Real-World Strategy Execution
featuring Amie Kendall of MCC's Office of Enterprise Project Management, Planning and Institutional Effectiveness
Metropolitan Community College (MCC) was the first community college established in Missouri and one of the first colleges in the country to offer an associate degree.
This tradition of innovation and achievement manifests itself today in “MCC Reimagined”, a 10-year Strategic Plan that was adopted in 2021.
Amie Kendall, Senior Project Lead at MCC’s Office of Enterprise Project Management, Planning & Institutional Effectiveness, shares insights into MCC Reimagined and its four strategic themes, how this plan was based on successes in the previous strategic plan, and more! Amie is interviewed by Ted Jackson, strategy reporting and performance management expert and co-founder of ClearPoint Strategy.
Two brief video excerpts are available for quick viewing below, and the full 30-minute interview can be viewed at the top of the page:
Improving Strategy Planning and Reporting:
Setting Operational & Global Goals (And What Those Goals Are):
In addition, Metropolitan Community College has permitted us to share the following planning assets:
Also, a curated transcript of the interview is below if you prefer to skim through it – we hope you enjoy!
Transcript of Interview with Amie Kendall:
Ted Jackson: So Amie, why don’t you tell me, and tell us, a little bit more about Metropolitan Community College and your planning process.
Amie Kendall: So Metropolitan Community College is a community college located in the Kansas City metropolitan area. MCC Consists of 5 different campuses, about 800 full time employees, and every year we educate an average of 20,000 individuals via credit and non credit classes and also business services. MCC has a really deep, rooted, and special relationship with the State of Missouri, and also specifically the city of Kansas City. It was founded in 1915, and it was the first higher education institution in Kansas City, and it was also the first community college in Missouri. And so that relationship and that history that we have is something that we really respect. And and we’re proud to say that today we are one of the most affordable community colleges in the State of Missouri for Missouri residents. I work in the office of Enterprise Project Management, Planning, and Institutional Effectiveness. It’s a very long title, but we are a mighty team of 2 here at Metropolitan Community College. And we are focused on helping, facilitate and execute planning at all levels across the entire college, and also helping with continuous improvement efforts and accreditation.
Ted Jackson: Let’s go right into it and jump into how you do planning, and you know, what you did before ClearPoint. How does it work now? Tell us a little bit more about that process.
Amie Kendall: Sure. Metropolitan Community College has always been very devoted and committed to planning. It’s something that we have always seen the value in, and and really made an effort to prioritize. But, as was mentioned, I know, and the promotion of this conversation we just recently adopted our newest strategic plan. It’s called MCC Reimagined. It’s a 10-year strategic plan that kicked off in January of 2022 so we’re one year into that 10 year cycle. And as we were sitting down and began the developing phases of this plan, and started thinking through all of our different stakeholders and the conversations we needed to have in the data, and how we are going to do all that… First of all, it was a very difficult and weird time as it was for everybody. It was during COVID, and so we had to pivot and take all of those data, collection, and engagement opportunities virtual.
But 2 things really kind of emerged, and we realized that these 2 tenants were guiding, not just our strategic planning efforts, but really just how we think of planning here at the college. The first of those tenants being: if it gets measured, it gets managed. And that means that it was really important to us that all of our work be measurable and be regularly tracked, for, you know, to keep it on the forefront of our minds. And the second tenant was: strategy is all about choices. Obviously we all know all too well that we don’t have infinite resources, and so we want to think about strategy as a way of prioritization and making choices for the best and the good of our stakeholders in the college community. So through those 2 tenants, you know, we have 3 different planning levels, and all 3 of these planning levels existed prior to this strategic plan. They’ve existed for quite some time. But it was through this strategic plan process and the development of the plan that we were really able to strengthen the alignment between those 3 different levels.
