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Efficient And Effective Strategic Planning

Most school leaders, especially board members, want a planning process that is effective and focused and yet listens to a wide range of community input.

Strategic plans can drag on for months or even longer. Then they become enervating and overblown rather than mission-driven and inspiring. Trouble arises when the very constituents whose input is sought feel that they should have a role determining actual policies and priorities. Thus, how do we engage the community while ensuring that ultimate policy decisions are made only by the board with the administration’s counsel?

This Consultant recommends either a “broad brush”, directed or “blended” approach, all of which bring appropriate and prompt closure without wearing out the participants. Key to all is listening to the community through carefully managed focus groups that can include: parents, students, alumni, staff, board, community leaders, neighbors, donors, competitors, receiving or sending school leaders or others.

The consultant should synthesize the focus group information and summarize it for the participants at the start of a four hour workshop. The participants may be the board and administration, or board and administration with a few constituent representatives.

After hearing the feedback, each person votes on the top five to seven potential strategic priorities from an initial list of 40 to 60 drawn from the 100 to 150 constituent voices heard in the focus groups.

This Consultant assigns the five topics receiving the most votes to groups of five. There is a competitive feel to this exercise as each group not only ranks the priorities but reports back hoping that its outline will draw the most votes on the second “round”. After one more round of voting, the chair and head tabulate and announce the top priorities agreed upon by all.

Next the groups work on four to six action plans for each priority and develop some specific key performance indicators. The management team and/or committees formed around the approved final goals will do most of this work. However, discussing action plans and KPI’s is important so that the follow up committees will already know HOW to formulate them.

The process is fun, fast paced and effective. It jumpstarts strategic planning and establishes a clear timetable and process for closure, followed by a written summation sent out to the constituents.

John Littleford
Senior Partner