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How to Create a Strategic Plan
Looking for a way to take your company in a new and profitable direction? It starts with strategic planning. Keep reading to learn what a strategic plan is, why you need it and how you can strategically create one.
What Is a Strategic Plan?
When it comes to business and finance, strategic planning will help you allocate your resources, energy and assets. When implemented, a strategic plan will begin to move your operations in a more profitable direction. The primary goal of the plan is to ensure you and any other stakeholders are on the same page and striving to reach the same goal.
Creating a strategic plan requires a disciplined effort. Once you put the plan into action, it will influence the segment of customers that you target, how you serve those customers and the experience those customers have.
Assess the Current Infrastructure and Operations
The first step in creating a strategic plan is to carefully assess your existing infrastructure and operations. You can do this through a SWOT analysis, which is an analysis of the company’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. The goal here is to pinpoint the resources that you use to carry out your day-to-day operations, to look at your monthly revenue patterns, to list any company challenges related to the customer experience and, most importantly, to look at your marketing methods and ways to improve the overall customer experience.
Creation of Mission Statement and Objectives
The next step is to create a mission statement. You may already have one, but it’s important to note your mission at the top of the strategic plan document you create. This ensures everyone is focused on the same goal. Your mission statement should cover why you started the company and what you intend to accomplish through the products and services that you offer.
In addition to the mission statement, make sure to outline both short- and long-term objectives. List the objectives according to their priority and designate certain managers or employees to be responsible for each one. Also, jot down the resources that will be used to achieve each objective.
Now that you know what you’re trying to achieve and who is responsible for each goal, it’s time to deploy the plan and measure its progress. A weekly meeting is extremely important for all managers and stakeholders provide feedback. Your goal is to determine if the company is headed in the right direction. If not, you’ll need to revise the strategic plan accordingly.
Strategic Plans Are Ongoing
Once your strategic plan helps you achieve several objectives, it’s smart to regroup and set new objectives. As your company grows, you can set new goals to ensure the company keeps moving forward. You can share the success of your strategic plan with potential investors as a way to tap into new capital funding.
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- Get Everyone on the Same Page
June 10, 2021
Strategic planning in education – 3 keys to success, in this article, what is strategic planning in education, strategic planning in higher education, strategic planning models in education.
- Be a Collaborative Leader
- Engage Your Community Early and Often
The Future of Strategic Planning in Education? Just Ask
The numbers back this up, with researchers concluding that more than 70% of strategic plans are never implemented in the business world.
The rules of the game are a little different in education. Results aren’t based on winning new customers, gaining market share, or exceeding quarterly targets. Instead, strategic planning in education has evolved to become a way to align the broader community around better student outcomes.
Let’s take a look at the benefits of strategic planning for key education stakeholders and three best practices to make it successful in your school district, college, or university.
In essence, strategic planning is the process of setting goals, deciding on actions to achieve those goals, and mobilizing the resources needed to take those actions. A strategic plan describes how goals will be achieved through the use of available resources.
Fun fact: Strategic planning, as we know it today, evolved out of military strategy. Strategus literally means “a general of the army” in Greek . And when you think about it, we’ve retained the language of military strategy in the way we talk about our work life today: “front line workers,” being “in the trenches,” and “war rooms,” to name just three examples.
Thankfully, strategic planning in education has taken its own path to become a far less confrontational discipline. While it initially flowed from business practices due to people moving from the private sector into educational leadership positions, many of those planning tools and paradigms have adapted to focus on engagement and consensus.
This is because strategic planning requires community support at the school district level, both functionally and legislatively. School districts of all sizes use strategic planning to achieve the broad goals of improving student outcomes and responding to changing demographics while staying within the given funding box.
In top-performing schools, leaders have proactively shifted their strategic planning process to genuinely include and involve parents and other key constituent groups. They know that without community support and the insight that comes with community engagement, their strategic plans are likely to fail.
Strategic planning in education doesn’t only apply to K-12 school districts. Higher education colleges and universities invest in strategic plans to help guide the institution’s direction, differentiate appeal in an often competitive marketplace of prospective students, and foster the right conditions for truly distinctive research.
