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«DOCUMENT RESUME ED 278 089 EA 019 067 AUTHOR McCune, Shirley D. TITLE Guide to Strategic Planning for Educators. INSTITUTION Association for ...»

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Phase I: Creating a Base for Planning and Change Two primary sets of activities comprise the first phase of strategic planning: environmental scanning (i.e., gathering, analyzing, and preparing external and internal data) and community and staff education and involvement (i.e., stakeholder input). These activities, which create the base of information, common understanchng, and support needed for subsequent planning, may be carried out concurrently during the first project phase. Each is discussed below.

Phase I


Emixonmental Scanning Environmental scanning is the generic term used to describe a series of activities aimed at providing an organization with the information it needs to make decisions about its present and future. The first three activities constitute external environmental scanning, and the last two constitute internal organizational analysis.

Trends analysisa series of economic, demographic, social, political, or educational developments that can be estimated or measured over time. Trend data are used to identify emerg '44"-ends and project future events.

Pattern analysisa detailed assessmen,:id patterns and their possible and probable implications for 10.

Scenario decision pointsthe projection c possible fily,..1r events and how and when these are likely to affect szIlools.

Internal scanninga detailed analysis of the stren- hs, weaknesses, and capacity of the organization (e.g., district and schools).

Stakeholder perceptions and expectationsinformation collected informally and systematically (e.g, through surveys, interviews, Delphi techniques, etc.) to identify community groups' perceptions and expectations of schools.

External Environmental Scanning The first goal of environmental scanning is to identify the nature of the community and changed and changing conditions likely to affect education and training systems. External environmental scanning begins with trends analysis in five general areaseconomic, demographic, social, political, and educational. Some organizations also use the category of technology, but for public schools, technological trends can be included within each of the five areas outlined above. Trend information should be collected and analyzed at the national, state, regional (within state), and local levels.

Once identified, trends should be organized in terms of national, state, regional, and local patterns. These patterns should give an indication of whether the trend is increasing, decreasing, or staying about the same. The possible and probable implications for schools can then be extracted from these patterns to pinpoint possible pressures or effects on schools.

Last, the implications can be reviewed to develop short- or longterm scenarios or projections to predict how pressures or opportunities will manifest themselves and over what period of time. A visual representation of this process is provided in Figure 2-4.

Trends Analysis. Completing a trends analysis of each of these five areas could be overwhelming. The goal is to develop a compiehensive yet concise picture of the trends most likely to affect schools.

46' Gir P DuCATIO

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Before beginning such an analysis it is necessary to decide on its scope and the time and effort you can devote to it. Examples of the types of information that might be covered are outlined in Appendix B, "External Scanning Data Checklist."

It is important to note that many organizations have already undertaken strategic planning_ Consequently, there now exists an abundance of material already collected and available to those about to start their own strategic planning. Resources for environmental scanning materials are local Chambers of Commerce and United Way agencies; state, regional, and local planning agencies; corporations; and businesses. Many of these organizations have information about strategic planning on the national, state, or local level. Newspapers, magazine articles, aryl studies carried out by universities or government agencies are also important sources of.data.

When reviewing information for use in trends analysis, ensure that the data are recent (within the past five years) and that the most relevant data are selected for review. In most instances more inforGUIDE TO STRATEGIC PLANNING FOR EDUCATORS mation will be identified than can profitably be used. Persons preparing the materials must continually "boil the trends down" to extract the inforn-iation most relevant to schools.

Pattern Analysis, After the trend data have been collected, a second type of reduction process is probably needed to uncover patterns and relationships. Pattern analysis can be a fairly simple collection of projected trends or directions. Examples of pattern analysis are found in Appendix C, with an example of the next step, identifying scenario decision points. It is important to pay particular attention to this aspect of the scanning process. Many districts analyze the changes in their environment but fail to consider the consequences for their schools.

They simply move ahead, developing internal improvement plans using the evidence of a changed environment as general background rather than seeing it as a threat or as an opportunity to change their organizations.

Scenario Decision Points. The last step in external environmental scanning is developing projections or scenarios of what is likely to happen. A critical and ongoing task throughout strategic planning and strategic management is building images or visions of the future.

Building these images or visions is a process of successive approximation, Our visions will continually become more refined as we gather and analyze information about trends.

Throughout this imaging of the future, we need to consider what is likely to happen or what could happen if a decision were made to intervene and act. These scenarios help us clarify the consequences of the decisions we might make. For example, with respect to the overall role of public education, we can imagine four basic scenarios (see fig.


Scenario A: Traditional values remain, and reform succeeds in reaffirming and gaining support for public schools.

Scenario B: Transformed values develop, and schools succeed in moving into new areas of service and support.

Scenario C: Traditional values remain and reform fails;

schools remain under fire with diminished support, increased competition, and a loss of power in the community.

Scenario D: Transformed values remain, but reform fails;

schools are part of segmented cemmunities.

These four scenarios make basic assumptions about two major sets of variablesthe nature and success or failure of reform efforts, and the societal values likely to prevail. In the first instance, reform may.


