1. It loses momentum and is never completed - many Boards will leap with enthusiasm into the process, examining their Vision and Mission and setting lofty (and often vague) goals for the future. However, when you get into the tough grind of consulting with various constituencies; identifying concrete strategic goals and critical success factors; and drafting out the plan, they either lose interest or pass the leg work over to the professional staff to complete. What started as a Board initiative becomes just another administrative report to be read and shelved;
2. It gets completed and filed - If you placed the binders containing all of the unimplemented school strategic plans that have ever been written...well, actually I don't know how far they would stretch but I can guarantee that you could easily run a marathon on them without ever touching the ground! There are a couple of reasons for this. Sometimes, by the time that it is finalized many of the goals have already been implemented. Many Heads will jump on the bandwagon to get out ahead of the Board and begin to put their ideas into practice before they are finalized. The result is the appearance of action without the long- term context on which it is based. In addition, many of the high-sounding principles that are articulated in the report can sometimes run counter to actual present practice. It is easier to quietly set the report aside than it is to live up to its ideals. Finally, you might have a change of membership on the Board or a new Head whose ideas are at variance with the earlier vision. Any way you look at it, the strategic moment is lost;
3. Rather than setting goals and measurable outcomes, the Plan becomes a shopping list of "actions" and "initiatives" - Schools often fall into this trap. Rather than focus on outcomes that you want to see, the plan becomes an amalgam of "changes" instead. To be honest, administrators are a lot more comfortable with inputs (new programmes, new facilities, additional resources, etc.) than with measurable results. If they can steer the report towards a list of actions, then Board ends up just sitting back and checking off their "accomplishments" as soon as the administration puts them into effect. Although this kind of plan can galvanize people into action, at the end of the day there is no vehicle for assessing whether or not what was done had the desired effect. It is hard to hold the school Leadership team accountable for school improvement if all you are asking them to do is to implement a set of initiatives that you have thought up; or,
4. The Plan is written, implemented, and has the desired effect! - Obviously this is the option that everyone is looking for. A plan that is truly strategic, grounded in current realities, and that sets measurable goals and key performance indicators can truly transform a school or school district.
Next blog we will take a look at how you can ensure that your plan is a number 4!