Growing a Strategic Enrolment Management Culture

Spring is sprung here in Canada. This past weekend, my wife and I wandered over to our community garden plot and prepared the soil for planting. Last year was our first time planting this plot and we were a bit late so we rushed things into the ground without doing much prep work. I turned over the soil with a spade and we pulled weeds, but we didn’t have time to spread any manure or even evaluate the quality of the soil. We just dug it up and put seeds in.

We were disappointed. People had told us, “Oh, you’re getting Old Man George’s plot. You’ve got great soil!” Well, maybe Old Man George had gotten a little tired and didn’t keep up with his soil because things did not grow like we expected. The carrots were stumpy little things about an inch long. The biggest potato we got was about the size of a dollar coin. The rhubarb was no thicker than a pencil.

My wife, the gardener, determined that the problem was tired soil. So, my wife sent me off to the garden centre to get some manure, sand, and other stinky, dirty, half-rotten stuff that plants like. This year I expect a great crop – Kathleen knows exactly where to start to get things growing.

Walnut Grove Gardens

Gardening and SEM

Have you been disappointed in the results of your Strategic Enrolment Management? My beef with most SEM books, articles, presentations at conferences, etc., is that they forget the most important part of SEM. If you want to get a good crop out of your strategic enrolment work, start with Strategic start with the soil – the culture of your organization.

How do you help promote a culture of SEM? It starts with good structure and proper reporting lines, but that’s just like the walls of a raised bed garden: there’s minimal benefit without good soil culture. So after creating the proper structure, people need to buy in. Why should they care about SEM? What’s the benefit? What difference will it make? What’s in it for me? What are the consequences of ignoring it? It’s our job to share this stuff regularly – to rake it into the soil so that the clumps are broken up and spread out.

Strawberries and SEM

Another way to help SEM become part of your culture is similar to my community garden. We walk through the plots and say, “Ooo, look at that nice garden! What are they doing to grow such a nice patch of strawberries?” Call it whatever you like: keeping up with the Jones’ or social pressure, but it works. Take your key influencers to see what good Strategic Enrolment Management looks like and then encourage them to tend their own culture.

Square Foot SEM

Heard of Square Foot Gardening? It’s all about laying a good plan for the garden to grow in. This is where strategy and making a plan for Strategic Enrolment Management finally becomes important. What are you going to do? Who’s going to lead it? How will you know when you’ve got a good thing growing? Get everyone contributing to this plan! I can’t emphasize that last point enough. If they’re part of the plan, they’ll take responsibility for it. No one person, regardless of title and reporting lines can do the job of SEM. A good organizational culture depends on everyone in the organization.

Weeding and SEM

Yeah, I went there!

Sometimes you have to pull a few weeds to keep the garden growing. A noxious weed can ruin a whole garden bed. I know you might have a union to deal with, but don’t wimp out. Get the right people on the team and get the wrong people off the team. If you have a union, work with them on the goals of SEM and the culture you’re after. Good ground work here will make dealing with staff much easier.

Growth of your Strategic Enrolment Management depends on good culture. It’s sometimes hard, back-breaking work, but the rewards can be worth it. Don’t garden your SEM culture like we gardened our plot last year. Last-minute, hurry-up jobs are not worth it. Work on the culture, dig it in deep, rake it smooth and water it daily. If you do that hard work, the growth will be organic and will bring lasting results. In fact, it might just outpace your ability to keep up with it. That’s a good problem to have.

Oh, and one last thing. Share the fruits of your labours. Come to the WARUCC conference in Winnipeg in June. Find me and we’ll have coffee with a bunch of SEM professionals and show off our culture calluses and share seeds of ideas.

See you soon?



3 thoughts on “Growing a Strategic Enrolment Management Culture

  1. Grant–thanks for this; I was just working on a SEM planning for an institution that I will be visiting with soon, and your thoughts come at a good time. I agree with you in terms of the need to permeate the culture; all I can say is that it takes longer than one planting season to do this :).


  2. If Registraring ever stops working out for you, i’m pretty sure you’ve got a great back-up career as a sermon analogy generator.


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