I may have lied; I think this series may be seven posts, not six. I leave open the possibility of corrections along the way, and last night I realized I had left out a key step in shifting from worn out strategic planning models to a more nimble and dynamic approach. And it is a REALLY important step. We have to ask “who is in the room?”
We are all familiar with the first steps in traditional five-year school strategic plans: the superintendent or head of school announces hires a consultant and forms a planning committee. The committee represents all stakeholder groups: faculty from across divisions, schools, and subject areas; administration leaders from all the main offices; a few parents; several trustees; perhaps even a token student. We are careful to show gender and racial balance (if the school has any). We have covered all the bases, included all interest groups, are sure to hear diverse perspectives.
We have also created a committee of self-interest. We have reinforced the school’s narrow silos at the most foundational level. And we have excluded 99% of the community from the process that will guide that community for half a decade.
Let me introduce you to a different approach. I am working with Miami Valley School in Dayton, and I will use them as a case study in this series. The way we are approaching the process of building organizational strategic capacity is radically different than the traditional strategic planning model, and it starts with “who is in the room?”
The simple answer is “almost everyone”. In a single day at Miami Valley, we gathered the entire faculty and more than a dozen students, and went through a series of generative design thinking-based activities to unwrap their dreams and aspirations for education at MVS. That evening we met with board members and parents and added to our generative explorations. Over a series of open meetings, the school gathered more ideas from more parents and community members. We asked open-ended questions like “What if…?” and imagined fantasy futures in which might be embedded kernels of a unique learning vision. We laid a foundation (which I will describe later in these posts) to shift the entire strategic thinking process from “what is in this for my silo group” to “how can we imagine our school through a different set of windows?”
There are many great outcomes from teeing up strategic thinking like this, but one is the greatest of all: we have hundreds of people in the school community who know they are actively generating the future of the school. They all have a stake in the outcome and a real sense of what the school’s vision means. Just a few steps in, this process already has generated more positive momentum in support of a shared vision than many schools see after a year of committee deliberations.
Up next: Challenging the Status Quo; Increasing Future Options