The first level is our strategic plan. So again, MCC Reimagined. It’s a 10-year strategic plan and it features a strategy map that I’ll share. 4 strategic themes that are really baked into the entirety of the plan and 14 organizational goals that we, as a college community want to impact over the next decade. So that’s kind of our high-level planning. And the next component in that orange circle there is what we call our playbook. Our playbook consists of our campus and our shared service plans. These are plans that are midterm in length. So they’re 3-year plans, and what they’re meant to do is help take some of those bigger goals and our strategic plan and make them a little bit more digestible and a little bit more achievable in the mid-range. Those combined, we call them our playbook, because it really helps turn those goals into action. And then the file component is our institutional effectiveness planning. I know we are going to be talking about this a lot for this conversation, so I’ll save a lot of the details on that. But our institutional effectiveness. Planning is an annual cycle that operationalizes all of these goals and helps us evaluate our work and our processes for continuous improvement.
This next visual we borrowed from the balance core card framework. When we went into the strategic plan, we were very intentional in wanting to ensure that we were considering every perspective and every avenue and giving all of our stakeholders and their unique needs, you know, fair and balanced consideration. And so we adopted the balanced scorecard framework, which I know a ClearPoint is very tied to and very connected to, and it really has allowed us to visualize our goals in a unique way. But this continuum is from that framework at the very top. We have our mission. Why do we exist? Why do we show up to work every day? That’s supported by our values, or what’s important to us as a community college and our vision, and where we want to go, and where we want to be in the future. These 3 components were actually they were all updated as part of our MCC Reimagined strategic plan launch. We’re not going to focus on those so much today, but all of those are very important tools that kind of lay the foundation for helping us make planning and strategic decisions.
Our strategy: So this is that first ring that I showed you on the previous page. How we will advance our long-term game plan. We bring that down a little bit on a more granular level through our playbook, which is those 3-year shared service and campus plans that take those broader goals and and put them into specific deliverables for operations. And then, finally, that’s all supported by our Institutional Effectiveness Plans which is our IEP, and that’s all about continuous improvement. That’s an annual cycle where we put all of this into action. Assess how we did, and continue to improve for future years.
This is what we call our MCC Strategic scorecard. So when people here at the college are talking about the strategic plan, this is what they’re referring to this image you’re seeing right here. At the conclusion of this, the creation of the plan. Every employee was given a copy of this strategy map, and it’s been really cool to see that they’ve hung on to them, and it’s not uncommon for me to have a Zoom meeting and see kind of over-the-shoulder someone or see one hanging on someone’s door.
The community: The internal college community has really embraced this, I think, because it’s visually appealing and easy to digest, and it kind of outlines who we are as a college. And what’s important to us all on one page. But I’ll explain a little bit about it. So those strategic themes there, you see in the yellowish and the green again, are 4 strategic themes. We lovingly refer to them as the MCC’s 4 Key Es, because they all begin with an E, easy to remember. And then below that you’ll see those 4 different columns, and within those 4 columns are our 14 organizational goals. So these are our big goals for the next decade. And you’ll see that they’re categorized by perspective. This is what I was referring to before. With the balanced scorecard perspective. We realize that the goals and the needs of our students may be very different than the needs of our employees and the goals that we have for our employees. And so we wanted to make sure that we differentiated that and separated that, and showed a real full balanced perspective of what all of our different stakeholders need in order to ensure that no one was unintentionally overlooked, and that our resources were balanced effectively. And the very bottom. You’ll see that white box institutional effectiveness plans again. I know that’s what we’re talking about today, and that’s what we’ve been housing in ClearPoint. So that’s probably a good transition, Ted to your next question.
Ted Jackson: Yeah, that’s what I was gonna say. I mean, this is this is really great. What were you doing before ClearPoint?
Amie Kendall: Sure, so, as I said, our institutional effectiveness planning is now housed in ClearPoint. Prior to ClearPoint, and we acquired ClearPoint about 2-ish years ago, that process existed and was robust and was used, but it was more cumbersome. We kept track of all of these institutional effectiveness plans on PDF. The individuals responsible with filling out the PDFs would fill it out. They would send them to my office. We would review them if there needed to be changes. We’d reach out to them and help them. They’d send us a new copy. It was just very manual. And now that they’re all in ClearPoint, and I’ll be able to show a little bit about how we use ClearPoint to really streamline it, it’s a very efficient and integrated process.
