Innovative Higher Education

, Volume 18, Issue 1, pp 7–36 | Cite as

Five years of strategic environmental assessment efforts at a research university: A case study of an organizational innovation

  • James C. Hearn
  • Richard M. Clugston
  • Richard B. Heydinger


This study examined the emergence and subsequent five-year history of “environmental scanning” at a large research university. Proponents of strategic approaches to management in organizations usually recommend environmental scanning as a necessary support for effective decision making. The technique seeks to build systematic understanding of the external environment of the organization, via ongoing reconnaissance of relevant developments in technology, the economy, the political and legal arenas, and the larger society. Scanning's fit with educational organizations may be problematic, however. Over time, scanning efforts on the campus studied here became less theory-based and less centralized, and scanning failed to become an institutionalized innovation. The difficulties in institutionalizing scanning are traced to six factors: limitations posed by organizational structure, an absence of powerful champions, constraints from the organizational culture, the existence of a “policy vacuum” surrounding scanning efforts, the daunting demands of such efforts themselves, and questionable articulation with the fundamental goals and mission of the institution. The analysis suggests that the generic scanning model seems unlikely to win acceptance in research universities without substantial modification.


Cross Cultural Psychology Substantial Modification Strategic Approach Organizational Innovation Effective Decision 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Human Sciences Press, Inc. 1993

Authors and Affiliations

  • James C. Hearn
    • 1
  • Richard M. Clugston
    • 2
    • 3
  • Richard B. Heydinger
    • 4
    • 5
  1. 1.Institute of Higher Education of the University of GeorgiaUSA
  2. 2.Center for Respect of Life and EnvironmentWashington, D.C.
  3. 3.Higher Education from the University of MinnesotaUSA
  4. 4.College of Education at the University of MinnesotaUSA
  5. 5.Alliance for Higher EducationUSA

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