Does it work? Sometimes not. Peter Eckel and Cathy Trowe, two higher education commentators, highlighted the problem of overgeneralization in strategic planning:
“Too often strategic plans fall short of serving as a guiding light for the future. Some are triumphs of form (or wordsmithing) over substance. Their key points often are expected, and they share much in common with those of similar, but also dissimilar, institutions. “Educate students for the global 21st century,” anyone? How about “Produce cutting-edge research?”
Strategic plans that underdeliver are particularly in the spotlight as the pandemic forces institutions to focus on conserving cash. A 2020 survey of college and university presidents revealed that only 25% plan to continue executing their plans as usual, suggesting that a more resilient planning approach might be needed.
What that looks like is up for debate—a strategic plan that is both more effective and can better weather the storms of unexpected crises like COVID-19. One former university president, David P. Haney has suggested that a renewed look at the private sector provides the answers.
He explained that universities could benefit from adopting a designer’s mindset, more akin to a Silicon Valley researcher than a school administrator. Reflecting on the process of developing transformative technologies like the smartphone, he said: “One of the lessons learned in those practices is that we no longer simply design products but rather human experiences with products.” Only time will tell if human-centered strategic planning makes traction in higher education.
There are several different ways to approach strategic planning in education, depending on the priorities of the school and the needs of the community it serves. Defined models provide a good springboard, but we recommend adopting an iterative process to find what works best for your school.
Sometimes, less really is more. This Plan on a Page is just that—one page. It works by identifying four areas of strategic planning, with goals, measures, and an action plan to achieve each one. The four areas are broadly applicable to all schools: student performance, human resources, partnerships, and equity.
Alternatively, the VMOSA model stands for Vision, Mission, Objectives, Strategies, and Action Plans. It’s designed to help education leaders define a vision and develop practical ways to bring about the necessary change.
Or, the Five-Step Model is another straightforward approach that begins by asking “How well are we doing?” before defining improvements and a path to achieve them.
3 Keys to Strategic Planning Success
1. get everyone on the same page.
Different understandings of what strategy involves can hinder even the best plans. So the first step in creating a successful strategic plan is getting everyone involved to agree on one strategic planning model.
Explore the models we outlined above to create your own, then develop a “terms of reference” document to help align all your key stakeholders. Pro tip: Go a step beyond simply sharing the strategic approach and terms of reference by engaging stakeholders in real-time, anonymized discussions to ensure everyone understands the plan and is on board with it.
2. Be a Collaborative Leader
Much like early reading programs, every minute and every dime invested in gaining community support pays off exponentially. So it’s concerning that in research from 2020 , less than 40% of the teachers surveyed said that strategic planning was a collaborative project in their school.
Collaboration is critical, both for ideation and developing an actionable plan. It’s also becoming more urgent. Experts have used the experience of past crises in Japan and New Zealand to advocate for more student involvement in shaping school culture and decision-making in the post-pandemic era. They make the case that collaborative decision-making particularly helps disadvantaged groups and, as home-schooling has widened the opportunity gap, this will be an increasing focus for many educational leaders.
Commit to becoming a collaborative leader and put a plan in place to ensure you can achieve that goal. That may include implementing technology that can support scaled, real-time discussion safely and inclusively for students, teachers, and other stakeholder groups.
3. Engage Your Community Early and Often
Understanding your community’s preferences is invaluable. School districts that engage early in the planning process have a much greater chance of building a successful and community-supported plan.
Enterprise Discussion Management (EDM) software has been proven to contribute to more effective strategic planning in education. EDM empowers leaders to run and scale confidential, unbiased Exchanges where they can learn what the people that matter really think— explore ThoughtExchange success stories to learn more.
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The need for an iiep remains higher than ever. (unesco internal oversight services, 2013).
An effective ministry is guided by a plan which brings together all stakeholders and is regularly monitored and updated. IIEP strongly believes that planning is not a one-off activity. Rather it is a continuous practice that should engage all ministry departments and partners at national and subnational levels in a consultative and participatory process. Institutionalizing planning necessitates that ministries establish a strategic vision and priorities, coordinate their programmes and budgets annually and within a medium-term expenditure framework, negotiate with national and international financing agencies, and periodically monitor that it is on track to achieve policy objectives through implementation reviews.
Strategic planning guides educational development by giving a common vision and shared priorities. Educational planning is both visionary and pragmatic, engaging a wide range of actors in defining education’s future and mobilizing resources to reach its goals. For policy-makers, planning offers the path to:
- implement education reform and system transformation;
- realize equal opportunities for children and youth;
- provide quality education for all.
