A compelling mission, vision and core beliefs provide a strong foundation for a strategic improvement plan. They beg the next big question: what specifically do we want to achieve? Now, the conversation is all about target setting, resource allocation and focus.
To complete the strategic plan, Prism facilitates your team to set performance targets, agree to long-term strategies and identify immediate priorities over two more intense and inspiring days.
Strategic target setting
Most school districts ignore the critical importance of target-setting. Any organization serious about improving needs a strategic performance measurement system, a superset of metrics that
- Are analogous to a person’s vital signs and communicate the overall health of the system at a glance
- Identify critical performance gaps to close or inspirational targets to strive to achieve
- Focus resources and attention
- Measure progress over time
- Can be used to monitor the effectiveness of the strategic plan
The planning team begins by reviewing three- to five-year performance trends on all key academic indicators. They then set performance targets in a two-step process. First, they select a set of measures to assess performance of the entire K to 12 system. Then, for each measure, they set three- or five-year targets. With the targets set, the district team quickly identifies the key performance gaps they need to close.
Strategies and immediate priorities
Now that the team knows what explicitly it wants to achieve — including the largest performance gaps to close — it needs to identify long-term strategies and immediate priorities. A strategy simply answers the question: what do we need to do to achieve our mission, vision, core beliefs and targets?
Strategies are generated by a wildly divergent process that includes a collaborative strength, weakness, opportunity and threat analysis (SWOT) and typically produces 100 – 150 draft strategy statements.
The group converges on a final set of strategies in an efficient, structured process. They then identify the immediate priorities that will garner a disproportionate share of resources, focus and attention over the next 12 – 15 months.
Identifying priorities: strategic profiling
Prism’s Group Decision Support System enables the group to identify priorities using strategic profiling. A comprehensive assessment of the strategies produces a two-dimensional scatter diagram, which is basically a picture of the entire school system at a point in time. Simple interpretation of this strategic profile helps to distinguish between high- and low-leverage strategies — and therefore to identify immediate priorities. The planning team does not consider all strategies to be equal and does target limited resources at opportunities providing the “greatest bang for the buck.”
For example, see Whitney Point’s strategic profile. This two-dimensional scatter diagram displays how the district team assessed 13 strategies. The vertical axis indicates their relative importance; the horizontal axis indicates their current performance; old strategies are displayed in squares and new strategies, in circles.
The profile interpretation guide helps the team to identify district priorities. Strategies #13, #6 and #1 dominate the remaining 10 strategies in importance and they are also underperforming. These very important, under-performing strategies are priorities: immediate, high-leverage opportunities that are ripe for resources and attention.
As a final check, the district team uses Prism’s Group Decision Support System to facilitate the consensus process and ensure final, explicit support for the academic improvement plan.
With the district plan as context, school teams produce their own building improvement plans with performance targets, key activities, and detailed action plans including specifically who will do what by when with what resources.
Repeating the planning cycle annually
These plans do not belong on a shelf. The entire planning cycle should be repeated annually at the district and school level. Performance targets should be modified and updated. Strategies should be refreshed, modified or replaced. Building action plans should be reinvigorated.
For more information, contact Sean Brady ([email protected]) today.