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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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Monitoring It is also essential to check the progress of the district and building plans. This can be done using simple reports and computerized systems.

Monitoring should be directed at early problem identification, and this information should be open to all personnel. Regular reports to staff, board, and community members will help maintain enthusiasm and continuity.

Goals are more easily reached when people can see progress. This can be done by regular personnel evaluation or in more public ways (celebrations, progress reports, etc.). Small task forces or committees may be formed to monitor various plans and provide reports to appropriate groups.

Summary If the strategic plan requires planning and support, so does the implementation plan. Throughout the implementation process, two systems are especially important: staff development and personnel and program evaluation. Even in a decentralized or school-based management structure, some degree of centralized or generic staff development is essential to build common understanding. This need not conflict with building needs that address specific program efforts or products. In most instances, however, inservice should be provided for personnel with like responsibilities, thereby ensuring acquisition of a common understanding and skills required for implementation. This is especially true if the strategic plan includes new types of program efforts and behaviors.

Monitoring the implementation of a plan is essential for identifying problems at an early stage, documenting progress, and developing a framework for evaluation. Monitoring sets the stage for the final phase of renewal.


Phase V: Renewing the Plan Strategic plans are designed to provide a sense of direction for a relatively long period. In most instances the strategic plan will remain relevant over time. It should be recognized, however, that situations change, and we will learn and gain experience from implementing plans. It is important to set aside time to carefully evaluate the plan and to renew and modify it to reflect new insights and learnings.

Evaluation and renewal of the strategic plan should be undertaken

annually at least. Questions to consider during this process include:

What conditions have changed in the external environment since we wrote the strategic plan?

What conditions have changed within our organization since we wrote the plan?

Do the assumptions we made still apply?

Do the mission statement and strategic goals continue to express our vision of schools and the things we need to do to reach that vision?

Have we learned anything from our implementation effbrts that would require modifications in our strategic plan?

These questions can help us decide if any modifications of the strategic plan are in order. Only when this has been done should the implementation plan be revised.

Sununary Evaluation and renewal of the strategic plan prove the dynamic nature of strategic planning. The written plan communicates direction and understanding, but the most important feature of strategic planning is its value as a process. Strategic planning requires us to continually scan environments, become aware of changes and opportunities, develop a sense of direction and purpose, and organize our energies within that purpose to plan tasks and activities to reach our goals. As a result, we learn from our experience and improve. Living with strategic planning is learning to live with change. It is learning to maintain stability and balance in a world of change, and it is learning that people can work together to create their future.

Chapter 3





An Organizational Development Tool "Plannine is likely to conjure up images of written plans, which outline mission, goals, objectives, schedules, and responsibilities. Often these written plans remain on the shelf, important only to document accountability rather than to put forth dynamic concepts.

Strategic planning provides an opportunity to move beyond paper plansto use the process to strengthen, and in some instances to transform, the organization. The ultimate outcome of strategic planning is strategic management, whereby individuals learn to incorporate the planning process into their daily behavior.

The power of the strategic planning process lies in its compatibility with new forms of management. Organizational changes are a natural outcome of the larger transformation of our society from an industrial to an information one. Organizational changes, in turn, call for major shifts in our managerial assumptions and practices. We realize that past responses to management have not always been effective and that we must now look for better ways of managing districts.

Strategic planning speaks to four major elements that can significantly improve the management systems of most districts. These are:

1. the development of information systems for decision making,

2. a common sense of direction,

3. stakeholder participation, and

4. linkages among units.


Development of Info a ion Syste s for Decision Making School districts regularly collect a variety of data about students, staff, expenditures, achievement, and so on. The data are sent to the state agency or filed without being analyzed or converted into information that might be used for decision making.

School personnel frequently do not have ready azcess to such data, which may be stored at a central office, making it inconvenient for staff members to read or analyze them. Even when board members have the data at hand, they may not take the time to discuss their implications to reveal the larger picture of the school system.

Lacking systematic knowledge of such data may mean that school personnel are not fully aware of enrollment projection studies or fiscal problems. Similarly, school personnel may have little insight into changes in the characteristics of the district's student population.

A primary principle underlying strategic planning is that data are collected and analyzed before any decisions about the organization's mission and goals are made. For most districts this data collection (environmental scanningexternal and internal) is most useful. It demonstrates the value and the use of information in decision making.

Most important, it provides a common data base for all stakeholders board members, administrators, teachers, parents, community members, and students. Such an open system is essential for creating understanding among all the groups involved in district planning.

A district data base often provides a baseline of information for decision making. Many districts come to see the value of environmental scanning and allocate the necessary resources to maintain an updated information system. Some districts move the management information system (MIS) to the building level. A microcomputer in the principal's office can be used to develop a building MIS that provides the principal and teachers with ready access to student records, budgetary records or documents, attendance records, and so on. This places the vital information closer to the decision-making site and supports the staff in day-to-day decision making.

