17 Oct Strategic Planning or Strategic Thinking?
“Over the next decade, the most vibrant innovations in education are likely to take place outside traditional institutions.” (Knowledge Works, 2008). How will we prepare our students to face and solve the “social, economic, health and climate challenges of the next several decades” (Knowledge Works, 2008).
I believe, as do many others (Pink 2009, Zhao 2009, 2012, Wagner 2010, Hill 2012) that it is imperative to focus on preparing our students and teachers to face and embrace the current and future challenges “to ensure the very survival and continuity of the human civilization” (Zhou 2009.)
We need courageous and visionary leaders (Zhao, 2012) if we are to prepare our children for their future.
Diamentes and Hambright’s, (2004) research finds that decision makers in K-12 education have not embraced strategic planning and their review of literature highlights that processes do exist but are often borrowed from the business or military world and that an area of conflict is the time planned for the process cycle. Stollar and Poth, (2006), reviewed collaborative strategic planning and find that there continues to be a major disconnection between an ever-growing body of research on effective educational practices and what is actually occurring with strategic planning in many schools. They suggest a model that is grounded in understanding schools as systems and guided by principles of organizational change.
Jasinski (2004) prefers strategies characterized by simplicity, clarity, and focus and suggests road maps including a vision of destination and proposed routes by developing five or so 12-month priorities. He suggests that when we stay attentive, nimble, and opportunistic we can be true to our missions and visions, and can navigate in the “Age of Flux” (Robert Safian, cited Pat Bassett 2012) with greater confidence and uncommon success.
Pat Bassett (2012), from the US National Association of Independent Schools, focuses on “strategic thinking,” rather than strategic planning, which is really refreshing and aligns with the 21st Century Skills of critical and creative thinking. Historically many schools’ strategy focused on long-range planning, blithely projecting 10 years into the future. In the late 20th century, a shift was made to “strategic planning,” with a shortened three- to five-year planning cycle. With events affecting the global economy and changes brought about by globalization, technological development and extreme climatic situations; like the GFC, 9/11, political coups, floods, hurricanes, fires, earthquakes and tsunamis five-year plans in many schools have become irrelevant. We need to re-think how to think, how to best strategize and plan in a constantly shifting landscape.
Leaders in schools must continue to think strategically and to critically review and re-focus their goals on an annual basis within a five-year vision “This process of projecting and implementing in short-term steps allows the team to periodically reconsider the original list of next steps based on the external and internal exigencies that weren’t anticipated” (Henry Mintzberg, cited in Bassett 2012). This process clearly allows schools to respond to external economic and social climatic conditions not anticipated and to develop new strategies that hadn’t been needed originally. The longer-term, three- to five-year, vision is still the goal, but remaining in a “continual strategic posture allows the enterprise to nimbly correct the course to the vision, in small and large ways.” (Henry Mintzberg, cited in Bassett 2012). The key is shifting from seeing strategic planning as an isolated event to embracing an ongoing strategic approach. (Bassett 2012)
Research into strategic planning highlights the need for schools to choose a model created for educational settings. The creation of a 3-5 year vision including two and three year goals, with annual goal reviews and re-positioning of necessary or new actions must occur strategically to maintain an on-going strategic thinking approach.
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