Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Thinking Strategically About Schools

First and foremost, I am encouraged by the Richardson ISD's outreach efforts to get community input into the district's planning process.
On October 2, district trustees voted to adopt a revised RISD strategic plan, and stakeholders are encouraged to take part in the process by applying to be on one of the six action teams that will develop the specific steps and goals to support the six district strategies:
  • We will ensure that we have diverse and engaging programs and learning opportunities to meet the unique needs of all our students.
  • We will guarantee that all students will perform at or above grade level.
  • We will recruit, retain, and reward quality personnel.
  • We will ensure that ALL families, businesses, and community partners are fully engaged in the mission of our district.
  • We will actively pursue creative funding sources and responsibly manage current resources to support our mission.
  • We will ensure that our facilities and infrastructure adapt to support our mission.
Source: RISD.

Six teams of 35 to 50 community members have been formed. If all goes well, these teams will ensure community support as the RISD makes difficult strategic decisions in the future.

From what I infer, The RISD is using the Cambrian model of strategic planning aimed at education. I'm not familiar with it, but I'm encouraged that RISD is relying on experience and not just winging it. Any system is better than nothing.

I cut my teeth on strategic planning during my early career at Texas Instruments. TI had a system called OST and Policy Deployment. Starting at the top, each organization defined Objectives, Strategies and Tactics. The tactics were deployed downward to lower organization levels, where they became that lower group's own objectives. That group in turn developed its own strategies and tactics. If the planning gets deployed correctly top-down, in the end each employee's own actions support the mission bottom-up all the way to that top-level goal, in RISD's case "where ALL connect, learn, grow and succeed."

That's the theory, anyway. In practice, it was damned hard to carry out. You can get bogged down arguing over whether something is a strategy or a tactic, when it's just a matter of knowing what level you are looking at. I have no idea how well the TI system matches the Cambrian model, but just getting everyone on the same page regarding the planning model being used is a necessary but difficult achievement in itself.

The RISD says its action teams will meet from October through March and bring their work back to the Strategic Planning Design Team and Board of Trustees then. Timed deliverables are important, even essential, but strategic planning cannot be just an October to March activity. As German Field Marshall Moltke said in a different context, "No battle plan ever survives contact with the enemy." Strategic planning will only work as a permanent, ongoing activity.

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