IIEP has strong experience and expertise in strategic planning and has developed in collaboration with the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) two newly published documents to help ministries in charge of education transform their processes and operations to meet the challenges of a changing world:
- Guidelines for Education Sector Plan Appraisal
- Guidelines for Education Sector Plan Preparation
- Guidelines for transitional education plan preparation
- train and coach on concepts, processes and tools to improve the practice of educational planning and management;
- analyse and reflect on education trends and issues from a policy and planning perspective;
- provide technical assistance and policy advice on critical issues for educational development.
- IIEP in Action 2018-2019
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The Importance of Strategic Planning in Education
blog , Education , Strategic Planning
Strategic planning is a method used in various industries to deliberately guide decision-making. In education, strategic planning provides leaders with guidance to keep the institution operating, carry out its missions and comply with regulations. Educational strategic planning focuses on the future of a college or university, providing an intentional way to reflect on performance and determine where to implement initiatives to make positive changes for the future.
To create effective university strategic plans, administrators and stakeholders must understand the ins and outs of how they work and how they can apply them.
In This Article
- Lack of Ownership
- Poor Strategic Alignment
- Poor Communication
- Slow Plan Adoption
- Improve Efficiency
- Engage Stakeholders and the Community
- Form a Focus
- Plan a Future
- Test Your Hypotheses
- Use Specific Language
- Make Implementation a Priority
- Hold Team Members Accountable
Transform Strategic Planning and Execution Within Your Education Institution With AchieveIt
The challenges of strategic planning in education.
Universities and colleges face several pressures and challenges that can complicate strategic planning in educational environments. Understanding some of these challenges can help you overcome them to create an impactful approach.
1. Lack of Ownership
While strategic plans involve feedback and participation from all of your institution’s departments and entities, you should limit ownership of the plan and documentation to one person. Without explicit ownership over the strategic plan, initiatives are more likely to be lost, forgotten or overlooked. With one person in charge, your school is more likely to achieve success.
2. Poor Strategic Alignment
Alignment and representation across your university are crucial to success. Universities and colleges often experience a lack of strategic alignment because the church and state divisions typically have different goals for schools. These clashing perspectives lead to poor strategic alignment and a stand-still in decision-making.
3. Poor Communication
Many educational institutions also struggle with strategic planning due to poor organizational communication. Effectively implementing a strategic plan requires institutional-wide teamwork. Poor communication significantly increases the difficulty of agreeing upon and executing effective solutions and setting attainable goals.
4. Slow Plan Adoption
With a significant focus on innovation and growth, universities may make numerous changes in a year. Constant changes often lead to low motivation to adopt new plans. The longer your teams take to implement a strategic plan, the more likely it is to become outdated. When this situation happens, the plan becomes irrelevant to your current processes.
Why Education Institutions Need Strategic Planning
Despite the inherent challenges, educational strategic planning is necessary for a successful institution operation. A strategic plan can help you improve several aspects of your educational institution through intentional goal-setting and initiative implementation. Strategic planning for colleges and universities helps students, staff and the community progress toward a better future.
Here are a few reasons you should use strategic planning in education:
1. Improve Efficiency
One of the biggest reasons to begin strategic planning is the opportunity for improved efficiency in numerous areas of your organization. The challenges of educational planning often lead to a lack of efficiency. Strategic planning for schools allows leaders to determine more effective ways to streamline processes.
For example, your decision-making teams may take significant time to agree on new policies or procedures. Strategic planning helps your institution use time more efficiently because it allows you to form decision-making strategies.
Improved efficiency also results in better cost-effectiveness. The less time is wasted, the more money you’ll save, especially over time.
2. Engage Stakeholders and the Community
Strategic planning involves more people than only the primary decision-makers — your planning should involve your community and stakeholders. Feedback from these entities can help you develop a more beneficial and strategically targeted plan based on what these entities want or need from you. Engaging the stakeholders and community also shows you value their input and want to create an environment where they want to be.
3. Form a Focus
Determining a focus for the school year ahead can be challenging without clear objectives. Without focus, your institution will struggle to grow and attract students and staff. For example, you may have vague expectations for the upcoming school year, which prevents decisions and progress from being made. A strategic plan allows you to determine your goals and focus for the upcoming year and beyond while also helping you track your progress.
