I was called recently by a school head to see if I would be interested in helping him and a few others look at their most recent strategic plan and explore ways that it might be renewed, revitalized and given some new life and energy. At least that is what I heard in his question. The next step was that he and I were joined by a trustee who chairs that committee and we talked through the objectives and possible outcomes. Some of the previous action steps had been taken, others were still a work in progress and a few had become dormant.
Many of the 22 strategies in the old strategic plan were still valid and useful and the “sustainable 10-year financial model”, contains essential information for responsible management. These documents, along with a current self-study for accreditation, have most of the background information and details necessary for the future of the school. However, in order to jump-start and accelerate any forward movement, a few top priorities that merit attention and action may help realize some desirable results in a timely manner.
There seemed to be at least three big issues the school was facing in the immediate and short-term future, thus the need to address the challenges and figure out what options might be viable.
The three most important priorities, not necessarily in order, were financial sustainability which was related to enrollment and marketing; appropriate staffing and infrastructure; and current support of the internal and external communities. In order to assemble a group of people who might understand and appreciate these issues, and be willing to commit to working on them, the head and his trustee hand-picked a group of 12 people who came to be known as the Strategic Design Task Force. We met for a day-long session to identify and analyze these issues, create some design and direction for the road ahead and to assign specific tasks to each of the people present to be joined by a few others not in attendance.
The Strategic Design Task Force considered the six constituent groups that composed the school and in the end came up with actions that could begin immediately with people assigned to manage and direct the activities required for each group. There was an agreement to meet again in two months to review the progress in each area based on what emerged from the day-long discussions and deliberations. It was clear that each constituent group has an important role to play and it would be the mission of the task force to direct and manage the activity in each of the groups.
The six sub-groups, together with the actions required can connect the pieces and parts into one unified vision of a newly revised and updated plan for the school. It is also important that this activity itself be communicated to the entire school community following these precepts. This is what we are doing, this is why we are doing it, this is how we are doing it and this is what we need from each part of this school community.
There is no magic formula or recipe that will guarantee the results but being specific and concrete in each of the areas for action will have a greater likelihood of success. Each member of the task force needs to understand the objectives of the mission and what is needed in each case for the desired result and then work toward that end keeping in mind how critical it is to communicate clearly in each instance. There is no room nor time for ambiguity, vagueness or maybe. The people on the Strategic Design Task Force are making a commitment, both individually and collectively, to get this work done in the year ahead with a timeline that includes updates and revisions as the work gets done. It seems time to not merely survive but find the ways and means to breathe new life into the community, thus revise and revive! Stay tuned for the outcomes!