A Common Sense of Direction Relations between employers and employees in the United States are based, in large measure, on a mutual convenience: an organization needs an employee, the employee needs a job. Organizations are more commonly enclaves of people with independent needs rather than closeknit teams working for a common goal.


The autonomy of teachers has long been recognized as a positive value, part of the professional nature of teaching itself. But this autonomy traditionally has not been valued, and many school districts have attempted to organize themselves into strict hierarchiestopdown bureaucracies. Principals, caught in the middle, found themselves carrying out district mandates.

Top-down, autocratic management may work well on the assembly line, but management theory now recognizes that information workers require a different form of management. They typically require substantial autonomy if they are to perform their tasks at a high skill level. In this context, the role of the manager is to support workers and to coordinate their efforts toward achieving a mission and common goal. Teachers, one of the original categories of information workers, have resented top-down, rigid forms of supervision, primarily due to the lack of clarity about the overall direction of their activities. Today's management procedures recognize that building commitment to common goals unites staff and gives meaning to daily activities.

The autonomy of the teacher or the building principal does not detract from the importance of central systems. Districts still have the primary responsibility of developing the district mission, goals, and systems that will tie together the efforts of buildings and employees.

Districts or other organizations that fail to provide a common sense of direction may be called segmental arganizations.5' Segmental organizations compartmentalize events, actions, and problems; each sphere remains isolated. Segmental organizations tend to resist change; individual or separate units cannot see the advantage of change for the total organization. Organizations more successful at change are tez hied integrated organzzations. Separate units maintain a sense of totality and view their roles as part of the larger whole.

Strategic planning focuses on the development of a mission, a common sense of direction, or district goals. This umbrella of purpose provides a tight-loose type of management.52 The mission and district goals are the "tight" portion of the system. They provide the common direction, expectations of outcomes, and standards of performance. This is what is to be accomplished. The "loose" part of the system is haw these tasks are to be accomplished. "How" decisions must be made at the building level. Principals and teachers must have the opportunity to use building resources to meet the unique needs of students.

Strategic planning requires the development of a mission and goals to serve as the framework for building and central office implementation plans. It is not uncommon for this process to arouse resistance from staff, especially among those at middle-management level. Development of such plans inevitably requires integration among the various levels of the system. In most instances this necessitates a shift


in the balance of power of the various groups. It also calls for greater collaboration among the staff. In many instances the organization moves from independent units to a greater sense of interdependency.

The mission and goals provide not only a common direction for the district but also represent an affirmation of common values. The language of a district mission may appear rather commonplace, but for groups who have worked through the process of agreeing on a mission, it frequently assumes a higher level of meaning and becomes a source of energy for those involved.

An organization's mission projects an image of what the organization is going to do; it may include how and where it will be done.

The mission should have a sense of direction, suggest activities or programs, and provide motivation. For example, a district mission organized around "building a learning community" is likely to have a different vision than a district mission organized around "achieving the highest levels of excellence possible for all students." While each mission might be appropriate for a specific organization, the articulation of the vision and its implied values becomes a cohesive force for the organization.

Management in organizations such as school districts must rely primarily on persuasion and leadership rather than authority. The sharing of a goal or common sense of direction becomes an essential component of effective management and an essential element of "keeping the herd moving roughly West."

Stakeholder Participation Public agencies are inherently more difficult to manage than private institutions in that decision making is widely distributed and influenced by a significant number of groups. Although the school board is the official governing body for the district, parents, unions, business groups, students, and special interest groups can exert considerable influence on decision making. These groups cannot be ignored if schools wish to retain a high level of community support.

Given the importance and scope of strategic planning, the various interest groups or stakeholders must be brought into the process. A first step in strategic planning, therefore, is to involve these groups in educational activities related to environmental scanning. This provides stakeholder groups with a common understanding of changes taking place in society, in the community, and within the schools. Building this base of common understanding may be accomplished in a variety of waysthrough seminars, readings, newspaper articles, videotapes, films, television, and so on.


Providing people with data before asking for their opnions and ideas about what schools should do leads to different rest=onses and outcomes. Possession of such information frequently requir.-es individuals to reexamine their assumptions. The awareness of czadissonance between past or present assumptions and reality providee trthe energy for transformation and action.

Participation of various groups is not limited to the intial phase of strategic planning. If the process is to have meaning rnt must be maintained throughout the planning and implementation strtages. Participation gives rise to expectations of continuing involvenie=it. If there is no follow through (i.e., if participation is curtailed), coranict or lowered morale may occur.

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