4. Plan a Future
Strategic planning is ideal for planning a successful future for your institution. Developing a plan for your future helps ensure your school can grow and continue benefiting from its offerings. Rather than being unprepared for the next year and future school years, you can effectively strategize to make the most of your school year.
Strategic Planning Tips for Education Institutions
While every school’s strategic plan will look different depending on its goals and resources, the strategic planning process is often similar for colleges and universities. Explore a few tips for educational strategic planning to help you get started:
1. Test Your Hypotheses
You’re ultimately hypothesizing the outcome when you set initiatives in your strategic plan. These hypotheses are often based on assumptions, though it’s typically best to experiment to determine what would work and what may not. For example, if you ask your faculty to begin submitting weekly reports, conduct a quick test to ensure they can do so and have time to do so.
2. Use Specific Language
Using vague or wordy language increases the risk of confusion and the possibility of initiatives being misunderstood and ignored. Swapping out complicated words for simpler, more specific words can help ensure everyone understands your plan. It can help to have someone review the language you use to ensure nothing is confusing and everyone is on the same page.
3. Make Implementation a Priority
Because schools involve numerous departments and divisions, implementing a plan can be difficult without prioritization . Make your plan a priority to ensure it’s properly implemented. Doing so is often easiest when leaders promote and require implementation.
4. Hold Team Members Accountable
Another way to make university strategic plans stick is by holding team members accountable. School performance management software allows you to track reports and other strategy-related information to determine who’s completing their duties so you can keep them accountable.
Educational institutions require significant planning to ensure a successful school year. Strategic planning software for higher education can help you focus your strategy despite your institution’s challenges. Software like AchieveIt has features that help your team turn ideas into actions.
A few things you can do with our software include:
- Solve common implementation challenges: AchieveIt makes connecting members of your team and various initiatives easy. You can track projects, keep everyone on the same page and quickly send updates.
- Gain comprehensive visibility: Our platform lets you see every initiative in real time, providing comprehensive visibility over progress.
- Consult with our experts: Our strategic plan experts help you execute your plan effectively. Draw on our expertise for inspiration or customize one of our templates to create your plan.
Let’s actually do this. Request a demo of AchieveIt to see what we can do for you today.
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7 reasons why schools need strategic planning.
By Mary King
20 march 2023.
- 1 1. A strategic plan articulates a shared vision, mission and values
- 2 2. A strategic plan effectively organizes schools, staff, and time
- 3 3. A strategic plan defines how success is measured
- 4 4. A strategic plan helps with decision-making, responsiveness, and innovation
- 5 5. A strategic plan increases communication and engagement
- 6 6. A strategic plan keeps everyone in a school—from teachers to administrators—connected
- 7 7. The best reason of all for strategic planning comes back to every great school’s number one priority: students
- 8 Download the guide ↓
The past three years have been disruptive for every sector. For educational institutions, the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted everyone–from staff and teachers, to the students who had to switch to a new modality of learning, to the parents supporting them. Strategic planning in education has revealed itself to be a very important part of recovering. According to the Economic Policy Institute, the COVID-19 pandemic forced nearly 55 million children home in the US alone—and at least 1.4 billion children out of school or child care across the globe. Higher education institutions have been profoundly financially impacted , and both the learning experience and mental wellbeing of the students has been negatively affected.
While every educational institution was impacted by this, some schools were more prepared than others to face the unique challenges COVID-19 posed–those schools who had previously established strategic plans were better prepared to navigate the pandemic than those without.
It’s clear to us: Schools that embrace a great strategic plan, and commit to strategic planning in education, have clear advantages over schools that don’t.
We’re going to talk about some of those advantages now, look at some examples of strategic planning in education, and give 7 reasons for why every school with a vision of excellence for their students should embrace a strategic planning process for schools. Whether it’s getting back on track after a hugely disruptive, global event like COVID-19, identifying the most important strategies to improve student outcomes, or increasing staff engagement, all schools benefit from strategic planning and strategic plan implementation.
1. A strategic plan articulates a shared vision, mission and values
The ability for schools to collaborate, share, and communicate short and long term goals is a critical part of moving plans forward in line with a vision, mission, and values. Schools benefit from a well communicated and executed strategic plan that keeps everyone informed of their strategic goals, and how their actions are contributing to the achievement of these goals. This enables parents, staff, community members, and stakeholders to work towards a common vision.
