1. Conduct a Rigorous Situation Assessment
Know the Board's Appetite for Change
Be sure to scope the Board's appetite for change. After all, the Board will ultimately be asked to approve the strategic plan and the allocation of resources to support its implementation. If the Board doesn't buy into your plan, then the strategic planning process could come to an inglorious end, when presented to that very same unsuspecting Board by the soon-to-be ex-Head. With the Board on your side, at least you can do some proper advance preparing and lobbying on issues you know the Board finds difficult to accept.
Document the Way Things Work Today
Don't assume that you - or anyone else, especially the Board - understands the way things actually happen at the school.
- Prepare a detailed description of every major functional area.
- Include everything from the administrative functions through to the academic functions.
- Identify who is responsible for the functional activity, the activities being managed, the way the activities are managed, staffing, and budget.
Study Relevant External Factors
The final topic in a situation assessment is a study of selected relevant external factors. These are factors beyond the school's ability to control such as:
- Other schools that could be considered competition
- Changes in demographics
- Teaching personnel availability
These factors can usually be quickly identified by surveying the parents to identify their perception of strengths and weaknesses in the way the school manages its administrative and academic functions. Strategy is always developed in response to changing external realities; being emerging opportunities and threats likely to have a significant impact on the performance of the school over the long term.
2. Think of Strategic Planning as a Review Rather than a Development Process
The eight strategies are:
Business Mandate Strategy
How narrowly or broadly the school interprets its founding mandate or charter
How much risk the school is prepared to assume in the implementation of any of its strategies
The type and rate of growth acceptable
Financial Management Strategy
How the school sources and uses capital
How the school uses technology either to enable administrative productivity or to deliver competitive advantage
Organization Management Strategy
Whether the school focuses on process or on results as the primary means to manage activities
How the school finds and satisfies its customer base (parents/students)
Service Delivery Strategy
How the school balances efficiency with effectiveness
Finally, connect the eight strategy framework to the existing organization structure of the school. Typically, this exercise raises questions about how one or more of the eight strategies are being addressed within the current organization structure and gives further insight into what the present strategy actually is. Remember that it is usually as difficult to describe present strategy accurately as it is to describe the proposed changes to that strategy.
Our Mission: To educate and equip students to become major contributors to, leaders in, and valued representatives of their national and international communities.
Our Vision: To develop a love of learning, promote excellence in all areas of endeavor, and provide access to outstanding educational experiences, teachers and facilities.
The better course of action is to reach solid conclusions on each of the eight strategies of the eight strategy framework; both in terms of present strategy and the how's and why's of any proposed change to that strategy. Once those conclusions are solidly in hand, then it is possible to think through the 5 year and the 10 year consequences of successful pursuit of those strategies. At this stage you can draft vision and mission statements that really capture the essence of those conclusions.
About the author
Alan Kennedy has been teaching courses on Strategic Management for the York University's Schulich School of Business, Executive Education Centre, in Toronto, Canada since 1992. For more information on Alan and his courses either contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit http://seec.schulich.yorku.ca