Third Thursday: Bliss Adkison

Embracing Change: How Strategic Doing Enhances University Planning and Execution

Third Thursday Video

About Our Third Thursday Guest: Bliss Adkison

Bliss Adkison

Bliss Adkison is the Director for Institutional Effectiveness and Strategic Planning at The University of West Alabama, with a robust background in organizational effectiveness and strategic planning. Her experience spans roles at the University of North Alabama, where she supported faculty and staff in developing assessment strategies and facilitated professional development focused on institutional effectiveness. With an MBA in Enterprise Resource Planning and Information Systems and a certification in Quality Improvement Management, Bliss excels in driving continuous improvement and strategic initiatives in educational settings, making her an expert in agile strategy and strategic doing.

Key Themes:

1. Strategic planning effectiveness and challenges

2. Strategic revitalizing stagnant plans

3. Implementing new course scheduling policies

4. Community and industry partnership initiatives

5. Space utilization and management improvements

6. Training workshops and practitioner certifications

7. Future strategies in polarized environments


Questioning Unrealistic Goals: “Why is that a goal? Is that really a viable goal or is that really a realistic goal for us? And what data is that based on?”— Bliss Adkison 00:19:3000:19:39

Exploring University Goal Setting: “If you’re familiar with institutional effectiveness, you know that we have a lot of times we use our annual plans to establish goals, and then we look at the measurement of those goals and then the continuous improvement around those goals.”— Bliss Adkison 00:21:3400:21:47

Strategic Planning Challenges: “It’s not like a very, it wasn’t very aligned, seamless process where that was happening and really connected back to that strategic plan.”— Bliss Adkison 00:22:2600:22:35

Data-Driven Decision-Making in Education: “They’re going to create this place where all the data is in one place that is important to the enrollment decision so that as we move into the process of creating the new strategic plan, we can have more educated conversations and data-driven conversations about what the numbers are and the real goals that we pick.”— Bliss Adkison 00:39:0500:39:22

Time Stamped Overview

00:00 Interactive polling about strategic planning, starting soon.

06:55 Topic: Strategic planning and doing, upcoming practitioner training.

09:41 Bliss is a strategic planning expert.

15:01 New leadership has driven university strategic plan.

18:36 Strategic plan lacked ownership and connection. Unclear documentation.

19:28 Questioning viability and ownership of campus goals.

24:57 Phone conversation leads to campus revitalization efforts.

27:38 Clarifying goals, aligning initiatives, and strategizing.

31:15 Establishing goals, objectives, tactics, processes, strategic doing.

34:28 30 30s: Culture shift in meeting dynamics.

38:41 Plan to create curated dashboard for data-driven decisions.

42:10 Recent initiatives, movement and space evaluation results.

44:08 Mary Marshall has answered all except one.

49:35 Promoting strategic doing in organizational effectiveness initiatives.

52:24 Positive feedback on presentation, query about implementation.

56:42 Hannah shares November event details and invites participation.

57:16 Focusing on stories of change and hope.

Transformative Planning in Academia

In the latest edition of the Third Thursday series for October, hosted by Liz Nilsen from the Agile Strategy Lab at the University of North Alabama, we delved into the profound impact of strategic planning and strategic doing within academic institutions. The guest, Bliss Adkison, serving as the director for institutional effectiveness and strategic planning at the University of West Alabama, provided rich insights on revitalizing university strategic frameworks.

The Role of Strategic Doing

Strategic planning, an essential tool for organizational direction, often falls short without effective implementation strategies. Unlike traditional static planning processes, strategic doing introduces a dynamic approach that catalyzes action and produces tangible results. Bliss Adkison’s account made it clear: engaging methods like strategic doing transform lofty plans into executable, ongoing practices.

Case Study University of West Alabama

Under Bliss Adkison’s guidance, the University of West Alabama embarked on a journey to refresh its static strategic plan. She introduced the concept of ‘strategic doing,’ integrating it comprehensively throughout the institution. Challenges with previous strategic frameworks included unclear ownership and lack of alignment with university activities. To address these, the university conducted goal-setting retreats, facilitated structured conversations (termed ‘boss card’ discussions), and mapped goals to specific actions using tools like the X matrix during strategic doing events.

Cultural Shifts and Practical Outcomes

Strategic doing helped clarify goals and engage departments and triggered a cultural shift towards continuous improvement and accountability. With nearly 50 people involved, the strategic doing event spearheaded by Mary Marshall and facilitated through activities like the X matrix led to clearly defined responsibilities and more cohesive operations. This process underpinned new initiatives such as developing a faculty staff resource guide, establishing a one-stop student information center, and setting practical undergraduate enrollment targets.

Future Directions and Continuous Engagement

Adopting agile, goal-oriented strategies is imperative as universities continue to adapt to rapid changes and challenges in higher education. The University of West Alabama’s example, illuminated by Bliss Adkison and discussed during the Third Thursday event, showcases the power of adapting strategic methodologies to invigorate and effectively manage institutional strategies. Continuous engagement through monthly ’30/30′ meetings ensures that these plans do not lose momentum, maintaining a vibrant and responsive strategic framework.


During the session, it was evident that strategic doing offers a robust framework for revitalizing strategic planning efforts that have stalled or become disconnected from the institution’s core activities. As we look forward to future discussions and further exploration into adaptive strategic practices on November 16th, institutions all over can take a cue from this successful implementation to foster environments that plan strategically and act strategically.

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