group of people assembled to prepare a plan. [10] See implementation team.

Power. The ability or capacity to influence or direct the behavior of others.


Resource planning. The process for determining and allocating resources in an institution, including funds, people, space/facilities, technology, and equipment.
Learn more about how resource planning works.
Learn more about how to deal with the challenge of funding uncertainty.
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Scenario planning. A process that generates multiple well-crafted contradictory narratives about the future to anticipate possible outcomes of driving forces (Wade 2012).
Learn more about how scenario planning works.
Check out the SCUP Toolkit, An Integrated Approach to Scenario Planning.
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Shared leadership. Group leadership where top-down leaders and bottom-up leaders partner together.

SMART. An acronym that describes the characteristics of a good goal. It stands for:

  • Specific: Clearly define the intended outcome.

  • Measurable: The goal can be quantified.

  • Assignable: A person, department, or committee could be given responsibility for the goal.

  • Realistic: It can be achieved with an institution’s resources and in the amount of time indicated.

  • Timebound: Identifies when the goal will be completed.

People (typically senior institutional leaders) who have the prestige, power, and authority to commit an institution to developing and implementing a plan and hold people accountable for doing so. There is often a single, overarching sponsor, but a group of sponsors can be called a steering committee. [11] See also planning team.

Stakeholder(s). An internal or external person, group, or organization that will affect or be affected by an institution’s choices and actions.
Learn more about how to deal with the challenge of engaging stakeholders.
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STEEP analysis. A way to organize environmental scanning. STEEP stands for social forces, technological forces, economic forces, environmental forces, and political forces. See also environmental scanning.

Steering committee. See sponsor.

Strategic enrollment management planning. Strategic enrollment management (SEM) planning is an institution’s efforts to identify, recruit, enroll, retain, and graduate a student body in accordance with an institution’s mission and goals while also maintaining fiscal sustainability.
Learn more about how strategic enrollment management planning works.
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Strategic issues. Pressing problems and/or significant opportunities that must be strategically addressed for an institution to meet its mission and/or remain operationally viable.

Strategic plan. A product of the strategic planning process that documents and communicates decisions made during the planning process. See also strategic planning.
See strategic plans in SCUP’s Example Plans collection (member-only resource).

Strategic planning. A deliberate, disciplined effort to produce fundamental decisions and actions that shape and guide what an institution is, what it does, and why it does it. See also integrated planning.
Learn more about how strategic planning works.
See strategic plans in SCUP’s Example Plans collection (member-only resource).
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Strategy. A plan of action created to achieve a goal or a vision or to address a strategic issue.

Student affairs planning. A higher education institution’s effort to align its student activities and campus environment with the needs of students to enrich and enhance the student experience. Student affairs planning often focuses on:

  • Learning and development outside the classroom

  • Student health and wellness

  • Creating a climate that supports diversity, inclusion, and equity

  • Preparing students for success after graduation

Learn more about how student affairs planning works.
Learn about how to deal with the challenge of student success, retention, and graduation.
See all learning resources on the topic of student affairs planning.
See all learning resources on the topic of student success, retention, and graduation.

Sustainability planning. Planning that outlines a college’s or university’s overall sustainability goals and how those goals will be met. Sustainability planning nearly always addresses environmental and ecological health; it can also include human health and wellbeing, equity and social justice, and economic integrity (The Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education, 2020).
Learn more about how sustainability planning works.
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SWOT analysis. A structured planning method used to evaluate internal (strengths and weaknesses) and external (opportunities and threats) factors affecting an institution, department, project, industry, or person. [12] See also TOWS Matrix.


Tactic. A specific action an institution takes to carry out a strategy.

Tactical plan. A product of tactical planning that documents and communicates tasks that need to be completed, who is responsible, timeframe, required resources, milestones, and expected outcomes.

Tactical planning. A process that details the specific tasks that need to be completed to implement a plan.

Tasks. See tactic.

Technology planning. See information technology planning.

Thinking, conventional. When faced with opposing ideas, conventional thinking is simplistic in problem solving, often forcing you to make unattractive tradeoffs (Martin 2009).

Thinking, integrative. The ability to constructively face the tension of opposing ideas and generate a new creative solution that combines the elements of the opposing ideas (Martin 2009).

Top-down leaders. These are formal leaders who have authority based on their position in the organization.

TOWS Matrix. An evaluative framework for deriving goals for the attainment of an institutional mission (Koontz and Weihrich 1990). The acronym TOWS is sometimes referred to as Turning Opportunities and Weaknesses into Strengths. TOWS and SWOT are acronyms for different arrangements of the words Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. [13] See also SWOT analysis.

Trends. See environmental scanning.
Read SCUP’s latest trends reports.


Unit plan. Plan for a specific group that is part of the larger institution.


Value proposition. A value proposition describes how a stakeholder can benefit from a product, service, or process by addressing his or her needs, wants, and concerns.

  • Needs: Something your stakeholder must have; something they can’t do without.

  • Wants: Something your stakeholder would like to have. It is not absolutely necessary, but it would be nice to have.