Ted Jackson: Right? So not to be sales-y, but it sounds like you’re saving a lot of time in that process as well. So I think a lot of people think IEP and think about secondary school individual education plan. But your IEPs are a little bit different. You describe them like a a work plan. How many of these plans do you have? Can you give us a little more detail about, how big of a strategic planning effort is this?
Amie Kendall: So the way MCC views it, basically it’s continuous improvement. It’s the idea that we can always be improving our services. And the way that we are serving our communities and our students and our other stakeholders. And so this ICP cycle, the institutional effectiveness planning cycle, is a yearly cycle here at MCC. It’s that last component of kind of our planning continuum that I shared on that PowerPoint. But our our IEP cycle really serves as a mechanism for the college to engage in ongoing systematic and data-driven evaluation of our operations and our processes. And we’re able to see through that evaluation. If our processes and our operations are really serving who we’re serving, or who we need to be serving, and whether they’re supporting those big organizational goals and our strategic plan that we, as a college, have committed to impacting over the next decade. And so the way it all works is, the college is divided into 61 planning units. You might think of that as kind of a division or a department in your organization. These planning units are autonomous units within the college that have a lot of impact over a service or an operational component of the college. So these planning units, they’re all headed by what we refer to as a Planning Unit Manager who is the head of that unit, and they engage in this cycle every year.
And so here’s what the cycle looks like. It runs from June to May. in June, we do what is called opening the loop – we kick off the new cycle. And every planning unit is responsible for identifying 4 operational goals that their planning unit specifically wants to impact in the next year. We’re looking at just on a year-term basis. This is supposed to be short-term in nature. 3 of those operational goals can be completely unique to the planning unit. It can be unique to their specific concerns or priorities, or what’s going on on their horizon that may not be impacting other areas of the college. The 4th operational goal is what we call our global goal. This is a new component to planning here at MCC. But it’s one we’re really excited about. Essentially it’s every year, the college community and college leadership identify 1 key goal that they really want to impact over the next year, and they want the entire college to be focusing its efforts on over the next year. It’s usually something that’s very timely, something that’s culturally relevant. So for this this year, our global goal has to do with supporting DEI efforts at the college. Last year, it had to do with enhancing a culture of assessment here at the college. But the framework is every planning unit across the college, whether you’re working in facilities, whether you are working in instruction, whether you are working in IT. Everybody plays a role in impacting these major initiatives at the college, and so through that global goal these planning units think creatively about how they specifically will impact that goal.
A few key things to note for all of the operational goals, whether it’s those 3 unique ones or it’s the global goal. The planning units identify tactics, a performance measure and a target that goes back to the “if it gets measured it gets managed.” We want to make sure we’re tracking progress, you know, in a real definite way. And then all of those operational goals also support the broader goals of the college. So every single operational goal is gonna be supporting one of the goals featured in your respective campus or shared service plan. And then, because it’s supporting that, it’s supporting one of our organizational goals in our strategic plan. That alignment is natural, but we are able to demonstrate it in ClearPoint with our use of tagging. And that just really helps again reinforce the inter-relationship between these planning components.
At the end of the cycle, we do what is called closing the loop. This occurs in May. Our planning units go in, and they assess all the work they’ve completed. They identify some continuous improvement opportunities. They identify lessons learned, they give us an update on where they are with this particular goal, and they also have the ability to identify and request resources to further enhance this goal. And the thing we’re excited about with that is this resource request we close the loop in May, the fiscal year starts in July. So you’re able to to request dollars for a pretty immediate turnaround, and really make your case for why those dollars are important.
Ted Jackson: So then a question I’ve come up kinda why you’ve been talking is, how long did it take to populate ClearPoint? It sounds like you have a pretty robust planning process. You have these 3 layers like, was it difficult or easy to get it in ClearPoint? Or was it created as part of a process using ClearPoint like, is it easy to separate out? And then the follow up to that was: what’s it like for reviewing this process in ClearPoint, you know just the amount of time you have to spend on it?
