Engineering a Strategy

When Victor Paquet was named chair of UB’s Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering (ISE), he knew he needed a focused strategy to move the organization forward.

“Stepping into this role, I felt like I owed the department something,” he says. “ISE has been really good to me over the past 20 years, so I wanted to make sure it would advance and be better.

And we’re already strong, so I knew I was going to need some help.”

Other UB engineering  departments had already achieved strategic success with CLOE, so Paquet reached out to Rick Steinberg, School of Management executive in residence for leadership,  to set a vision for the future that aligned with the goals of UB and the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.

“Rick helped us develop an inclusive process that allowed all of our stakeholders to have a say,” says Paquet. “What I like about his approach is it’s based on well- grounded strategic theory and is realistic about expectations and time constraints.”

Steinberg says the key to a successful plan is a three-step process that begins with the end in mind.

“It all starts with defining a desired future state for your organization with a mission and vision,” he says. “Once you’ve established where you want to be, you come back to the present to analyze where you are—then you set the action plan to get you there.”

But even the most well-defined plans are subject to disruption, and the coronavirus pandemic brought systemic changes that upended life for everyone in the university—and around the world.

As part of ISE’s planning process, CLOE prepared the department to adapt to change without rewriting their plan from scratch.

“Our plan has a large focus on faculty, staff and student life—a lot of things that were halted due to COVID-19,” says Paquet. “So I went to our strategic plan when I knew we had to make logistical changes and thought, ‘How are we going to stay the course in this new environment?’”

The department pivoted their engagement efforts and used social media and video conferencing to bring students together virtually. Alumni panel discussions highlighted how COVID-19 impacted careers, and social media competitions brought fun to professional development.

“It all fit perfectly into the plan, but the action steps we took to meet the objectives of that plan were very different,” says Paquet. “A lot of that framework was Rick’s doing; I didn’t realize how important it was until COVID-19 hit.”

Looking ahead, Paquet hopes this process serves as a model for future department chairs to keep ISE moving forward.

“We’ve made significant progress already, but there’s still a lot of work to do,” he says. “When this plan is up, we hope to work with CLOE again to refine what we’ve done already. It’s not just the process—it’s the people at CLOE who help businesses and organizations become better.”

Strategic Planning

Set a vision for the future and establish an action plan to grow your organization, capitalize on new opportunities and manage challenges.