  • Concerns: Something your stakeholder fears.

Values. The guiding principles or beliefs of a person or an organization. [14]

Vision. A description of what an institution (and key parts of the external environment) will look like if the institution achieves its full potential. [15]

VUCA. An acronym from the military to describe a rapidly changing and unpredictable world, it stands for Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, and Ambiguity.
Check out the SCUP Report, Integrated Planning in a VUCA Environment: Advice You Need in the Age of COVID-19.


Weaknesses. See SWOT analysis.


1. Academic planning often makes explicit links to planning in student services, enrollment, career services, libraries, and technology. Faculty roles related to teaching, research, and service tend to be included in planning and tenure governance documents, not academic plans.

2. An effective APP progress utilizes criterion such as external and internal demand, quality of program inputs and processes, equipment and facilities, quality of program outcomes, size and productivity, revenue, and costs.

3. In the United States, however, the quality assurance process is independent of government and performed by private membership associations. In the US, accreditation often requires a major strategic planning effort.

4. This planning should ensure that any proposals to erect or renovate buildings are made within the context of the strategic plan and campus master plan.

5. Successful coalition-building is a required element of successful integrated planning. Without the ownership developed through a thoughtfully designed participatory process, the likelihood of a failed plan is enormous.

6. Consultants are often hired when institutions determine a part (or all) of the planning process is too complex or difficult to handle solely with institutional staff and faculty. Consultants can help identify, and provide solutions for, stumbles, misdirection, or political problems that slow or stop the planning process. Consultants should not tell the institution what its strategic plan should contain or how it should be implemented without institution-wide input (Karen Hinton, SCUP, 2012).

7. Often, an I-Team follows the work of the P-Team, which once a plan is complete, disbands. Dependent on the institution, there are several variations (in use and composition) of the I-Team.

8. Members of a kitchen cabinet can be individuals or groups, internal or external to an institutional planning process. Though they do not serve as sponsors, champions, or members of the planning team, members of kitchen cabinets are often called upon to provide key advice.

9. Planning horizons are often, though not always, affected by presidential turnover as new presidents want to develop and execute their own plan.

10. The nerve center of an integrated planning process, the composition and activities of a planning team are crucial to the success, or failure, of any institutional strategic planning efforts. Initially, the establishment of a planning team means the creation of a new, institution-wide committee. However, for long-term continuity and to acculturate planning as an important institutional value, the P-Team should play a longer term role, often through implementation and beyond.

11. Sponsors are not necessarily involved in the day-to-day details of strategic planning, but they set the stage for success and pay careful attention to the progress of the process.

12. A SWOT analysis is typically used early in a planning process, but can be returned to and re-used as needed.

  • Strengths: characteristics of the institution that give it an advantage over others.

  • Weaknesses: characteristics that place the institution at a disadvantage relative to others.

  • Opportunities: elements that the institution could exploit to its advantage.

  • Threats: elements in the environment that could cause trouble for the institution.

13. In the simplest version of the TOWS Matrix, “threats” and “opportunities” are listed along the side of the matrix, with “weaknesses” and “strengths” across the top. The intersection of internal and external environments reveals how the organization’s resources and capabilities can be used to counteract outside threats and leverage opportunities.

14. Value statements answer these questions: How do we want to conduct business? How do we want to treat our key stakeholders? What do we really care about (in essence, what do we value?)? Values are a part of an organization’s culture, so there may very well be a difference between the values people espouse and the values they actually follow in practice.

15. A vision statement can include an institution’s mission, basic philosophy and core values, goals, basic strategies, performance criteria, and important decision-making rules. An institution may have to go through more than one cycle of strategic planning before it can develop an effective vision for itself; regardless, a full-blown vision is more likely to be a guide for strategy implementation than strategy formulation.


The Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education. “What Is Sustainability?” Accessed November 30, 2020.

The Association for Higher Education Effectiveness. “Developing the Integrated Institutional Effectiveness Office.” November 30, 2018.

Christensen, Clayton M., and Henry J. Eyring. The Innovative University: Changing the DNA of Higher Education from the Inside Out. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2011.

Hinton, Karen E. A Practical Guide to Strategic Planning in Higher Education. Ann Arbor: Society for College and University Planning, 2012.

Koontz, Harold, and Heinz Weihrich. Essentials of Management. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1990.

Leinwand, Paul, Cesare Mainardi, and Art Kleiner. Strategy That Works: How Winning Companies Close the Strategy-to-Execution Gap. Boston, MA: Harvard Business Review Press, 2016.

Martin, Roger L. The Opposable Mind: How Successful Leaders Win through Integrative Thinking. Boston, MA: Harvard Business Review Press, 2009.

Norris, Donald M., and Nick L. Poulton. A Guide to Planning for Change. Ann Arbor: Society for College and University Planning, 2008.

“Key Performance Indicator | Definition of Key Performance Indicator in English by Oxford Dictionaries.” Oxford Dictionaries | English. Accessed September 19, 2016.

Wade, Woody. Scenario Planning: A Field Guide to the Future. Hoboken: Wiley, 2012.