Amie Kendall: So I actually joined MCC right as the ClearPoint relationship was kind of taking off. So I join MCC in February, and at that point, you know, the relationship had been formed, and we are working with the ClearPoint team on building out what this would look like. And then we ended up going live with it that summer. So it was over the course of between February to, I think July is when we finally launched it and introduced it to our users. So it was fairly quick, and we had a great support staff over there at ClearPoint, who really helped us customize it and build everything out and make it our own.
For the second question pertaining to what it’s like to review all this information on our end and ClearPoint. It’s very easy, because it’s all in 1 point. So before these IEPs, as I said, we were receiving them in PDF format, and we had an individual PDF for every plan, so we had like 60 PDFs. Now, since it all lives in ClearPoint, in one place, we can just with the click of a mouse click through everybody’s different IEPs and view them very easily. We can view them side-by-side if we want. We can compare them to IEPs from previous cycles, because it all lives right there in ClearPoint. So it’s definitely helped us a lot in terms of reviewing the information and accessing them.
Ted Jackson: Great, well as much as we think ClearPoint is awesome, we appreciate you singing our praises. I can’t imagine that all of the planning unit managers kind of jumped in with joy and and gusto with it. What were some of the challenges you ran into? And how did you overcome them?
Amie Kendall: Yeah, joy and gusto. Those are big words to live up to, you know! I think our transition to ClearPoint is maybe a little bit unique from possibly some of your other clients, in the sense that our institutional effectiveness planning cycle, that IEP cycle was well-developed and entrenched in the college prior to our new strategic plan, prior to ClearPoint, prior to me working here. It’s existed for a long time. And so these planning unit managers of people involved in that process were well-versed and well aware of what the process looked like. The importance of it. They understood it. They were bought in how to engage in it. So it wasn’t like we were starting from scratch. So that was a a plus on our side. I think there could have been some healthy skepticism among some of our users, just at the idea of kind of the next new, big, thing, right? We live in a time where there’s always a new technology and your solution and the software they all have these really like quippy little names. And I think it just can be a lot for people. And so I do think that there were some people who were probably thinking “another software that I’m gonna have to learn, another username and password that I’m gonna have to write down and try to keep in my head,” through it all. The executive director in our office, Ed Foley and I, we were very confident in the capabilities and the customization offered by ClearPoint, and we knew that when our users got in, and actually got to use the system, that that would kind of address any of their concerns.
But to prepare for the transition, we did a lot of training. We made sure every single planning unit manager attended a live training held by one of us where we explained our transition over to this new tool. We did a little bit of a walkthrough and taught some very basic ideas. It’s very user-friendly and intuitive, what we did, and just very basic tips. And I think the fact that they could tell that Ed and I were really bought into this. We knew this was what was right for the college, and we knew it was going to strengthen our work. I think they could see that that was genuine, and I think that that was kind of contagious. You know, we weren’t just going through the motions, we really were bought in, and I think people kind of picked up on that. I will say we continue with trainings today. So every time a new planning unit manager starts with the college, they meet with me, and I give them a training on ClearPoint. We offer yearly live trainings. We have some pre-recorded trainings on demand. All of that we maintain just to kind of keep those relationships with the platform going.
But I think another thing that really honestly helped with our transition was our ability to customize ClearPoint to make it look and feel like the college. It was really important to us that this wasn’t going to be some kind of like 3rd party alien thing that people went into a couple of times a year, and could never quite remember how to log in and all this stuff. We wanted it to feel like part of the college and part of the culture and ClearPoint offers so many customizations that allowed us to do that. Just, for example, if you were walking through the halls of our college today, you wouldn’t hear people refer to this as ClearPoint. You would hear them refer to it as ClearWolf, our mascot for the college is a wolf. And so internally to try to help people understand that this is part of our culture, and this is who we are, and this is here to stay. We refer to it as ClearWolf, the colors, and our IEP, or our college colors, the pictures on our pages, our pictures of our actual students, and our actual employees. And then we also are able to house that strategy map scorecard that I showed during the PowerPoint. It’s hosted on every single page that we have in ClearPoint. So you’re never far from it. And that’s the visual reminder of kind of the bigger picture. And how these IEPs influence the bigger picture. We are on our 3rd cycle now, of using ClearPoint for our IEP cycles, and I will say that after every cycle and every big training push we receive less questions. And we’ve really seen everybody’s confidence in their ability to use the system grow.
