The 5 Elements of Effective Strategic Planning

Lena Eisenstein
6 min read

Effective strategic planning by the school board establishes the direction of the district. Every district can benefit from having a strategic plan in place. Strategic planning supports effective governance of the school district through the board and administration.

The school board provides final approval for the plan, the guiding principles, and overarching goals, while the administration identifies performance objectives, actions, and metrics. The school board's oversight ensures alignment of the operational plan with the guiding principles and the board holds itself and staff accountable for the expected results.

Effective strategic planning aids a school's board with governance decisions and provides direction for the future. With a plan in place, the board has a guide by which it can track, evaluate, and modify to facilitate better governance decisions and provide direction for the future of the district.

5 Elements to Effective Strategic Planning

1. Establish the Mission and Vision of the District

Establishing the mission and vision statement for the school district helps the board, administration, and community see what is currently being done, how it is being done, what the hopes are for the future of the district, and how those goals will be accomplished.

The mission statement of a district describes the work that is already being done. The mission statement may not need to be revised, but it can be reviewed for clarity and context.

The vision statement of a school district is a response to the question, 'Where are we going and how will we get there?' The vision statement is a statement of direction for the board, administrators, staff, and the community to refer back to. It guides the work of the district through decision-making, actions, and goal-setting.

To know what steps to take in effective strategic planning for your district, it is imperative to look at where your district currently stands and what the future of the district should be. The mission and vision statements will serve as a guide through the strategic planning process.

2. Engage the Community

Involving the community in shaping the future for your school system cultivates a culture of trust, respect, and transparency between the school board and its stakeholders. An effective strategic planning model is aware of the need for the support of the local community.

Maintaining community involvement in an effective strategic planning process does not equal hours of open forums. Open communication between the board and the public can be through surveys or other channels where honest feedback can be given and processed. Assess the desires and goals of the public. What are the hopes of those who are just as invested in the school district and community?

Engage with the public early in the strategic planning process, even just to keep them abreast of the progress being made or potential next steps. When the school board connects with the public early in the planning process it encourages buy-in from community members and leaders, which can lead to more effective strategic planning. Engage with the public in the planning process early and often to promote involvement and transparency.

3. Analyzing the Current State of the District

Knowing where the district needs to develop is a vital step that must take place before establishing goals, this contributes to an effective strategic planning process. Before establishing goals, it is imperative to examine the current state of the district and conduct research related to any areas of growth.

Utilizing the information gathered from the community can be helpful in examining and deciding potential areas of growth for the district. Information should be collected and analyzed within the context of the district's mission and vision.

4. Setting Goals

Creating and establishing goals is probably the most notable phase of an effective strategic planning process. After developing the vision of district's future, engaging with community members to be aware of the public's desires, and knowing where the district needs to develop the school board can then begin to establish goals.

Strategic goals are comprehensive and long-term. The purpose of these types of goals is to take the mission and vision of the district and form them into intentions and actions that reflect the where the district will grow moving toward the future. Goals should be specific, measurable, attainable, and have realistic timeline for completion.

5. Establishing a Plan of Action and Execution

A common misconception is that strategic planning ends with setting goals; however, effective strategic planning always includes a plan of action and a guide for tracking progress towards achieving the district's vision.

The plan of action for the district should include what steps should be taken (listing the responsible person or department) to achieve the goals established and a timeline by which each task will be completed.

Through execution, the district administration and staff take ownership in the next phase of an effective strategic planning process to carry out the necessary tasks to put the strategic plan into action. Execution should include putting systems into place to monitor the progress toward achieving the vision for the district. Monitoring any developments being made can assist in future decision-making, changes in a plan of action, and strategic planning.

Measuring and Tracking Goals for Effective Strategic Planning

Establishing the vision and mission, engaging with the community, analyzing the current state of the district, setting goals, and establishing a plan of action and execution or important elements to effective strategic planning; but, the work does not end there.

A comprehensive effective strategic planning process incorporates an efficient and effective way to track progress. As we mentioned in the execution phase of effective strategic planning, it can be imperative to use a tool to guide and track progress.

Utilizing a cloud-based board management software, like BoardDocs, school boards can measure and track goal progress related to the strategic plan. The goal-tracking software by BoardDocs, a Diligent brand, allows every board member to view a dashboard indication of the progress made toward each goal in the strategic plan every time a board member or administrator logs on to the board portal. The dashboard converts strategic plan goals into measurable actions and allows board members to view time expenditures related to those action items, then share the progress with the community.

BoardDocs' cloud-based services provide goal-tracking software for user interaction and customization. Utilizing tools, like goal-tracking software, can save school boards time and money toward effective strategic planning. BoardDocs features an interactive tool that connects the work that your board does to goals that you have set forth in an organized way. Effective strategic planning employs these keys elements to success and takes advantage of tools that promote efficiency to complete work that truly makes a difference for the school district and the community.