A major additional benefit of strategic planning in education is that it provides an opportunity for active employee engagement across an organization. When it comes to strategic planning for educational institutions, that benefit remains present. Research suggests that a leading cause for employee discontent (in general, but especially in the public sector) is that employees don’t understand how the work they’re doing helps their greater organization.
If the school is able to clearly define and remind employees and stakeholders of the shared vision, employees are more likely to feel connected to the work they are doing within that organization. Whether that work is educating students, organizing reports, performing critical administrative duties, or coordinating the process of standardized testing, everyone plays a part in a student’s success.
2. A strategic plan effectively organizes schools, staff, and time
We understand that schools–whether they are elementary schools, high schools, or higher education institutions– are complex institutions, with boards, committees, districts, unions, and many different types of stakeholders involved. Because the organizations themselves are so large, and plans are often multi-year, complex entities built up by multiple stakeholders and workers, struggles with organization and effective time management are common.
Envisio provides strategic planning software for educational institutions , and because Envisio works exclusively with the public sector, we understand the unique, complex, and often large scale planning needs of public sector organizations.
One of our customers, District 49 in Colorado, is a rapidly growing school district in El Paso County , with more than 25,000 students within its portfolio of 29 schools, and over 2000 employees. They needed a sophisticated strategic planning partner who could keep their ambitions organized and their plans in focus. In terms of strategic planning in education, and plan execution for a large district such as District 49, effective organization is critical in maintaining focus and saving time:
“I see Envisio very much as a focusing tool as I work with my team. If you’ve got great people, your primary job is not to get in their way […] I can stay on top of performance in a way that is really unobtrusive, and I don’t have to necessarily interact directly with an individual to get a sense of what’s going on. I can stay abreast of the action plans in the communications department or the action plans in a particular school. If we’re missing the mark on a key performance measure, I can focus more time on having the right conversations.” – Peter Hilts, Chief Education Officer for District 49
3. A strategic plan defines how success is measured
In order to achieve success, it’s important to know what success means, and where to take action first. It is difficult to get a strategic action plan underway without a firm understanding of what problems you’re wanting to solve. When it comes to strategic planning in the public sector, determining clear benchmarks for success is especially important, because the goals are often a combination of abstract, impact-based metrics, and concrete, output-based goals.
Different types of educational institutions are going to have different challenges, and different metrics of success: the educational strategic plans of a public school board district are going to look a lot different from a college or university! The shared reality is that every school with a strategy is better able to monitor its progress toward key outcomes and evaluate where and how it may have gotten off track. Using a strategy implementation software like Envisio can help with measuring success.
At Northeast Ohio Medical University (NEOMED), in Portage County, Ohio, they are measuring success across six pillars, with forty two strategic initiatives . Many of their strategic plan elements (goals, strategies, and actions) include promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion for their students, staff, and employees. Being a major medical research university that is training future medical professionals, diversity, equity, and inclusivity is a critical—and practical—metric! Some of the performance measures that NEOMED tracks include gender demographics, and actionable items towards decreasing disability stigma as part of their Strategic Plan: Creating Transformational Leaders Dashboard .
No matter what your benchmark for “success” is—be it a more impact-focused concept such as “be more welcoming” or more concretely articulated in output terms such as “create a low-cost tutoring center using the library after school”, your strategic plan will provide you with the steps to make get that success underway, and stay on track.
4. A strategic plan helps with decision-making, responsiveness, and innovation
A strategic plan helps educational institutions remain agile during times of change, and also helps them better define what they intend to achieve when it comes to their student success objectives and their greater organizational goals. With a strategic plan in place, educational institutions have a roadmap which they can use to track, evaluate, and modify plans to facilitate better governance decisions and provide clearer direction for the future of the school. This helps a school maintain a steady rhythm of progress towards their goals, and remain ahead of the curve–both in terms of educational innovation, and when (not if) a disruptive change occurs.
