By Christina Drouin
If the road to the future of K-12 independent school strategic planning follows that of higher education, we may soon see innovative schools taking a look at the feasibility of establishing an on-campus of Strategic Planning Office (SPO) to meet the ongoing challenges imbedded in creating cultures of change. In his book Management Challenges for the 21st Century, Peter S. Drucker points to the need for organizations to understand that the world is moving and changing at such a advanced speed that we can no longer seek to manage the organizations that make up our complex environment. The new ideal for the 21st century, he says, is to strive to be leaders of change.
Coincidentally, change is at the heart of strategic planning. It is always a result. It is always difficult to prepare for, accept and implement.
When a school is in a strategic planning mode, whether first plan or fifth, it ultimately must face the question: How will we implement this plan? And it begins to cast about the organization for leadership to honcho the implementation effort.
At the launch of each new plan, the same question must be answered. The question never goes away. It is in fact systemic to strategic planning.
Combine this with the need for continuous planning. One planning cycle inextricably linked to the next. It is no longer a matter of planning as the spirit, so to speak, moves. As external forces continue to exert pressure on schools and families, it becomes more important than ever to think about continuous planning, so that when one plan finishes a new one begins. In other words, when a school is in its fourth year of a five-year plan, it should be creating its next plan, allowing an academic year for plan development to achieve inclusivity, a hallmark of successful school planning. If it waits until the five-year planning cycle is over to begin planning again, the school consequently is without a strategically-focused plan for a year.
With a rolling planning process such as this, and recognizing that a holistic planning process will need to be undertaken in the fourth year of every five-year planning cycle, it is logical to explore the possibility of establishing an institutionalized planning process and office as a means to becoming a leader of change.
What might an SPO look like? What would daily activities involve? Where would it report? What would its purpose be?
The following outline presents one approach to institutionalizing change on your school campus through the establishment of a Strategic Planning Office.
Overview of Strategic Planning Leadership Position
The Strategic Planning Director, under the direction of the Head of School, advises on and leads the development, implementation and evaluation of strategic plans.
In meeting these key responsibilities, the Strategic Planning Director also works in close collaboration with administrative leadership and serves on the Strategic Planning Committee of the Board of Trustees. Functioning at the divisional level, the Strategic Planning Office provides ongoing leadership and accountability for strategic planning and implementation, and leadership and assistance to evaluate, enhance and employ efforts to strengthen institutional effectiveness and communication on strategic matters that affect the School.
Duties and Responsibilities
- Assist the Head of School in developing and defining the vision, mission and goals that will guide the future direction of the School.
- Develop the School’s strategic plan, working with administration, faculty, staff, parents, alumni and students by assisting the school community in identifying its goals, examining available options for achieving these goals, establishing priorities, and defining strategies for implementation of goals.
- Oversee the successful implementation of the School’s strategic plan.
- Guide and assist in the development of unit-specific (i.e. academic and non-academic departmental) strategic and annual plans, ensuring coordination among planning units.
- Coordinate, focus and monitor unit-based strategic planning and implementation for consistency with the institutional strategic plan.
- Prepare numerous reports during the year on issues related to departmental strategic plans and new initiatives, including an annual assessment of the School’s strategic plan.
- Schedule, plan and conduct meetings and workshops to develop annual plans that support institutional goals.
- Respond to requests for assistance from academic and non-academic planning units; advise on who should be involved in planning, review drafts, and assist in the presentation of drafts to the Strategic Planning Committee.
- On an ongoing basis, conduct research and analysis to help determine where future service and program needs will be, as well as current satisfaction levels of constituent groups.
- Supervise the planning and implementation of an interactive Strategic Planning web page.
- Assist in the design of strategic communications in times of change.
- Serve on the Strategic Planning Committee of the Board of Trustees.
Required Knowledge, Experience and Abilities
The Strategic Planning Head must work effectively in a dynamic environment by demonstrating superior interpersonal communications, team-building and leadership skills. The position requires a high level of skill in strategic thinking and planning including the ability to identify, define and address problems; competence in prescribing and interpreting research; competence in conducting inclusive strategic planning in a complex organization; ability to articulate policies; and ability to describe issues with clarity.
The Strategic Planning Director must have experience and a keen interest in working with a diverse range of people from different cultural, socio-economic, religious, professional, racial and ethnic backgrounds. Exceptional writing, presentation and facilitation skills, the ability to work well within a group and to use diplomacy and persuasion will be particular assets.
Mission of the Strategic Planning Office
The role of the Strategic Planning Office is to advise and assist the Head of School in enhancing effective decision-making at the School and to foster accountability and continuous quality improvement by facilitating strategic planning, facilitating the integration of planning and budgeting processes, and providing clear strategic direction to the members of the campus community.
The mission of the SPO has five essential elements:
- To provide an integrated, comprehensive planning capability for the School community that will lead the preparation and implementation of the School’s strategic plan.
- To provide accurate, consistent information about the School, its external environment and its peer institutions.
- To support and maintain a systematic and dependable planning process that reflects the School’s demographic, programmatic, financial, building, campus design, and community development goals and objectives.
- To provide timely analysis and planning recommendations to School leadership.
In an effort to make strategic planning at the School a dynamic and interactive process, the SPO will create a web site on the School’s site dedicated to strategic planning, which will include departmental plans as they are approved; institutional, state, and national demographic data; articles, notes and readings of interest in the area of educational institutional strategy; and collateral School plans and documents. The web site will also provide online links to appropriate independent school and higher education data/information and links to web sites of interest.
The SPO will work to encourage institutional planning units to maintain and provide online access to appropriate databases that would be of assistance in planning. It will also seek to provide a strategic planning and discussion convener software program that will facilitate an online development and discussion process for planning that some departments may find useful in involving constituents and promoting participation.