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Adapted from 'Scenario A Tool For Planning in Uncertain Times," the United Way, remain within the values of an industrial society: individualistic, competitive, and narrowly defined outcomes. Or reform may move to new levels of restructuring in a society with more collaborative, integrative values. In either case the efforts devoted to reform may succeed or fail.

The above example is a relatively broad scenario that could help develop a mission. Other more limited scenarios or story lines could be useful in helping a group understand the meaning of trends and their implications.

The outcome of external environmental scanning should be the discovery of what is in the environment, what this means for schools, and some general ideas or story lines of how things will evolve and change.

Internal Organizational Analysis The focus of the second form of scanninthe internal organizational analysisis on where the organization is and what it can do.

This organizational analysis provides information for strategic planning and supplies important information for the overall improvement of the organization.

Internal organizational analysis may be carried out in a variety of ways, but the goal is to gain an overall picture of how well the organization is performing. It is an in-depth view of strengths, weaknesses, gaps, and issues facing the district.


The actual process of internal scanning may be organized in a fashion similar to external scanning. A model for internal organizational analysis developed by the Detroit Public Schools outlines the way that internal school issues may be viewed in economic, social, political, educational, and technological ternisa structure that parallels external scanning. Technology was added as a separate category given the effort to utilize technolou in schools. A visual representation of this structure is provided in Figure 2-6.

An internal otganizational analysis begins with an in-depth review of the five areas for scanning. Some types of data that would be collected and reviewed in each area are included in Appendix D, "Internal Scanning Data Checklist" These areas should be adapted to fit the specific needs of the school district. In each area, an effort should be made to use past patterns and future projections to develop trends.

Microcomputer graphics can aid in understanding by displaying trend lines over time, providing a visual way to identify possible issues.

A summary and the effective presentation of data are important to the plan's success. People must be able to understand the data and grasp the issues.

Preparation of an overall assessment (executive summary) is a helpful step. It should provide the reader with a balanced overview of the current state of the organization and its future capacity for devel

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opment. The assessment may be followed by a listing of the issues in each area and potential implications for the district. Implications should frame the areas where decisions are required for future plans.

Internal organizational analysis usually requires a considerable amount of effort if the district has not established information systems.

A common outcome for districts is the establishment of district and/or building management information systems (MIS) using the data from the internal organizational analysis. Such a system greatly facilitates not only the monitoring of the plan but also the improvement of district and building management.

Stakeholder Perceptions and Expectations. A characteristic of public institut.ms is the large number of people and groups who have an interest or stake in their success (stakeholders). Decisions about the future of a public organization (e.g., a school system) should display an understanding of and take into account the perceptions and expectations of the various stakeholder groups. Information about their perceptions and expectations must be gathered carefully. It should be collected after stakeholders have had some opportunity to understand the larger societal changes and the options open to schools.

This can be accomplished in a number of ways. Staff, board, community g-roups, business groups, and others may be invited to participate in seminars, task forces, conferences, study sessions, or other forms of education or involvement prior to collecting data. It is often better to present information on societal changes over a period of time to allow for proper understanding.

When time is not available, data collection should still be preceded by iniormation presented either orally or in writing. Stakeholders should comment on their perceptions of organizational strengths and weaknessses and their visions of how schools might develop in the future.

At this stage it is usually wise to avoid overly specific questions. What is needed is information about stakeholders' perceptions of the school's future role and activities.

Community Education. One purpose of strategic planning is to help people understand change in the larger society and anticipate the effects of this change on the school, on their jobs, and on students. Equipped with this awareness, people frequently revise their assumptions about the world and develop new educational practice and leadership skills.

Those involved in this process are likely to develop greater knowledge and skills in:

developing new sources of data and scanning in their personal environment and experience to develop and test new ideas, increasing their awareness of goals and how their activities contribute to goal attainment,


looking for and developing alternatives for problem solving, anticipating problems hy thinking through or imagining possible next steps, and understanding their relatedness to others and looking for opportunities to collaborate.

The degree to which such skills develop depends on the opportunities to rev iew information and think through the implications for the current and desired orgardzational climate. This education process should also include information on strategic planning and an explanation of why the district is moving ahead with a strategic planning effort.

Many groups, especially staff members, need time to understand changes in the larger society and how they relate to schools. They also need to be reassured that any changes in the school system will not be arbitrary and that they will be given adequate time to prepare to learn any necessary new skills.

It is only natural that some degree of resistance may develop at this or later points. Change that is not understood or desired may be threatening; trading the current status quo for an uncertain future may seem unwise. Strategic planning directly addresses these feelings by providing better information and giving people a sense of control over their futures rather than a feeling that they can only react to changes as they occur.

Educating the community about strategic planning should be carefully planned. Seminars, workshops, or other sessions may be scheduled to provide in-depth information to the community. Presentations at meetings of service clubs, social welfare groups, parent groups, and professional associations will extend general understanding. Staff inservice, informal staff meetings, task forces, and other methods can be used to involve and inform the staff. Futures courses for secondary students will increase student understanding as well as involve the faculty.

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