Yesterday's School Growth Webinar focused on one of the toughest challenges for school leaders: Strategic Planning. Over the last ten days we received coaching requests from at least four schools that are trying to figure out whether they will be able to survive the upcoming school year. Changes in their local economy/market and a variety of other school design issues have put the leaders of these schools in a very difficult situation. As we've worked with schools across the globe, those that are not growing consistently exhibit similar traits.
Below are 5 reasons why your school is not growing:
1. You Don't Understand Your Market and Value Proposition
Who are you trying to attract--specifically? Does your value proposition really matter to your target market? The most effective schools are actively monitoring their market, avoiding the pitfalls of Confirmation Bias. They overcome affirmation of previously established assumptions by learning from other companies and organizations who seek to serve the same people. In such an unprecedented period of education reformation, the intelligent school designer must aggressively seek deeper understanding of the people to be served and how to genuinely create value for them.
2. You Still Try to Emulate Other School Leaders
Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, but its not a path to success for you as a school designer. It's easy and sometimes safe to copy other programs, but asking other leaders what they're doing may actually distract you from the best growth opportunities that take advantage of the strengths and unique genius of you and your team. Of course other leaders in your association or circle of friends will agree with your plans. Face it--they don't want you to step outside of the status quo because they’re biased. Know what you want and don't be afraid to act on that vision.
3. You listen to teachers, parents and students rather than watching them.
Your ability to innovatively "Connect the Dots" is the core of your design strategy because you can see opportunities for improvement that others cannot. Teacher, parents, students, and even board members are limited by their perspectives and biases, so focus more on observing their behaviors and results rather than reacting to their feedback. They don't know the full scope of what is possible nor are they attuned to the big picture of your mission and design. Quite often, "People don't know what they want until you show it to them" (Steve Jobs).
4. You underestimate the importance of the grapevine
Word of mouth marketing is still your best source of enrollment leads, yet you allow the grapevine network to grow randomly without purpose. Communication isn't just about being heard--the key is building trust and commitment. Consistently cultivating and expanding your scope of influence will improve your ability to energize people to follow your design strategies, and will enable you to respond to opportunities faster.
5. You are organized for complacency
The processes you use for decision making, purchasing, and customer service severely limit your ability to innovate and improve. Like the department of motor vehicles (DMV) or the U.S. Veterans Administration, your school is actually structured to impede change. Complacency is preferred because of the perceived safety in bureaucracy. Nothing innovative ever came out of a committee (and especially a school board), so how can you redesign your processes and systems to be more responsive?