By Dr. Bobby Moore
Nearly every educational leader has been involved in strategic planning at one time or another, serving in different roles. Your own experiences may include:
- Being a survey respondent
- Serving on a focus group
- Providing direction as part of the leadership team
- Leading the work as a superintendent
Regardless of your role and personal experiences with the process, everyone has thoughts about strategic planning and what they like or would like to see improved. There are also many opinions on the purpose of strategic planning. Here are a few:
- It is a process to engage community members as stakeholders and empower them to help develop or refine the mission and vision for the district. This is most often heard from school boards.
- It is the chance to gain the trust of the community and be visible throughout the process. This is what new superintendents tell me.
- It’s an opportunity to get the board of education involved early and often so that the superintendent and team can develop strategies to deliver on district goals and objectives. I most often hear this from community members and parents.
The truth is, it’s probably all of the above and even more.
I remember my first attempt at strategic planning as a new superintendent. I engaged the board around refining our vision, our core values, and establishing lofty goals and metrics
for the district. We also identified the high-performing districts to benchmark against in our educational journey.
Next, our assistant superintendent and I closed the door and developed a specific, targeted, and tactical plan
to address our deficiencies and build off our strengths. It paid off. Two years later, the district had received the highest achievement rating in the state and moved from near the bottom to a top-performing district in the county. We were (and still are) the only county school to ever receive Ohio’s “Excellent with Distinction” rating and moved from the bottom 50% for student growth to the top 4% in the state.
As evidenced above, our homegrown strategic planning process accelerated and maximized student learning. But we also faced challenges, including:
- Not engaging more stakeholders at the beginning of and during the implementation process.
- Lacking a strong communications plan to accompany the work.
- Enlisting staff in developing the plan and metrics.
For these reasons, our work to implement the plan was much more challenging than it needed to be. As the old African proverb says, “If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”
The strategic planning process is more than just having A PLAN
. It’s about bringing the plan to life by collaborating with a variety of stakeholders, having an inspired launch, and supporting and empowering teams with systems, structures, and tools to sustain its impact.
For the last five years, I have had the opportunity to work with an amazing communications team and a group that specializes in data and metrics at Battelle for Kids. Together, we have built a business-education hybrid approach to strategic planning that includes six phases.
What’s interesting about this new way of strategic planning? It takes a special team with specific strengths to deliver on such a comprehensive approach, with expertise around the table in communications, collaboration, educational leadership, design and branding, and metrics. Many times, districts work with vendors who deliver strategic planning in a very formulaic way. Our comprehensive approach allows us to meet our districts wherever they may be in the process, either just starting out, needing communications and/or branding support, identifying metrics, or to launch.
As you begin to think about your own strategic planning process, it's important to:
- Consider using a partner and engaging as many stakeholders as possible.
- Include an operational support component where specific actions, behaviors, and assignments are developed along with the measures of success.
I hope sharing my early mistakes will make your strategic planning process even more impactful and successful.
about Battelle for Kids’ strategic planning process.