Where are you and your organisation going?
If you as a leader don’t have that clarity, you can bet your boots your team is up to their chins in swamp water, fighting off alligators of confusion with a teaspoon.
Susannah’s school was facing their second Education Review Office assessment since she’d taken up the principalship. The first time it had been rather stressful. This time she took the entire staff away for a weekend planning retreat, with a fair dollop of relaxation added in. They applied the steps you’re about to read. Susannah reported later that because they had a clear sense of purpose and a plan, they were able to identify and deal systematically with all the potential issues. Result: the whole review process was very positive and they received an excellent report.
Henri stepped into the position as CEO of a rural hospital. His vision was to be the benchmark rural hospital for his region. He knew his target, communicated this vision, and engaged staff in strategic planning. His hospital revamped procedures and policies, implemented a physician-friendly environment, focused on patient care, and communicated to the public the things they did really well. Staff pride is now apparent to anyone entering their facility. They attract and retain staff and physicians, have a waiting list of applicants, enjoy the confidence and trust of the community they serve, and have an enviable reputation throughout the region. The CEO and staff, through focusing on a common vision, have realized their goals – they are indeed now the benchmark in rural hospitals.
In strategic planning it’s the key goals and clear focus that drive change
All senior school leaders know that what they do today creates the future. Most of them understand they need a solid, well-thought-out plan to guide them as to where to put their energy. But many come into the role with limited experience and no blueprint on how to effectively future focus. For many, the whole thing seems a bit hit-and-miss: there’s a bit of science, but a lot more guess-work. If you’re in that category, here come the answers.
Let’s break it down to the simplest possible components – if you’re like most leaders or trainee leaders, you’re too busy for time-stealing complex methods. You just want the guts of it!
We can’t take all the work away, but when you break it down, there are just three things to remember:
- Know where you are
- Know where you want to go
- Know how you’ll get there
Here is a list of some key elements of strategic planning. You’ll see that it’s a combination of big picture thinking and analytical thinking
- Examine your organisation’s history for successes and failures.
- Analyse your organisation’s mission, vision and values.
- Assess where you are.
- Ask yourself where you want to be five years from now.
- Ask what needs to change in order for you to achieve those goals.
- Explore – what changes can you expect in the next five years?
- Discuss to what extent you, or your organisation, should be involved in these changes.
- Plan forward – where you need, or want, to go.
- Gather information.
- Make decisions based on opportunities, threats, strengths and weaknesses – for example, what outside trends may affect you in the future?
- Ask what creative and different ways there are to think about your situation.
- Check whether you are following old models, and if there is a better way.
There’s strategic planning, and strategic planning!
Just as all planning is not the same, so all strategic planning is not the same. The difference is in thoroughness and objectivity. If we simply gather a team together and brainstorm what we think will challenge us in the future, the outcomes may not be valid – it’s easy to get stuck in old thinking, instead of looking outside the square.
How can we avoid this? The answer is stunningly simple. Engage a facilitator to expedite the planning and outcomes. A good facilitator, as they follow the guidelines of strategic planning, engages every mind in the process, builds teamwork, distils ideas and documents the plan.
It’s best to get a professional outside facilitator to guide this process. They keep the process on track and on time, intercept interference from egos or turf control, and make sure you accomplish the outcomes for each planning segment. Another major benefit of using an outside professional is that the managers, leaders and employees are freed up to participate in the planning process.
A facilitator brings the process, and is the catalyst: the planning team builds the plan, and it belongs to them.
Enjoy the experience – as I’ve found myself on more than one occasion, once we have this clarity it takes a huge load off our shoulders. Confusion and uncertainty about our direction disappears and we save enormous amounts of time.