Effective Strategic Planning involves anticipating the future and then making plans to achieve desirable outcomes while avoiding undesirable outcomes in the future. One of the biggest problems with strategic planning is the failure to thoroughly explore the implications before taking action, which very often results in unintended consequences. The aims of LEAD’s strategic planning services are to help schools/districts reduce some of the risk of anticipating the future and to avoid unintended consequences.HOW THE PROCESS WORKS
1. Identify the Main Things: The key question schools/districts should ask is: What are the main things we need to pay attention to and plan for during the next three to five years? Typically these “main things” are current or emerging problems, issues, or trends. Until this question is answered strategic planning efforts will be futile. Identifying the “main things” can be achieved by one or a combination of: some type of survey of stakeholders or key decision makers, focus groups, and analysis of data.
Allow about three months to collect and analyze survey data, schedule the strategic exploration event, secure participants, and make logistical arrangements.
2. Strategic Exploration: Once the main things are identified, a group of people is assembled to explore possible solutions to address the problems, issues, or trends the school/district needs to pay attention to. The best results are achieved if the group is large enough to represent all the stakeholders and diverse enough to avoid narrow, single-line thinking. Typically group sizes vary from 15 to 40. Sub-groups (typically 3 to 5 per group) are assigned to explore one of the main things the school/district needs to pay attention to and plan for. This approach allows individuals to focus on one topic, which usually results in a deeper, more thorough exploration. Using a software tool call the Implications Wheel, each small group identifies possible solutions to address the problem, issue, or trend. Next, the implications of each of the potential solutions are explored. The focusing question is: What might happen if this solution is pursued? Through this process both positive and negative outcomes are identified. The next focusing question (“What might happen after that?) is one of the most important questions during the process because it causes individuals to think deeply about the implications of actions before they happen and is the key to avoiding unintended consequences. Each outcome is rated on two continuums: 1) its desirability and 2) how likely it is to happen. After each small group completes their exploration they prepare a report that summarizes their findings and conclusions. The most important part of the report is their list of recommended goals for inclusion in a strategic plan. Because the implications of each possible solution have been thoroughly explored, the group typically recommends those they believe are likely to produce the most desirable outcomes and rejects the rest. The report includes the group’s rationale (reasons for making the recommendation) and key strategies or action steps to achieve the recommended goal. When time allows, each small groups makes a brief summary report to the full group to highlight their findings and recommendations and provide clarification.
Typically about six hours (may be accomplished as a one-day event or divided into multiple sessions).
3. Follow-Up: The reports from each small group are displayed on a dedicated website, which includes a survey to rate: 1) the degree of agreement with the various findings, conclusions, and recommendations and 2) how much priority should be given each of the strategies. Typically, everyone who participated in the strategic exploration exercise is expected to logon to the website and complete the survey ratings. Usually, about one week is allotted for this.
Completed about one week following the strategic exploration exercise.
4. Follow-Up Document Preparation: After the follow-up ratings are completed, two documents are produced:
Strategic Priorities Report: includes charts displaying the degree of agreement with the various recommendations and priority rankings of recommended strategies or actions steps.
Strategic Plan Template: includes the key information from the Strategic Priorities Report and serves as a template for the final Strategic Plan document.
Completed within two weeks after follow-up.
5. Strategic Plan Document Preparation: The Strategic Plan Template requires additional detail that only local personnel can provide such as specific timelines, assigning responsibility for completion of tasks, and listing strategies to measure the plan’s progress. A LEAD consultant will work with local personnel to create a Strategic Plan Draft.
Typically completed within three or four weeks after receiving follow-up documents.
6. Strategic Plan Review: The school/district board reviews the strategic plan draft and makes appropriate additions or corrections.
Set by board
7. Strategic Plan Adoption: The school/district board formally adopts the strategic plan and begins implementation. It is highly recommended that “Strategic Plan Status Reporting” become a recurring agenda item at board meetings.
Set by boardSERVICES PROVIDED
· Help identify the main things the school/district needs to pay attention to and plan for including conducting surveys or focus groups and analyzing data.
· Advice regarding the people to participate in the strategic exploration exercise
· Advice regarding logistical arrangements
· Manage follow-up activities· Prepare follow-up documents· Help local personnel prepare strategic plan draft documentOnsite Consultation· Facilitate the strategic exploration exercise
· Onsite meeting with local personnel (optional)· Onsite meeting with school/district board (optional)COSTS· Consulting Fee: $1,000 - $2,000 (Depending on the level of services required. Call ND LEAD Center at 701-258-3022, and we will discuss the services required.)
· Consultant Travel Expenses: Cost