Crafting strategy is not an easy task. The process must be carefully thought out and constantly monitored. A team approach works best.
- Provide a structured framework. Use a strategy development framework that is logical and breaks what is essentially a complex task into manageable components. Develop a framework that goes beyond the traditional three-part process of :
- Where are we now?
- Where do we want to get to?
- How we want to get there?
Instead, focus on factors external to, and internal to, the school, always asking the five fundamental strategic questions highlighted in an earlier section of this booklet.
- Build a strong planning team. Any planning team should include a cross-section of stakeholders – people with balanced views, creative minds and questioning attitudes. The best planning team comprises roughly seven or eight people. This number provides sufficient diversity of opinion and is a containable number for meetings.
- Consult widely. The art of strategy development is primarily the art of conversation. Focus groups and surveys work well but regular conversations with people about the future direction of the school provide the richest data.
- Build an effective team process. Employ approaches to planning that draw on the capabilities of each individual and combine the collective intelligence of the group. Diversity is helpful. Encourage debate. Value people who challenge the ‘status quo’.
- Look for strongly developed strategic skills. Ensure an understanding among team members of the core elements of strategy. Ensure the focus is on strategic thinking not just strategic planning. Encourage the ability to see beyond ‘what is’ to ‘what could be’; to see beyond today to envision tomorrow. The ability to interpret data and recognise the implications of that data for the school is a key element in the team’s capabilities.
- Build a comprehensive database. Provide the planning group with valid raw material to underpin and reinforce all strategic debates. Do not supply so much data that the group suffers from ‘analysis paralysis’, but enough to be able to examine issues from all perspectives.
- Support and foster creativity. Allow people to draw on ‘gut feel’ and intuition when necessary. The capacity to combine seemingly unrelated ideas in order to create new initiatives is the key to creative solutions.
- Be diligent with time frames. Time frames set aside for strategic planning processes can blow out. Momentum can soon be lost and enthusiasm diminished. Work to a project schedule that is reviewed regularly. Ideally, a planning process should take around three to four months.
- Ensure that planning workshops are productive. Too many planning workshops are ‘talk fests’. Remind people in every workshop that they are there to make decisions, develop actions or agree on ‘open items’ that will need further exploration after the workshop. There can be no other outcomes.
- Put sufficient organisational support behind the planning effort. The commitment of top management, along with the resources to undertake the tasks as cost-effectively and efficiently as possible, is vital. Financial and moral support for the process of planning is mandatory.