In the high paced, high autonomy world of an academic department, it can be vital for all quarters of a department to have time to consider the big picture - whether the focus is on a long range plan, a curricular revision, or simply a periodic opportunity to develop and enjoy collegiality, collaborations, and investment in a shared endeavor.
See The Role of Strategic Planning in Academic Departments by Diana Kardia for an overview of the benefits of strategic planning in an academic department.
An external facilitator brings many benefits to any faculty gathering that extends beyond the day-to-day business of the department:
- An external consultant is able to suggest planning models and retreat structures used successfully in other departments and can work in advance with participants to organize and integrate contextual variables and individual perspectives and concerns about complex issues.
- A trained facilitator is skilled in working with group dynamics and discussion formats to keep discussions focused, interactive, effective, and energized.
- Having an outside person tend the process and group dynamics aspects of the retreat frees up all members of the department to participate fully in the content work of the meeting.
- A meeting facilitator can become an informed consultant in the follow-up work as departmental leadership seeks ways to implement and address the decisions and implications arising out of the planning process.