Institute Leadership & Development

Hutcheson Associates has deep expertise in helping science-intensive organizations establish, manage, and strategically transform their institutes, centers, labs, and other units dedicated to research and discovery. We’ve gained this experience over the last 35+ years working at multiple levels from advising the White House and federal agencies on research investment policy; to the institutional level – including R1 universities, hospitals and health systems, national labs, and corporate R&D; to building capacity at the institute level and the administrative and operational units that support them.  

At the heart of our approach is a three-phase framework: (1) Strategic Discovery, (2) Strategic Roadmap Design, and (3) Strategic DoingTM.

Strategic Discovery

The aim of this initial phase is to discover what is truly unique about the organization, the proposed or existing institute, and the challenges and possibilities that lie ahead. We will focus on discovering and articulating strategic advantages, strategic vulnerabilities, and opportunities for innovation and impact. To do this, HA will gather and analyze data from inside and outside the organization. This data will be collected through interviews with key stakeholders, surveys from a broader-base of constituents, and benchmark profiles with 3-5 peer and/or aspirational exemplar organizations. HA will work with the organization’s leadership to identify stakeholders and exemplars. The deliverables for this phase include a detailed Strategic Discovery Overview summarizing the insights gained.  

Strategic Roadmap Design

Next, comes Strategic Roadmap Design. This phase draws on principles from Design Thinking, specifically the first three phases of the discipline: (1) empathize, (2) define, and (3) ideate. To accomplish this, HA will facilitate the formation of a core team, consisting of 5-7 key internal stakeholders.

Informed by the findings from the Strategic Discovery phase, this team will work together to create an initial strategic roadmap. In a series of three design workshops, the Core Team will define a desired future state for the institute and 3-4 strategic focus areas needed to get there. These strategic focus areas often include aspects related to governance, institute structure and staffing, resource development, partnerships, etc. The deliverables of this phase include a set of Institute Design Standards for each of the strategic focus areas.

Strategic Doing

The “roadmap” metaphor is not as powerful as it once was because we now have more dynamic ways to navigate. As drivers, we rely on applications like Google Maps or Waze to chart our path but also give us real-time updates so we can avoid delays and trouble spots. Similarly, we now have tools and frameworks that allow for that same real-time data for our planning efforts. Strategic DoingTM is one such tool. Strategic Doing helps leaders form action-oriented collaborations quickly, move them toward measurable outcomes, and make adjustments along the way.  

In this phase, the institutional leadership and development effort will expand to include a broader group of internal and external stakeholders. The Core Team will continue to work together, likely focusing on issues of structure, staffing, and governance. In addition to the Core Team, Strategic Focus Area Teams will also be formed. Each of these teams will consist of 5-7 key stakeholders. The Core Team will provide overall leadership and guidance of this phase while the Focus Area Teams will define outcomes, metrics, and “pathfinder” initiatives for their respective areas of work. 

The outputs for this phase are extensive. The following deliverables are based on a scenario in which there is a core team and three focus area teams, each with seven individuals for a total of 28 stakeholders actively engaged in the ILD effort.

  • An inventory of the “assets” available to the institute that will be especially valuable in the future state envisioned.
  • Twelve (12) strategic opportunities that emerge when assets are linked, leveraged, and aligned in new ways.
  • Four (4) priority strategic outcomes, each with three measurable characteristics of success
  • Four (4) pathfinder projects with guideposts that enables the institute to get started and test its assumptions. The projects identified will be efforts that can be accomplished in a short amount of time, usually within 90-120 days.
  • A series of shared strategic action plans with each of the 28 key stakeholders committed to taking on strategic actions.
  • Ongoing stakeholder commitment (dates, times, locations) to come back together for learning loops (approximately every 30 days weeks) to evaluate progress, adjust if needed, and commit to next steps.
  • HA develops a series of Strategic Action Plans during this phase of the engagement. These are “living documents” that get updated, often monthly, like software. We even number them like software with the first version as 1.0, the second as 1.1, etc.


This proposed approach usually takes place over approximately ten months. This timeline can be shortened, expanded, and customized for each engagement.

Learning By Doing

We often pilot this approach in an organization starting with one institute, center, lab, etc. At the completion of the pilot, the organization has a template that can then be applied to other existing and/or pending institutes. 

Interested in Our Institute Leadership & Development Services?

If you think our approach to institute leadership & development might be a good fit for your organization, we would love to talk with you. Please reach out using the contact form below.

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