Strategic Planning: What To Avoid?

Taking advantage of Strategic Planning for clearer direction

Organizations, companies and businesses may have what they call strategic planning, but producing an overall clear direction is very vital for success. Members of these groups need to feel as if they are part of something bigger than themselves. At the same time, they need bright guidance to learn what something bigger they are part of.

Doubts on the effectiveness of business strategic planning may be a conclusion from the fact that strategic planning is not often crucial and most commonly results in pages and pages of plans that sit unused in desk drawers. Another reason is there are many organizations, companies, businesses who fail at implementing their supposedly strategic plans over the years. The reasons why they fail to implement their strategic plans maybe as follows.

- It is expected to experience a fast moving and fast changing industry and these groups may have not created an overall guide for their direction. Putting together your operational plans and setting your goals could aid this issue. But factors like sales, your competition, your ability and many others make strategic planning useless and so you need to watch out for it.

- It is very good to have set your priorities but having too many things on your to-do lists makes it ineffective. It’s even harder when all of the things listed are important and had to get done. It is just so important to have listed clear priorities and avoid taking baby steps for each of those priorities for the company’s success.

- Most of the time, strategic planning sessions are facilitated by a consultant which commonly recommend and request 50-60 pages of research about the competition, markets and other measurements. However, companies barely have all of this data collected nor do they have the ability to utilize it effectively in planning. In that matter, they spent all of the work hours as without value.

- Your organization, company, or business may have the greatest strategic plan created but then failure to execute it makes another time wasted. Without actions that could make the execution of the strategic plan a success it is always equal to nothing.

Strategic planning is a good thing an organization, company, or business can take and execute for success. However, it’s also important to know the pitfalls that could make it ineffective and the necessary things that could make it successful. In that matter, avoiding the pitfalls and maximizing the necessary things for it to work could insure success.

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Five Common Strategic Planning Mistakes

Failure to clarify your school Vision and Mission as part of the process

Many schools and organizations spend a great deal of time clarifying their Vision and Mission; and then forgetting about it. Being clear about both of these and ensuring that EVERY member of the school or organizational community is also clear is essential to successful planning. Many organizations fall down at the first hurdle because the lack of a shared vision and mission means lack of commitment to where the organization is going. Any plan is, therefore, doomed to fail. The time, and sometimes agony, it takes to reach a consensus on what your school or business does, for whom and where it is going, is worth every hour it takes.

Failure to consult

If it is important to have commitment to a shared vision (and it is), then failing to communicate with all stakeholders throughout the strategic planning process is likely to result in a flawed plan, and flawed implementation. It denies the creative input of people who have excellent ideas to move the school forward and it increases the dangers of group think, with influential school or business leaders more likely to hijack the plan to fit their preconceived ideas. While this is not fatal if the leader is knowledgeable and open to new ideas, it does run the risk that some of the best ideas will never be heard. Consulting all stakeholders does not mean they must be involved in every step of the planning process, but it does mean that at some time in the process parents, staff, board members, students and the wider community should have the opportunity to provide meaningful input.

Failure to gather data

Knowing about your school/organization and all of its characteristics, both good and bad, is essential to useful strategic planning. It is a waste of valuable time; for example, to implement a new behavior management plan if you do not have data on the type of behavior that is causing concern, the number of incidents of bad behavior and when and where the behavior occurs. Similarly, implementing a new literacy program when the data reveal that all members of the school community are reaching literacy benchmarks may be a waste of time and resources. After clarifying the vision and mission, the next essential step is to collect the data on which you will base decisions about the future.

Failure to communicate

Most people are uncomfortable with change if they do not understand how the change might impact on them. Many difficult times in schools and organizations are eliminated, or at least reduced, if management gets the communication process right. When discussing change that may occur as a result of strategic planning, all members of the school/organizational community need to understand the strategic planning process, need to be kept up to date on how the plan is progressing, need to know when and how they will be consulted, and need to have access to the plan when it is completed.

Failure to implement

A plan is nothing more than words on paper until it is implemented. Stakeholders quickly become cynical if months are spent on developing a strategic plan, and then the plan remains in the office of the CEO or amongst the Board papers. Towards the end of the planning process, the implementation plan must be developed. This involves identifying the strategies and actions to reach the goals outlined in the plan, deciding on the timeline, and identifying the people who are responsible for the actions. And it also means establishing a monitoring process to review on a regular basis how implementation is progressing.

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The Best Five Tips For Successful Strategic Planning

How can you be sure your strategic planning will make a difference to your school? There are, at least, five things you can do to ensure you give yourself the best chance to move your school towards its stated vision.

Tip 1

Be clear about your vision. If you do not know what you want to achieve, you cannot make decisions about how you are going to get there. One of the key attributes of successful schools is that they have a well-articulated vision that all members of the school community are aware of and believe in. It is worthwhile spending time to get your vision right because all later strategic planning decisions depend on whether or not the actions arising from the plan are consistent with the vision.

Tip 2

Be strategic. This tip is so obvious that it is almost ridiculous; however, a great deal of strategic planning gets bogged down in detail rather than looking at the bigger picture. There are many operations in the day-to-day running of a school that remain relatively constant; for example, attention to student safety, the curriculum, the co-curricular program. Unless you intend to change one of these operational areas, they should not be part of your strategic planning process. Rather, your strategic planning should deal with key strategic questions and issues. That is, the issues on which school effectiveness, student outcomes and the viability of the school depends.

Tip 3
Be collaborative. A plan will not work if people are not out there making it happen. People will not work with any enthusiasm on a plan they do not own. The more members of the school community involved in the development of the plan, the more buy-in you will have and the more people who will be motivated to make the plan work. At the very least, school staff, students and parents should be involved in some stage of the development of your strategic plan. You might also consider involving local business people, the local community, old scholars and any other relevant people.

Tip 4
Be specific. Key strategic goals need to be SMART. That is they should be specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-limited.
Specific means they should be clear and able to be understood by all, including those not involved in the process.

Measurable means they should articulate the desired outcome, not the specific strategies. For example, not write about improving student outcomes in general terms. Write something specific like: improve benchmarks testing results by 10% by the end of the year.

Achievable means that the goal should be rigorous and cause stretching but it also should be possible to reach. People will soon lose interest in a goal they can never attain.

Realistic, is similar to achievable. They is no point in setting a goal that all students will receive 100% in the end of year exam when clearly the only way this might be achieved is by setting a test so simple that anyone could do it; but it would hardly encourage good teaching or learning!

Time-limited means that the goal has an end, and that the end is not so far into the future as to be meaningless. All goals need to yield some results by the end of the strategic planning period, and preferably there should also be some short-term goals leading towards the bigger goal as well.

Tip 5
Be flexible. No strategic plan should be set in stone. On the contrary, plans should be regularly revisited, revised and reviewed in order to accommodate changes in the internal and external environment and to respond quickly to education policy changes and external environment trends.

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