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Shifting Benchmarks: From External to Internal Markers, Part 2

This post continues exploring a shift from external to internal markers and benchmarks.

For those who read our Shifting Tuition posts (you can access the first in the series by clicking here) you are aware that Winebrenner Seminary is making a shift toward a recurrent/subscription payment model. During our most recent Quarterly Planning meeting we reviewed a draft of a proposal that will be sent to our Board of Trustees requesting their approval of the specifics of this monthly payment plan. What struck me most was the integrated planning that was needed for this proposal. Projections for enrollment has a deep impact on financial forecasts.  Changes in revenue from enrollment requires input from advancement, focused on donor support. As the student population grows, academic oversight is concerned with maintaining quality.

Integrated planning will only be a success when there is clarity about internal benchmarks. An organization cannot simply implement what has worked successfully elsewhere; the best plans grow organically from within an organization, with an occasion infusion of creative ideas from external organizations.

As I continue to develop this theme, I want to provide some coordinates for moving forward with this shift toward internal benchmarks.

First, at Winebrenner we use the metaphor of a “Dashboard” to identify the data that is most closely watched and evaluated. We’ve been developing our current Dashboard for a few years and have a solid set of data points that we refer to regularly. Prior to this creation, it was difficult to find a single location where information was stored (we use a single Excel Spreadsheet as our Dashboard).

Second, and this is the however to add to the item above, as we’ve gained clarity about our current Dashboard we are finding that too much information is cumbersome when it comes to decision-making. My growing conviction is that there is a difference between what many schools would call “institutional data” and what is needed on a Dashboard. The best Dashboards – think about the metaphor and what is evident to a driver in a car – are simple, concise, and provide up to minute details about a few very important items.

We have started referring to this effort to revise our Dashboard as “Dashboard 2.0.” The next post will provide more specific details about what is emerging as the content of Dashboard 2.0 and how it can be directly tied to decision-making.