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The Next Turn of the Flywheel

With 29 action items and hundreds of strategic steps, the Daniels Tomorrow strategic plan is the most comprehensive initiative in the College’s history. It provides a framework to achieve our vision: to be a premier private business college globally recognized as a leader whose educational experiences, outreach, and knowledge creation transform lives, organizations and communities.

These action items and strategic steps help the College make funding and resource allocation decisions. When the progress was compiled into a Major Accomplishments 2009-2012 document at the end of the third year, the progress was truly impressive.

However, it was clear that the latter half of the strategic plan was not as robustly populated with action steps as the first half had been. In 2008, we could not envision with precision where we would be in 2012 and what would need to be done going forward. Therefore, in January 2012, the College leadership agreed it was again time to take the pulse of the College and its environment. They decided that, rather than to allow the remaining years of the strategic plan to run their course, it would be better to pause and assess where we were.

As a guiding metaphor to assist in its assessment, the College chose the work of Jim Collins in his book Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap and Others Don’t. This book is rich with empirical data about companies who are defined as great. Collins used the physics of the flywheel to describe how companies move from being good to great by continuously “turning the flywheel,” always confronting reality, maintaining unwavering faith and discipline, focusing on the core business competencies, and using technology strategically. Looking through the lens provided by the book, the College realized it had completed the first turn of its flywheel in three years and was now ready to start the second big turn.

During the winter and spring, the dean presented this conclusion and the concept of the next turn of the flywheel to a variety of stakeholders, including the faculty and staff, the Executive Advisory Board, the Chancellor, the Provost and members of the Board of Trustees. The strong consensus from these discussions was that the College must reinvigorate the strategic plan and extend it to June 2015. This extension places the completion of Daniels Tomorrow after the next AACSB – International maintenance of reaccreditation visit in early 2015.

Revisiting the Research

One of the first steps undertaken at the midpoint review was to refresh the research that was conducted in 2008. This process was not a total replication of the effort in 2008, but selective data points were updated. The set of peer schools was revisited and revised to make sure the peer schools aligned well with Daniels. In addition, the Daniels Management Council spent time at its August 2012 retreat conducting an environmental scan to identify current pressures and opportunities facing us. This scan was augmented by the results of a consultant study on Daniels competitive advantage, which included information about trends in higher education and specifically business schools.

University of Denver Provost Dr. Gregg Kvistad visited the College several times in the spring and summer to discuss his thoughts about the direction that the University needs to take. He defined the business imperative of making sure that the University focuses on the value proposition to our students through strategic use of academic technology, interdisciplinary approaches to education and an emphasis on multiculturalism. He stressed that we cannot do “business as usual” if we hope to prevail in this environment. These comments supported and supplemented the College’s belief that the strategic plan needed to be strengthened.

Some of the key environmental trends identified were:

  • National decreases in MBA applications; GMAT test takers trending up in Asia and South America
  • Emergence of new competitors
  • Rise of online and blended programs
  • Consumer attention on “return on investment”
  • Containment of cost and price curves
  • Demographic changes

Revising the Strategic Action Plans

In spring 2012, the College identified our major accomplishments since 2009. We then re-examined the remaining action plans very critically, and redrafted them as appropriate for the next turn of the flywheel. In some cases, we created new action plans for areas we identified during the research phase or that were not addressed in the first half of the plan.

The result was a set of action items, or “big turns of the flywheel,” that the College could focus on through 2015. At its August 2012 retreat, the Management Council reviewed and voted on the following as the “six big turns” for the strategic plan going forward:

  • Achieve Top 50 Ranking for the Undergraduate Program
  • Globalize Daniels
  • Improve our Program Offerings
  • Focus on the Quality of the Academic Units
  • Create a Recognizable National and International Brand
  • Create a Financial Model for the College that Supports Excellence

The College embedded these six big turns into the Daniels Tomorrow strategic goals and, together, we are working to achieve them. Stay tuned for more detail on “our next turn of the flywheel.” We will continue to update our community on our plans and accomplishments.

Please visit DU’s COVID-19 website and subscribe to @uofdenver Twitter for updates regarding COVID-19.

Please visit DU’s COVID-19 website and subscribe to @uofdenver Twitter for updates regarding COVID-19.