Data-driven strategic planning is critical in order to uncover and leverage the powerful genius of your school and leadership. Save the “Best Guesses” and “Gut Feelings” for decisions when the stakes aren’t so high.
The future of the school and your career is at stake here.
So what data should you use to create the best strategic plan?
The first resource in a data-driven approach is your CONTEXT.
Your school has it’s own unique context, including your history, purpose, mission, values, goals, target market, value proposition, and community. Your board and administration must recognize these differences and build on them as your foundation.
Your plan should include, for example, a timeline of the major changes/milestones in your leadership and growth. Understanding this history of what decisions were made, how they were made, what was achieved, along with the intended and unintended consequences helps you accurately know where you are as an organization and how you got there.
Because your school has a distinct Context, copy-and-pasting from other schools is a weak and ineffective way to plan.
Just because that other school is promoting a STEM/STEAM curriculum doesn’t mean you should try to do the same thing. That also goes for trying to emulate their financial strategy or marketing messages.
YOU ARE UNIQUE so plan accordingly!
Copying from another school doesn’t work for three very important reasons:
- Their success is often overstated.
Having visited hundreds of "outlier" schools that have "discovered" a transformative secret to growing their impact, a peak behind the curtain reveals a far less impressive story. The most sustainably successful schools work hard at developing proven habits of leadership, especially around talent and culture.
- They've forgotten what they learned.
You don’t see the progressive steps they took to test various options and make adjustments, including how they developed critical leadership capacity and organizational health disciplines that make their success possible. If you could peak at their leadership journal (which more school leaders would be wise to maintain) you would find some painful failures that actually enabled their mastery today. Those past experiences helped advance their leadership DNA, but you won't learn that on a visit to their campus because they've reached the stage of "unconscious competence."
- Your playing to their strengths rather than your own.
You, your leadership team and your organization as a whole have specific strengths that should be the core of your strategic (and tactical) planning. Don't get sucked into the game of trying to mirror programs or initiatives that were designed for what they do best.
You are truly unique! So use a Data-Driven strategic planning approach that recognizes and respects your distinct Context along with your incredible Strengths, and combines the them into a Vision and Story that gives you a path to sustainable greatness.