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Managing Expectations

The Project Shepherd






In this issue, George discusses how to manage expectations during a planning or programming process. Arthur describes a key college or university person in the planning process. This person, the Project Shepherd, is the link between the institution, the planning consultants, and ultimately, architect/engineer team.


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When we initiate planning studies – discussing process, deliverables and desired results with our clients, we are often asked, “How will your process manage expectations?” Many campus leaders are clearly concerned that a participatory planning process can open a can of worms by encouraging faculty, staff and students to think “too big”, resulting in a planning agenda far too ambitious for the institution’s limited capital dollars. As the planning proceeds, we are just as often surprised to uncover the opposite problem – that of thinking “too small”. Most of the campus user representatives we speak to have a highly-refined sense of institutional capabilities, and often are focused simply on “fixing what’s broken” and not on re-inventing, or transforming their campus.

In practice, one hallmark of the participatory planning model is that when you truly engage a client group, it strengthens a sense of shared responsibility and a realistic understanding of what’s possible in the planning horizon under discussion.

To realize this benefit of participation, several steps should be taken starting prior to the active process and ending after the final report is complete:

Plan for Planning

  • Identify all the individuals that need to be engaged.
  • Identify all possible existing campus groups that should be involved in the planning. Think about which of these groups are essential to the process and need to be repeatedly engaged, as opposed to those who are tangential to the process but would appreciate an opportunity for input.
  • Seek to engage these groups more than once in the process. If the groups or individuals are essential, expect three sessions as a minimum for true engagement – an initial meeting to introduce the process and schedule and gather preliminary input, a second to present major findings and gather feedback, and a third for confirmation of the proposed recommendations and commentary.

During the Planning Process

  • Be alert to engaging additional folks beyond those initially identified – this may seem open ended, but it is far better to bring people and groups into the formal process than it is to have to defend the process against charges of exclusivity.
  • Meet with individuals and small groups to gather information and discuss needs and concepts that are developing.
  • Present to mid-size and large groups to exchange ideas and get feedback on findings and proposals. This cross-talk stimulates the sense of shared responsibility as individuals and groups with different concerns come together to hear the whole range of needs expressed through the process and wrestle with the sometimes tricky balance of addressing as many of the needs as possible in a plan focused on 10-15 years.
  • Distribute presentation materials to these groups for review. This can help them become more familiar with the content, or to support thoughtful review post presentation.

At the End of the Planning Process

  • Publish report(s) and insure that they are easily available in print form or on-line.
  • Make presentation(s) to key groups.
  • Follow up with participants making data and graphic files available so that they can be used in subsequent internal planning.
  • Brief groups to discuss plan implementation progress.

An engaged community facilitates plan implementation, as more people are aware of the plan, its rationale and recommendations. The unexpected key to managing expectations is true participation.

George Mathey



Shepherd (n) O.E. sceaphierde, from sceap "sheep" + hierde "herder," from heord "a herd" (see herd). Cf. M.L.G., M.Du. schaphirde, M.H.G. schafhirte, Ger. dial. schafhirt. Shepherds customarily were buried with a tuft of wool in hand, to prove their occupation on Doomsday and be excused for often missing Sunday church. The metaphoric verbal sense of "watch over or guide" is first recorded 1820. Shepherd's pie is recorded from 1877.

The term “project shepherd” has become widely used in the planning and programming of science facilities - championed by Project Kaleidoscope (PKAL), a major force in science facilities and curriculum planning and design. It was first used by Dot Widmayer, a biologist at Wellesley College, now retired. She defined her role as three-fold: first and foremost, it was to protect the space program that the College created through a participatory process that engaged departments, faculty, staff, and students. Secondly, it was to provide institutional memory from the beginning of the planning and programming process through architectural design, and through construction. Lastly, it was to provide open communication throughout the long, complex process of defining, designing, and constructing a science building. It was to make sure that key College people were at the table whenever a decision was being made that had any impact on the program.

The role of shepherd or project coordinator is absolutely essential on all college and university renovation and new construction projects. Often, it falls on the shoulders of someone from Facilities. Sometimes a college or university administrator, either academic or financial, volunteers to play this role. In my mind for any projects impacting academic facilities, it should be someone from the academic arena. Facilities must be at the table, but not as the shepherd.

The project shepherd should be fair and evenhanded and have the trust of the faculty. The shepherd should have no particular agenda other than advancement of the goals of the project. To be effective, the shepherd will need some form of release time for the duration of the project: probably 2 to 3 years. Furthermore, if the shepherd is a faculty member, then being tenured is important, as serving in this role will divert time from the work and experiences critical to those seeking tenure.


Arthur Lidsky



New Projects

  • Bowling Green State University, Campus Plan Space Programming Study
  • Boston College, Stokes Facility Programming Study
  • Lafayette College

Completed Projects

  • Recently completed Dillard University Campus Plan Update

Retraction on Issue 21
Name Change: Florida Community College at Jacksonville recently became Florida State College at Jacksonville.




For all you adventurers
A spectacular vacation, Yvonne took a trip out to Utah and hiked Zion National Park and Bryce Canyon. It was an amazing trip and highly recommended! The temps were in the 90s during peak hours, dropped into the low 40s at night. While getting an early hike in at Bryce Canyon, the temperature was perfect, soon as we finished our hike, the skies opened up and rained hard for a few hours. Luck was on our side! And kept a close eye out for Mountain Lions and Black Bears during the hikes! No sitings.

Erika spent some time this summer exploring Vermont's Northeast Kingdom, hiking scenic trails, canoeing on Seymour Lake, and roasting marshmallows over a campfire.


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