University president discusses opportunities in strategic planning with Howe students

11/12/2013

Plenty of businesses devote critical human and capital resources to developing complex strategic plans.

The real challenge for those organizations, President Nariman Farvardin said, is actually following through on it.

Speaking to freshmen and sophomores in Dr. Ann Murphy’s Honors Business Seminar. Farvardin discussed the formation of the university’s 10-year strategic plan, including the challenges and opportunities such a document offers a business.

The great majority of organizations that create such plans, he said, produces “a beautiful document … that goes on the bookshelf and collects dust.”

The plan’s growth targets are ambitious — and include increasing the undergraduate student body to 4,000, becoming a leader in key industry areas and improving graduate admissions selectivity  — but are proceeding on schedule.

Students asked Farvardin a number of questions about the Stevens plan and creating such plans in general, giving the president a chance to discuss the first such plan he wrote, for the University of Maryland, in 1995.

“I developed the worst strategic plan in the world,” Farvardin said, “but it was a learning experience.”

A successful plan, he told students, is best developed when the president or chief executive outlines objectives and boundaries, then selects a committee to lead the effort in deciding a strategic course of action, using input from all stakeholders. The plan then needs specific targets, methods to achieve them and a process for ensuring execution happens.

Students asked the president about opposition he faced in developing the plan, the student role in the plan’s execution and how the university would keep its student-centric focus while planning for so much growth.

But the hardest part of any strategic plan, Farvardin said, is seeing it through after it’s published. They are “fashionable to develop,” but require great discipline and patience to see through. 

One area where the planning process created an impact, Farvardin said, was getting university stakeholders who were eager to grow the university on the same page. “Just like when you row a boat, we wanted everyone rowing in the same direction,” he said. “Without that, we would start to go in circles.”

Farvardin is just the most recent guest speaker to address Murphy’s class. Previous lectures have been delivered by the owners of bwé kafe, in Hoboken, and the CEO of Clark-based Global Risk Consultants.

It’s one way business programs at Stevens provide students real-world knowledge and application experiences. 

“At the Howe School, students learn about business theory, but they spend most of their time learning how that theory comes to life in real-world organizations,” Murphy said. “This curriculum priority, coupled with our location minutes away from New York City, make it easy for us to bring speakers into the classroom, as well as involve industry in real student projects. This helps our students hit the ground running when they land their internships, or their full-time jobs upon graduation.”