Annual Planning at the University of Pittsburgh

The annual planning process for the Provost’s area responsibility centers begins in December, when the Provost sends a letter to deans, directors, and campus presidents with instructions for the upcoming fiscal year annual plan. Each school and unit develops a 5–10-year strategic plan, annually assesses progress against the goals in the strategic plan, and adjusts strategies as necessary for the following year.The annual plans are first reviewed by the planning and budget committees within eachs chool or unit. The responsibility centers then submit their annual plans to the Provost in March. In April, the Provost’s Area Planning and Budgeting Committee (PAPBC), which comprises members of the unit-level PBCs, assesses the annual plans, the processes used for their development and review, and how well the plans align with University-level goals and strategies. The annual plans also are assessed by senior staff members in the Office of the Provost.When both groups have completed their reviews and communicated their findings to the Provost, typically in May, the Provost sends a letter to each dean, director, and campus president providing detailed feedback on his/her annual plans and guidance for continued improvement along with a copy of PAPBC’s review.

Retrospective analysis of the last 12 years of this planning and assessment process demonstrates improvements in the planning process that are partly based on increased use  of additional assessment tools and strategies. For example, Provost Maher commented in hisreview of annual plans for fiscal year 2001 that responsibility centers should not embark on a massive reformulation of plans each year:

“Rather, our planning should foster a culture of continuous improvement wherein an annual reflection on the successes and failures of the past year and on changes in the national and international scene that carry implications for the unit’s priorities combine to form a midcourse correction to improve the plan.”

The Provost continued to encourage a commitment to continuous improvement in subsequent annual instructions to the responsibility centers, stating in 2002 that “We have now moved into a culture of continuous improvement, looking to build upon the strengths of our identified priorities toward improvements beyond our realized successes.” In 2005, he requested “consideration of what you have learned about your unit and how that knowledge can help you improve further.”

In 2007, the Provost convened an ad hoc working group to formulate instructions for improving planning, charging it with developing new annual planning instructions “that would be responsive to the urgency that we [the University] continually better ourselves, clearly show results of the previous year’s activities in terms of the goals articulated in the previous year’s plans, and commit to goals for the coming year in support of the longer range goals for improvement of the school or unit, as well as the University.” The adhoc working group recommended improving the alignment of the responsibility centers’ activities with the University mission and the key goals of the Provost’s area and recommended that annual plans develop more specific short- and long-term goals and use metrics to measure incremental progress toward longer-term goals. This recommendation resulted in the creation of a new template model for annual plans. By using the template, schools and units would submit plans with better-defined strategic priorities, more clearly described goals, specific continuing actions that will lead to those goals, and specific measureable outcomes to assess success in reaching each goal. These recommendations became the basis of instructions for the fiscal year 2009 plans.The fiscal year 2010 and fiscal year 2011 plans expanded on and emphasized the need to include quantitative metrics to measure progress and document success.