Ted Jackson: That’s great. So we talked a little bit about this earlier. But would you say that the transitioning from the kind of the PDF process to ClearPoint is a big time saver? Do you see it kind of out of your office, or do you also hear it from the planning units?
Amie Kendall: I think it’s a time saver for both. So we commit a lot of resources and time and dedication to our planning and to specifically the institutional effectiveness planning cycle, and that’s because I think part of the reason why we’ve had so much success and impact with our IEP cycle is because it’s very people-driven. We’ve made it a very collaborative approach. We want to brainstorm with our planning unit managers. We want to help them. We want them to work together and and look at each other’s IEPs, and see where there might be some commonality that they can partner with. All of those human elements are very, very important, and will never go away, right? That being said, ClearPoint has definitely offered some time-saving tools to help us cut down on really the logistical burden of those conversations and those collaborations. I mentioned the PDFs before. It’s definitely less cumbersome to, you know, if we need to make a change on a PDF. I can call that person. We can be on the phone. They can make it right there in ClearPoint. Save it. It’s saved. No more sending PDFs back and forth. You know, I think we see just in our engagement from our planning unit managers that they’re not seeing this as like a big “to-do” because they’ve been in it, and I know it’s not a big to-do, and it’s easy and it’s intuitive, and they’re gonna be able to do it efficiently on our end. I think there’s definitely time-saving just in terms of data analysis. Previously we were tracking all of our work on our different tactics with our previous strategic plan, and excel documents having them all tracked in one single house has been really beneficial, because you know all the information is right there. But really, just through our use of tags in ClearPoint, we are able to automate data analysis and and have real-time data very, very quickly. That is very usable to our leaders in our college. You enter in your information, and then, bam, I have a very pretty graph that really outlines exactly where we sit. I can share that with the college leader, and they can take that into consideration as they move forward. So time savings on both ends, I’d say.
Ted Jackson: Yeah, and it sounds like you’re getting higher quality reports as a result. We’ve got a lot of questions have been kind of piling in, so we might do a speed round before we go.
So, how did you present the 10-year plan to all stakeholders? How did you get buy-in as you went through those 3 circles that you presented earlier?
Amie Kendall: Yeah, it was as I mentioned, it was challenging because it was COVID times. And so we had to get really creative, especially externally. We conducted a lot of virtual community engagement sessions. Internally, we conducted a lot of focus groups with our employees, and we did surveys. We try to get creative and use as many tools as we could to reach as many different pockets of our stakeholders in a way that was easy to them. We try to come to them. Ultimately we also use some external analysis to validate the themes that we drew from our results in our data, and I think that also helped with the buying component.
Ted Jackson: what do you have in plans for the future with ClearPoint and with your office and kind of pushing through performance management?
Amie Kendall: Sure. So another thing that our office focuses on, and as an educational institution, this is obviously very important is accreditation. And I will say that integrated planning is a key component of our criteria through our national accreditation body. And so we’ve had interactions with them as of late where we’ve shared the ClearPoint tool. We’ve shared this strengthening of the alignment between our planning components and received really positive feedback that they were pleased to see that kind of dedication. And so I think as we continue on that accreditation cycle, I think we know we’ll always be looking for opportunities. I know there’s also been some talk of some automation that might save some time for me and Ed, instead of going through and manually having to check. If people have completed their IEPs that could be automated, and we could get a little report telling us who’s outstanding and who’s not? That will be helpful as well.
Ted Jackson: Well, Amy, we are out of time. I think we could have gone on for another another half hour, so we might call you back.
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