Outcome-Based Strategic Planning Approach for Schools
Defining Elements of Actionable Strategic Plans
One size does not fit all in strategic planning. Customization is essential to develop a strategic plan that will be most effective in building a framework to identify and solve the particular strategic issues facing any given school. Yet, in our experience and practice, customization is a point of process not content. Planning timelines, tools and systems vary widely, as do final plan formats.
They reflect an approach, or process chosen to develop a plan, which will be determined by such factors as the state of the institution, its organizational complexity, and its past experience with strategic planning. For example, a small K6 independent school in an enrollment crisis will benefit more from a compact, sonar-like planning approach than a K12 urban day/boarding school looking down line at a capital campaign, which will need to cast a wider net. Similarly, a K12 school with no experience in strategic planning will adopt a simpler, less holistic model than a school of comparable size and complexity approaching its fifth planning cycle.
Yet whatever the planning process and however the plan is finalized and presented, each school plan’s content will inevitably include the same core elements historically proven to work together to achieve the same overarching goal: implementation of the plan and growth of the school towards becoming not just a institution with a vision statement; but a visionary institution.
Today’s actionable plans share these defining elements: 1) a vision statement that paints a word picture of a desired future state, 2) a mission statement that identifies purpose and is congruent with the vision statement, 3) a statement of core values that articulates what motivates the community and how they behave one with another, 5) identification of critical issues that must be addressed, 4) a set of goals that operationalize mission and close the gap between the institution’s current state and its future vision, 5) strategies that work toward achieving each goal, 6) objectives that advance each strategy, and 8) outcome measurements that are indicators of success.
A. Planning to Plan – The Pre-Process Stage
1. The Head of School convenes a Core Planning Group with the following charge:
- Establish the strategic planning process (including foundation, strategy development, implementation and timeline)
- Identify the Strategic Planning Council (or “Team”) members
- Establish constituent roles, including faculty/staff, administration, Board
- Identify preliminary strategic issues
- Establish reporting relationships of the Strategic Planning Council (or Team)
- Identify expected outcomes
2. The Head informs constituents of the status of the current strategic planning process and the School’s intention to take the process to a new level.
3. The Head convenes the faculty and invites them into the strategic planning process.
B. Steps in the Strategic Planning Model
- Define Current Status
- Create a Shared Vision and Over-Arching Goals for the Year 2007
- Build the Institutional Strategic Plan
- Launch the Strategic Plan
- Commence Year 1 Plan Implementation
C. Steps of the Model Explained
1. Define Current Status – Research and Assessment
A. Research (using tools such as):
- SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) Analysis
- Focus Groups/interviews and workshops with selected internal and external groups
- Best practice information gathered from peer institutions
- Published geodemographic and psychographic data
- Create a set of assumptions that define strategic planning parameters
- Identify Core Values
- Identify strategic drivers (macro and direct impact), i.e. critical issues that involve any internal or external force or factor that significantly impacts on the school (for example: socio-economic; geodemographic; public perception of independent schools in general, and the institution in particular; changing emphases of independent schools; changing issues of independent school families; increased reliance on information technology; academic programs; facilities and physical plant; and funding.)
- Strategic Thinking Sessions around strategic drivers (The Head of School invites leadership in key institutional areas to write white papers in reaction to the strategic drivers in the context of their specialty area. For example, academics, the arts, faculty, athletics, student life, technology, physical plant, financial, development, admissions.)
2. Create a Shared Vision and Over-arching Goals for 2007 (Symposium)
- Look to the future and describe what the community thinks the institution can be and what capabilities and attributes we think graduates should possess to enable them to lead successful and meaningful lives.
- Identify elements of strategic vision. Ground the vision in the mission of the institution as currently defined. Update mission statement if required.
- Identify points of school community consensus on goals that will lead the institution towards fulfillment of its shared vision.
3. Build The Institutional Strategic Plan
- Refine and obtain approvals for vision statement, mission statement, statement of core values and over-arching goals.
- Define the list of potential short- and long-term projects (initiatives) needed to bridge the gaps between the current school environment and its future vision over the next five years.
4. Launch the Strategic Plan
- Communicate the Strategic Plan to major constituency groups: faculty/staff, parents, Board.
5. Commence Year One Implementation
- Conduct workshops with leadership to identify high priority initiatives. These initiatives will be analyzed carefully to document projected costs and anticipated benefits.
- Develop budgetary recommendations.
- Form teams/work groups around prioritized initiatives and set outcome-based objectives.
- Team/work groups begin work on initiatives.