During my short time at NINDS, the dedication of our staff to our institute’s mission and their clarity of thought and depth of knowledge have repeatedly exceeded my expectations. That is why I am so excited to ask them to take a step out of the daily churn of keeping up with new discoveries, latest techniques, and fast-approaching deadlines to consider the bigger picture with me—to dream big about advancing our knowledge about the brain over the next five years. That is what the process of strategic planning is all about—a chance during your journey to climb the highest mast and see where you’ve been, where you’re going, and what storms you might have to weather as you follow (or, perhaps, adjust) the course you’ve set to reach your destination. The planning process will help to ensure that NINDS policies, practices and functions align with our mission, allowing us to better serve and anticipate the needs of all our stakeholders, including the research and patient communities, as well as the public. In short, this process will keep us moving (asymptotically, perhaps) to meet our mission. The timing, I believe, is exactly right; the recent decade has brought many exciting developments for our community, of which we must now take stock to identify our best ways forward.
In my experience, the journey of strategic planning is at least as important as the destination, if not more so. When executed thoughtfully and viewed as a continuing, dynamic, and adaptable sequence of ebbs and flows, it builds solidarity, consensus, unified vision and purpose, and teamwork. The process I’m leading is designed to give everyone—our employees, researchers, collaborators, practitioners, advocates, and the interested public—the chance to have their voices heard and valued, while dedicated stewards keep us accountable for moving forward. In this case, the stewards who will help translate the input we gather into priorities and goals are my thoughtful and determined colleagues from across NINDS and NIH who live and breathe our mission every day.
As a starting point for this process, my colleagues and I have formulated very broad Strategic Goals, which I invite you to read, consider, and react to in our current Request for Information (RFI). We want to hear from you now and throughout the development of the new NINDS Strategic Plan. The input you provide to our first RFI will help us to prioritize the questions and topics we must really dig into during the most intensive phase of our planning process: identifying actionable objectives to meet our broad goals. We expect this phase to depend on additional and in-depth consultation with experts and critical stakeholders, at the conclusion of which we will release our draft plan for broad public comment before finalizing the document and embarking upon implementation.
The benefits of strategic planning lie both in the learning we do and collaborations we build during the process and also in taking necessary actions to follow (and, inevitably, adjust) the course we thoughtfully and intentionally lay out together. After all, while thought without action is useless, action without thought is worse. Please do send us your thoughts, so that the actions we plan and take together can anticipate and meet the challenges of tomorrow.