“It’s difficult, because you’re trying to help students prepare for the future – to prepare for jobs that might not exist yet. You’re trying to develop educators and an education that gives them the skills to think critically.” – Dr. Alison Gillespie, the Assistant Superintendent for Teaching and Learning with White Bear Lake Area School District (WBLAS) in Ramsey County, Minnesota
White Bear Lake Area School District (WBLAS), MN, was able to leverage their strategic plan as a way to embrace change and turn obstacles (like COVID-19) into opportunities for success. They embraced active learning techniques and, through their strategic plan, were able to think ahead to turn disruptions into teachable moments that engaged students and staff alike.
5. A strategic plan increases communication and engagement
A strategic plan ( and particularly, one that is publicly communicated on a dashboard ) helps with overall communication and engagement. For a school board, communicating that your plans and your metrics for success are part of a larger, holistic plan, is critical to building trust with stakeholders and maintaining effective engagement—both internally, and externally.
Strategic planning in education is critical in settings where trust is paramount. Educational institutions—at all levels—work on the understanding that one group (the educators) has knowledge they can impart, share, or coax out in another group (the students). The need for a trusting relationship with the students and everyone involved in that student’s success needs to be central to a positive educational environment.
A strategic plan that can be easily found, referenced, and understood helps assure everyone involved that the school in question is aware of their plans, has them in focus, and has a plan for their shortcomings. Educational strategic planning also has the additional benefit of keeping stakeholders—such as donors—excited about the school’s vision. When it comes to fundraising, donors are more likely to support a school that has a clear vision and a strategy to make it happen.
6. A strategic plan keeps everyone in a school—from teachers to administrators—connected
A well implemented and communicated strategic plan holds all staff accountable for their actions and encourages collaboration. In educational settings, this circle of responsibility is extended out towards the community; providing excellent and accessible education is an effort that requires all hands on deck. Being able to simplify the strategic planning process and make it visible and easy to use is one way to ensure everyone stays connected.
One of the benefits of using a strategic planning software partner like Envisio is that individual action plans (from individual schools or departments) can be aligned, all the way up to a greater strategic objective. For multi-year, complex plans, such as setting a national standard of excellence, or incorporating culturally significant teachings—it’s important that teachers and staff are able to understand who is working on what, and where it fits into the greater whole.
7. The best reason of all for strategic planning comes back to every great school’s number one priority: students
Best of all, strategic planning in education provides a framework so that the most important priority of the school – students’ educational achievement – is taken care of. Having a sturdy educational strategic plan helps keep issues like digital equity , accessibility , literacy , preparation for an ever changing workforce , and social and environmental enrichment , front of mind. When the experience of the student is the priority for the school, the strategic plan becomes a collaborative effort to figure out how best to set students up for success.
Being on the same page for these goals is extremely important for schools: sound planning and communication helps ensure that stakeholders, including parents, teachers, administrators, principals, board members, and the greater community, are all striving for the same overall vision. And, when it comes to putting those plans into action, schools especially benefit from the habit of consistent performance measurement, which is something a strategic plan can help in ingraining.
For complex, multi-layered institutions such as an educational institute to successfully reach their goals—particularly after being so dramatically impacted by COVID-19—it requires not only proper management of human, budgetary, and time resources, but the creation of high-output teams, engaged and effective staff and teachers, and the consistent monitoring of progress. For schools, a strategic plan provides a north star for deepening a sense of community and knowledge, and breaks down the actionable steps to reach critical goals.
Download the guide ↓
Mary King is a professional writer and researcher based in Toronto. She comes to Envisio with a Masters Degree, where she researched the relationship between the disappearance of urban public spaces, and high level decision-making processes in local governments. For nearly a decade, Mary has worked as a community organizer, promoter, and supportive researcher in a variety of nonprofits and think-tanks, and her favorite area of focus was in connecting local artists with marginalized youth. Since 2017, her writings and research on policy, local governance, and its relationship to public art and public space has been presented at conferences internationally. She has also served as both a conference chair and lead facilitator on professional and academic conferences across Canada on how to better bridge academic research with local change-agents, policy makers, artists, and community members. Envisio’s mission of excellence and trust in the public sector maps onto Mary's interest in local government and community mobilization. She loves working at Envisio because she cares about having well organized, strategic, and transparent public organizations and local governments. Mary is also a creative writer and musician and has been supported in her practice by the Canada Council for the Arts. Her stories can be found in literary journals across Canada.
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3 reasons why you need strategic planning in education.
Strategic planning is not just for the business world. While strategic plans have been around in the education sector since the 1980s, it’s not as commonly known.
