What happens once you’ve decided to pursue a grant opportunity? You get everyone who could be involved in developing the idea, but how do you engage them in developing a concrete and sequential action plan, and “owning” the task list that results from the discussion?
For some colleges, the answer is Compression Planning®, a seven-step visual planning process, designed to reduce project and strategic planning time and increase meeting and planning productivity. Sinclair Community College was one of the early adopters of Compression Planning®. They’ve used it successfully to:
- Win $163 million in grant awards over the last 20 years
- Produce winning proposals 30% faster than their competition
- Achieve a $40:$1 Return on Investment (ROI) in their grants office for over 14 years
According to Deb Norris, Vice President for Workforce Development & Corporate Services at Sinclair, Compression Planning has been a game changer in their effort to secure resources. “We’ve experienced the transformative nature of Compression Planning® at Sinclair,” she said. “The process is inclusive, and allowed us to draw together multiple organizations and create true stakeholders in creating solutions to regional workforce challenges.”
Jerry McNellis, Founder, McNellis Compression Planning®, noted that in the community college grants arena, Sinclair Community College is considered a national leader. “Several years ago, I was presenting to the Florida Council for Resource Development. I asked if any of them knew of the grants operations at Sinclair Community College.” Someone in the audience shouted, ‘They are the gold standard in our field.’ Another man stood up and said, ‘No. They’re the platinum standard.’ ”
Vicki Jeppesen, Director of Resource Development and Institutional Research at Northcentral Technical College, WI, reported exemplary results when she used the tool to plan TAACCCT Round 3.
“We used Compression Planning® with all our external partners (see box), to share what each individual agency was doing: their mission, projects, and so on,” she noted. “It quickly became evident that all of us were investing resources in career pathways, but doing so in silos, and sometimes at cross purposes.” Additionally, she was thrilled that collaboration among these “competitors” was so easily facilitated by the Compression Planning® process. All the agencies voices were heard, no one dominated the conversation, and the agenda was clear to everyone throughout.
Jeppesen reported that a 4-hour CP session with the grant writers from the state’s 16 technical community colleges laid the framework for the application. They were able to go back to their respective institutions with the same message for their college teams to begin specific development. Dr. Jack Daniels, President, Madison Area Technical College, who came to his position after the state won the $23.1 million grant from the US Department of Labor was astonished at the success. “It’s pretty outstanding,” he said, “that 16 colleges could agree on the framework, goals and objectives of such an important grant.”
Karla Hibbert-Jones, Director of the Grants Development Office at Sinclair Community College, noted that they have been using Compression Planning® for over 25 years to develop grant proposals.
In fact, she feels that the process gives their shop a competitive edge.
“By using CP, we estimate that we plan proposals about 30% faster,” she noted. “This is because the process brings out the best thinking of the project team in a short amount of time. It is a highly structured process that helps the planning team concentrate on what is important so they can make decisions that move the project forward.”
CP’s highly structured process allows groups to achieve their purpose, avoiding the meandering that occurs during most meetings. It further increases productivity because the outcome of the session becomes the outline for the proposal.
“You never have writers block when you use CP,” she commented.
And like Jeppesen, Hibbert-Jones extols the process when working collaboratively with multiple partners.
“CP allows all members of the planning team to contribute on a level playing field, she said. “Everyone’s contributions are heard without judgment by others in the group. This allows the group to explore new ideas freely and build on each other’s ideas to create rich thoughts.”
The collaborative sharing of ideas, supported by the CP process, allows the planning team to identify unique factors to incorporate into a proposal that will make it stand out from others. With CP, you can collaboratively generate ideas that would not easily be generated by someone working in isolation.
Recently, Sinclair Community College has partnered with the McNellis Company to train other institutions involved in joint grant development opportunities through Sinclair’s North American Compression Planning® Center. Over the last five years, Sinclair’s Workforce Development Division has partnered with McNellis Company to offer Compression Planning® Institutes and custom planning engagements. Through the Division, McNellis and Sinclair have brought together employer groups (including Advanced Manufacturing, Health Care, and Call Center) to identify, develop and launch appropriate new training programs via the Compression Planning® process. In addition the partners have facilitated the regional Compression Planning® engagement on entrepreneurism for the Dayton Development Coalition.
Sinclair hopes their new initiative will benefit organizations who seek to solve intractable organizational problems, build strong and efficient organizations, and manage complex projects.
Originally published in CRD Dispatch, Summer 2014