BOULDER — When Rick George was named the sixth Athletic Director in University of Colorado history last summer, one of his first projects he wanted to complete was the development of the athletic department’s first-ever comprehensive strategic plan, similar to ones he put in place at several of his previous stops.
After nearly four months of input, analysis and planning meetings that involved a broad group of individuals representing athletic staff, current student-athletes, alumni, donors and university representatives, George unveiled the strategic plan Wednesday morning to members of the Board of Regents’ Intercollegiate Athletics Committee at its meeting in Colorado Springs, well ahead of his original April 1 target date for completion.
George worked closely with Dr. Jeffrey Luftig, Associate Vice Chancellor for Process Innovation and the Director of CU’s Office for Performance Improvement, who oversees one of the unique departments in all of college academia. Luftig is considered an expert authority in the development of strategic plans, their formulation and the creation of metrics to measure their progress.
"The enthusiasm of the team assembled and led by Rick George and Emily Canova (CU's Assistant Director for Leadership Development) has been incredible,” Luftig said. “While the Athletics Program team is not the first to execute this process on the CU-Boulder campus, they have certainly been the most focused group I have worked with; completing the first phase of the policy deployment process in the shortest period of time of any unit to date."
The period for the strategic plan technically covers the 2014-15 through 2016-17 academic/athletic years, though the themes in the vision and mission are in the process of being identified right now.
The overall elements of the plan are core values, the department’s vision and mission, and value proposition. All must be concise, precise and measurable, with targets that are both aspirational yet obtainable.
The core values are comprised of five significant points that form the acronym RAPID: Respect (recognize and embrace each individual’s unique value to the department); Accountability (take personal responsibility for actions and results); Passion (personal energy that drives work ethic, focus and a need to excel); Integrity (operating in an honest and ethical manner); and Dedication (unwavering loyalty to the department and shared vision).
The vision of CU Athletics is to be nationally recognized as a premier athletics program, by providing a world class and holistic student-athlete experience, operating in a fiscally responsible manner while consistently competing for and winning championships. Thus, the mission:
- Provide a world class and comprehensive student-athlete experience by enhancing our academic, health and wellness, and personal development programs.
- Achieve a significant improvement in the department's financial condition by fiscal year 2016-17, focusing on operating efficiently and increasing total revenues through well-established and innovate initiatives.
- To raise the level of competitive excellence for all 17 intercollegiate varsity programs to be able to compete for and win championships.
In order to achieve these objectives, one of the major areas of emphasis will be to develop and renovate facilities that will provide a student-centered experience, enhanced recruiting opportunities and create new revenue streams.
The value proposition takes into account all of the above and is summed up in the following manner: CU Athletics showcases the University of Colorado nationally, transforming our broad and diverse communities into stakeholders by inspiring excellence, instilling pride and celebrating success.
The plan includes construct analysis where critical performance measures (CPMs) are divided into two categories, key performance indicators (KPIs) and non-financial indicators (NFIs). KPIs are generally financially based, such as return on investment, return on capital expended and net revenue, while NFIs include a wide array of items, ranging from team performances and accomplishments, average grade point averages for student-athletes on a particular team and the program as a whole, percent rates of alumni involvement to positive media stories and the number of people visiting CUBuffs.com or subscribe to the school’s social media outlets.
A “Lead Team” of internal staff members will be selected by George to monitor the plan’s progress and to keep it moving toward the department’s mission and vision.
Four major constructs, or themes, have been identified: national recognition, operating in a fiscally responsible manner, consistently competing for and winning championships; and offering and operating world class programs.
There are several components of the strategic plan:
- Strategic Items. These require a significant change from current levels and improvements that would not occur from day-to-day, tactical or continuous improvement activities;
- Tactical Items. Part of normal business activities, the require maintenance or Kaizen improvement to prevent backsliding;
- Strategic Intent. Broad goals or objectives;
- Strategic Objective. A subcomponent of a strategic intent, this includes a specific target or achievement and may also encompass a number of administrative areas;
- Focal Point. A subcomponent of a strategic objective, this is highly specific as to include targets to be achieved and its milestone date;
- Tactical Objective. Also a subcomponent of a strategic intent, these include specific targets or achievements but are not on the same level as a strategic objective as these require lower improvement rates or even just simple maintenance;
- Check Point. A subcomponent of a tactical objective, these are highly specific similar to a focal point in that there are targets to be achieved, or a level to be maintained, with milestone dates;
- Enabler. These are typically an information system or database that must be created in order to measure a CPN or set a target (or both);
- Validation Metrics. These are external measures over which the Lead Team has no control, only influence, but which can reflect evidence that to external constituencies that the Strategic Plan is working to achieve the stated objectives and goals. These include but are not limited to the number of national broadcasts each year, standings in final polls or accepted computer rankings each year and the number of national awards or honors attained annually.
There are process owners who are responsible for following the progress on achieving the identified targets for each CPM, making certain that the appropriate resources are dedicated to the successful achievement of those targets, and bringing resource requirements to the Lead Team when necessary. There are over two dozen process owners, including all CU head coaches and several administrative staff members.
There are three strategic intents.
The first is to significantly improve the financial status of the athletic department; it then has two strategic objectives, achieving significant increases in annual net revenue and in revenue generated from targeted sources of operating revenue. Focal points for each of those would be projected total overall net revenue for the 2016-17 fiscal year and the same on an individual basis from any other operational entities (e.g., football, women’s basketball, licensing, outside events, leased space, etc.). Those are followed by tactical objectives, e.g., maintaining current levels or achieve incremental increases in net revenue, maintain minimal increases in expenses and maintain a sound financial plan. There are check points for each.
The second strategic intent is to significantly improve the overall collective competitiveness of CU’s 17 varsity sports programs, or in the case of CU’s two current reigning national champions, skiing and men’s cross country, maintain what is in place to achieve that success.These targets range from winning Pac-12 championships in multiple sports; advancing deep into NCAA championships and tournaments; finishing at certain levels in the conference championships and/or recognized final national rankings; and earning bowl invitations and competing in at least one Pac-12 football championship game.
George has made it clear that the targets are aspirations and/or goals; it’s what the coaches, who had full input into developing these targets, want their programs to minimally aspire to accomplish in the next three-year time frame. These are not demands or even predictions, they are goals to aspire to achieve and sets forth in motion what everyone needs to do to get there.
The third strategic intent is to significantly improve academic and personal develop programs in order to achieve world class status for those programs serving CU’s approximately 350 student-athletes. This is directly tied to CU’s Athletic Complex Expansion, which includes areas for a leadership development program, increased areas for sports medicine and strength and conditioning, addition space for the Herbst Academic Center for a learning lab, tutorial and study rooms, a study hall, an expanded computer lab and office space for learning specialists. In addition, a “cutting edge” high performance sports center will house human performance labs and facilities that will benefit faculty and students and student-athletes alike.