Using External Environmental Scanning and Forecasting to Improve Strategis Planning

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Joel D. Lapin
The Community College of Baltimore County
Journal of Applied Research in the Community College, Vol.11, No.2, Spring 2004, pg 105-113

Joel D. Lapin is a professor of Sociology at The Community College of Baltimore County (Maryland), Catonsville Campus, and Vice President and lead consultant in external environmental scanning and forecasting for The Clements Group which specializes in advancement and fundraising for community colleges. The purpose of this paper it to provide an introduction to external environmental scanning and forecasting as a basic pre-requisite for successful organizational change and to describe its role in improving a college’s strategic planning process and the resulting plan. This paper looks only at those tools in the context of creating or revising a strategic plan. According to Lapin, the preferred technique used by many organizations to monitor the external environment is to conduct external environmental scanning and forecasting.

Lapin said it is impossible to predict the future with certainty, external environmental scanning and forecasting can, and does, reduce some uncertainty in organization to reduce its vulnerability to undetected change. Lapin add by providing an organization with an “ advanced warning system” for changes, it also provides an opportunity to give an institutions a competitive edge. According to Lapin, external environmental scanning and forecasters distinguish at least 4 types of changes in the external environment. And the most important is a trend. Morrison & Held (1989) defined trend as a statement of a general direction of change. It indicate a behavior or change in external environment and its likely future direction. For planning purpose it is equally important to identify indigenous trends that may undetect by scanning at broader levels of focus. Lapin said rigorous and...
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