Alum Specializes in Strategic Planning for Educational Institutions
Stevens Strategy, an independent consulting practice specializing in managing the strategic change process at higher and secondary education institutions, is the brainchild of John Stevens ’73 (political science). This venture, launched in 2003, builds on his track record of success and features a large client base, ownership of strategic planning intellectual property, and a highly qualified, competent staff of higher education experts.
Stevens, who holds Ed.M. and Ed.D. degrees from Harvard University, brings to the table more than thirty years of higher education experience in strategic planning, institutional organization and governance, process redesign, financial planning, information system selection and implementation, collective bargaining and executive search. Before creating this firm, Stevens was for 16 years the senior vice president and chief operating officer at another higher education consulting firm, leading its strategic planning process and strategy consulting practice. Prior to that, as vice president of administration at Rhode Island School of Design, he first developed his strategic planning process. Since then, Stevens has honed it into a highly successful five-phased method of process design, response to strategic issues, strategic agenda development, operational planning, and implementation.
More than seventy independent and public institutions, both large and small, from across the nation and abroad have benefited from Stevens’ expertise. All clients are asked to rate Stevens Strategy on a numerical scale from 1 to 10 (completely satisfied) for performance in all service components for each project. The overall average score in client satisfaction is 9.41.
One client, Dr. Jeffrey Barker, Converse College provost and former Albright College strategic planning coordinator, had this to say: “Dr. Stevens was invaluable in guiding the first organized strategic planning process at Albright College. His clear vision, direct approach, and proven models helped produce a strategic agenda that gave Albright both immediate momentum and the structures necessary for continued success in strategic planning. He helped us become better planners, giving us many of the tools we needed to do the job that needed to be done. The results went well beyond survival—Albright thrived as a result of solid planning.”
Dr. Colleen Hester, vice president of strategic planning and institutional research, University of Saint Thomas, adds: “We selected Stevens Strategy from a sea of consultants, and the outcomes of the alignment of our talents have exceeded my expectations.” She goes on to laud Stevens’s integrity, his effective inclusion of essential key constituents in the process, and the resulting ownership of the strategic agenda by broad elements of the community.
“Effective strategic planning is the lynchpin for successful management of educational institutions in our rapidly changing world,” says Stevens. The five-phased process, he explains, encourages institutional leaders to develop a school’s vision and strategy and allows the whole community—faculty, staff, students, alumni and others—to take ownership of the plan through extensive involvement in its development. The consistent achievement of both these objectives (executive leadership and broad ownership) while producing a sound and compelling strategic plan is a distinguishing feature of Stevens’ process.
“We help a board learn to govern strategically by focusing on high level policy and the measurement of key areas of institutional performance,” says Stevens. “We also determine what internal governance and management structures and systems for collaboration, communication and decision-making will serve an institution most effectively. By helping leaders understand their domains of authority and roles in shared governance, we improve an institution’s capacity for making big strategic decisions effectively and quickly, as required by a rapidly-changing marketplace.”
Stevens Strategy also works closely with clients to provide a variety of strategic analyses that focus on selected areas within an institution, specific issues, or unique planning scenarios. “This enables institutional leadership to evaluate the environment, think strategically and make significant decisions about the future with confidence and alacrity,” Stevens notes.
Through financial planning, Stevens Strategy guides the preparation of comprehensive plans for financial operations, reporting systems, benchmarking and other methods for effective management and thoughtful resource allocation.
The firm’s policy manual development service creates a systematized and comprehensive policy manual suitable for searchable use on an institution’s Intranet. “By having only one policy on each addressed topic that is easily accessible to all members of the institutional community, an institution gains ability to mitigate risk, enhance stakeholder relationships and otherwise allow for smooth administrative operations,” says Stevens.
Recently Stevens Strategy merged with Higher Education Executive Associates that pioneered the development of effective institution-wide policy manuals for colleges and universities. “HEEA’s services are highly complementary with ours,” says Stevens, “and we look forward to adding HEEA expertise to the products and services we offer our valued clients.”
Stevens’s community service includes a term as vice chairman of the board of the Urban League of Eastern Massachusetts and chairman of the board of trustees of New England College, a small residential, liberal arts college in Henniker, New Hampshire. He was interim president of New England College for a year, and until recently continued to serve on its board of trustees. A former member of the New School Jazz Program board of governors, Stevens is a mentor at Harvard University Graduate School of Education. He also is part of the international board of advisors to the Shala Valley Project, an effort to trace the origins and evolution of settlement in Northern Albania from the earliest times to the present.
May 12, 2008