The 7 Deadly Sins of Strategic Planning

1. Gluttony or thou shall not be all things to all people

Consuming more than one requires

One of the worst things a school can do is try to cover every area of school operation in their strategic plan. Many strategic planning processes begin like this… ‘let’s look at all areas of the school – governance, staffing, student welfare, curriculum, buildings, environment, finances, marketing, master planning, pastoral care etc’. Pretty soon you have so many goals and strategies that nothing will get done.

2. Thou shall not set goals without examining data

The first step of strategic planning should be to determine where your school is right now. This step comes before any other step in the strategic planning process. Collecting data allows you to identify where the areas of strength and weakness are in the organisation, and where the gaps are. It also provides the information you need to see what the critical issues might be. For example, there is no point in deciding that one of your strategic goals for the year is to improve student behaviour if you don’t know what specific behaviour you want to improve or whether, in fact, this is an area of concern. Collecting data on student attendance, bullying, referrals for bad behaviour, detentions, suspensions, exclusions etc. should all precede focusing on behaviour as a key issue. You might even find that student behaviour is not an issue for your school!

3. Envy or thou shall not get on the bandwagon

The desire for others’ traits, characteristics, abilities, possessions

Schools need to be very clear that undertaking a project occurs for the right reasons, not because a particular innovation is flavour of the month. It is all too easy to get distracted from the school’s vision and mission by following what the school down the road is doing, rather than doing what is right for your school. This is not to say that schools should not be keeping an eye on the ‘opposition’. However, all decisions and strategic plans should focus on what is the best for our students in our school, not what seems to be a good idea at the time. This is why Sin 4 is so important.

4. Pride or thou shall not ignore research

An excessive belief in our own abilities

The volume of education research is immense, and much of this research gives clear guidelines about whether a particular action is worth taking. For example, there is a great deal of research about the benefits of reducing class sizes, much of which points to the fact that, except in Years P-3, schools should not waste their money on reducing class sizes by a few students. Schools should carefully read this research, and other research that provides information about the benefits, or otherwise, of any innovation they are intending to introduce.

5. Thou shall not ignore your plan

A strategic plan is a living document. It is not something you should complete for school accreditation, or because some authority says you must have a plan, or because you think it is something businesses ‘do’. A strategic plan is the key document, the map, for moving your school towards your vision. If you put your plan away and leave it in the cupboard until it is time to develop a new plan, your school community will be cynical, disillusioned and unlikely to be enthusiastic about consulting on the new plan.

6. Sloth or thou shall not forget to act

The avoidance of physical or spiritual work

Plans work when someone does something. As important as having a plan is deciding who is going to make it happen. When the plan is written the next key question is ‘Is anybody doing anything?’  This is why it is essential in writing the final plan, that someone is made responsible for implementing each part of the plan. This allows the school management/board to check with a particular person or team and ensures that a particular person/group is accountable for implementing the plan.

7. Thou shall not forget to review

A strategic plan is the essential ‘road map’ for moving your school towards its desired vision, but it is a road map that changes as you hit obstacles and bumps in the road. Schools need to regularly review their plans for relevance and currency. An annual ‘light’ review is recommended and a formal review every 3-5 years is generally the practice in businesses and schools.

The other deadly sins are, of course, lust, anger and greed but we could not, for the life of us, see how these might fit into strategic planning!

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