Strategic planning is one tool APQC offers to the education sector as part of its improvement initiatives. Many school districts are coming to APQC for guidance as they realize the value strategic plans can offer their students, staff, and community. Districts of all sizes benefit from this approach that helps them achieve goals to improve student outcomes as well as become a more efficient and effective organization.
1) Provides a focus . A strategic plan formalizes the school district’s mission, vision, values, goals, and objectives. This enables stakeholders to voice and agree on the same priorities and focus on the same path to improvement.
2) Engages the community and stakeholders . Part of the strategic planning process involves engaging the community and other stakeholders in feedback sessions. This insight early on helps the team develop a more targeted strategic plan and builds community support.
3) Helps create efficiency and saves money . School districts that implement strategic plans ultimately create efficiency that can translate to dollar savings.
Most districts develop a three- to five-year plan that identifies the districts’ strategies, person responsible, timeline, and required funding. The plans should be reviewed regularly to monitor and communicate progress to stakeholders.
School districts that implement strategic plans not only gain buy-in from internal and external stakeholders about the district work but also develop meaningful measures to track and gauge success.
For more information about strategic planning in education, see How to Develop Strategic Plans in Education , in the APQC Knowledge Base.
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STRATEGIC PLANNING PROCESS
OVERVIEW AND DEFINITIONS
School District Systems Alignment
There is a difference between the three central tenets of school district organization. Those tenants include Board Governance Policies, District Strategic Planning, and District Operational Planning. The following definitions help clarify the roles each plays in a strategically aligned school district. See figure below:
Elements of a Strategic Plan
A comprehensive strategic plan includes both the academic and operational aspects of a school district as identified in the district's accreditation process; the AdvancED school improvement model. This model consists of three domains:
- Leadership Capacity
- Learning Capacity
- Resource Capacity
The Domains are statements that define the capacity of a school district to provide quality student experiences as measured by a set of standards and meet the rigorous demands of continuous school district improvement. A Strategic Plan will align the work of the District in both academic and operational strategic initiatives, goals, and result metrics.
The elements of a good strategic plan include: Mission Statement, Vision Statement, Belief or Value Statements, Strategic Initiatives, Goals, and Results and are aligned with the AdvancED performance standards for continuous school improvement.
What is Strategic Planning?
Strategic planning is an organizational management activity that is used to set priorities, focus energy and resources, strengthen operations, and ensure that employees, board members, and stakeholders are all working toward common goals. It is an effort that will guide fundamental decisions and actions to shape the future of your school district.
What is a Strategic Plan?
A Strategic Plan is a living document used to communicate the organization's goals, the priorities needed to achieve those goals, and metrics used to measure progress on those goals. It includes both the academic and operational aspects of the school district.
Strategic plans are aligned with the Boards governing policies. Through these policies, the Board sets the directive; however, the Superintendent ensures a process is put in place to develop and implement a strategic plan.
Strategic Planning vs. Operational Planning
A strategic plan is a living document used to communicate the organization's goals, the priorities needed to achieve those goals, and metrics used to measure progress on those goals. It outlines your mission, vision, values, and strategic initiatives (focus) for the next three to five years. A focused strategic plan will strengthen operations, and ensure that employees, board members, and stakeholders are all working toward common goals.
An operational plan is a yearly plan which will focus the work of the district during the current school year. It is the mechanism used to implement a strategic plan. The operational plan is directly aligned to the strategic plan and includes metrics to measure.
Engaging in a strategic planning process involves looking at the internal and external factors both perceptual and factual associated with the school district's current performance. A method typically used to complete this task is called "Environmental Scanning".
Environmental scanning is a process where both internal and external factors that impact the effectiveness of a school district are examined. The method identifies the strengths and challenges facing the school district.
- Current strategic and operational plans
- District policies which pertain to operational practices
- AdvancED Reports
- ND Insights review - DPI dashboard
- Internal academic measurements and metrics
- District demographic trends
- Review of current district initiative
In addition to the review of these documents, the Strategic Planning Committee engaged in a SWOT Analysis activity. A SWOT Analysis is a process where both internal and external factors that impact the effectiveness of a school district/organization are examined. Strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats analysis (SWOT Analysis) can assist in identifying these factors. A summary of the SWOT Analysis activity can be found in Addendum 1.
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