A Major Risk in Strategic Planning: What If Your Mission May Have Changed? 

January 16, 2023
Associate Head of School of Lycee de Calgary
January 19, 2023
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A Major Risk in Strategic Planning: What If Your Mission May Have Changed? 

What if the aspirations of your school families have changed from pre-pandemic to post-pandemic and the existing mission may no longer fit exactly? This could be a result of these factors:

During the pandemic, the good news for many US based independent schools was the influx of public school families seeking a respite and haven from covid threats and the perceived inadequate response by the public schools. It may well be that these families did not pay much attention to the independent school’s mission when applying. However, once enrolled they may wish to move the needle of the mission in a different or slightly different direction. 

For many schools a major change in demographics may be shifting the mission. While we all welcome diversity, sometimes a sudden influx of new groups can prompt a shift in the focus or mission of the school. Some of the core mission principles on which the school was founded may not resonate with some new families.

The board has but these functions: mission oversight and protecting or modifying the mission (which includes governance and strategic planning); fiscal oversight; and hiring, evaluating and if necessary, changing the leadership of the school. 

Boards often review mission and vision statements when launching a strategic plan. In many of our schools the faculty’s focus is on learning support and social well-being and emotional health.  Many families entering independent or international schools for the first time may feel that social and emotional safety are best addressed in the home and not a major focus of school life. Instead, some families may want to see a much heavier emphasis on academic rigor and more student acceptances to prestigious universities. Nothing is wrong with any of this. But as schools need to recruit new families, they may not assess parent expectations and mission fit in the application process, thus potentially setting up a conflict between some staff and some parents. 

Wait lists beget wait lists. When people sense it is difficult to gain entry to a school, the school’s profile raises and demand increases. As demand goes up, schools can be more selective for mission fit and balance.

There is a strong correlation between mission/marketing/strategic planning and governance. This Consultant always recommends that a board begin strategic planning by reaffirming and if necessary, revisiting the school’s mission if the mix of families it serves has changed significantly.