Vision, mission and strategy
In search of dynamic stability
In order to be successful, organisations have to solve a paradox: they have to be both stable, while at the same time open to change. Andy Homden explains that in order to solve this problem and plan effectively for the long term, “Vision”, “Mission” and “Strategy” need clear definition. If used properly, these terms set the foundations for moving a school from “Good” to “Great”.
Clear and connected meaning
Too often, organisations regard vision, mission and strategy elements as separate, unconnected concepts. Paradoxically, the terms can also have a tendency to become synonymous, and without distinct meanings. For Consilium Education, the meaning of all three are both distinct AND connected. These terms should be used knowingly and periodically reviewed together.
For us, the VISION is a description of the school 3 – 5 years into the future, written within a specific matrix. The Vision can be seen as the strategic DESTINATION. Once set, it remains the same for the period of the plan, and describes “the kind of school” its community wants it to be by a certain point in time.
The MISSION is also fixed for the period of the plan. It is statement of values and principles that guide decision-making. It can therefore be seen as the school’s planning COMPASS, an image that has been popularised in this context by Stephen Covey.
A development plan has to be flexible as you react to unforeseen circumstances. For us, the STRATEGY is the element that provides long-term flexibility. The plan for the coming year is described in depth, but subsequent years have less detail, and are only fully updated as they get closer. This allows the school to control the pace of development depending on circumstances, without losing the compass or changing the destination, as the diagram shows.
Whatever the change in pace, direction is always determined by the Vision and the use of the Mission, which remain constant once set for the period of the plan. The Strategy can therefore be seen as the CHART, used with the COMPASS to steer towards the DESTINATION.
Data driven or informed by data?
The question of knowing if a school is moving closer to the ultimate destination remains an important one throughout the plan. It is vital to identify in advance the evidence that needs to be collected each year. Data can be quantitative or qualitative: both are used to detect trends and patterns which can then be used to make well-informed decisions about the best way to reach the destination,
Like the Vision and Mission statements, the data sets to be collected each year do not change, so that valid comparisons can be made and year-on-year progress revealed.
7 AREAS FOR ACTION FRAMEWORK
When writing the vision and strategy an organisation needs to make sure that every area of the operation is covered. In order to achieve this, we recommend the use of our 7 Areas for Action framework:
1. Vision, Mission, & Strategy
2. Learning, inclusion & admissions
3. Leadership & organisational structure
4. Staff & Training
5. Campus, security & safety
6. School community & partnerships
7. Marketing, finance & resources
MODEL FOR A ROLLING 3 YEAR STRATEGIC DESIGN
In our model, the strategic plan is constantly being monitored by the collection of evidence across these seven areas. The action plan for the current year is always described in detail in each area, but as the next year comes closer and future conditions become clearer, more detailed actions are added for the year to come. By the time the current year has finished, the plan for the coming year is described in full detail and planners start sketching in more detail for the 2 years that follow.
Any matters left from the year just passed are added to the details of the year about to start, or dropped if they are now regarded as excess to needs. This approach provides flexibility in planning, and gives a school the opportunity of responding to circumstances, without changing the overall course.
This allows the leadership team to deal effectively with the problems of uncertain times, tack if necessary according to the way the wind is blowing, but keep on heading towards the destination set by the vision.
In the strategic plan below, shading shows the level of detail in the plan at any given point. Dark green = detailed.
Once established, this cycle of plan – do – review is straightforward to use. Initial facilitation will speed up the process significantly, but once the plan is in place and understood, a school can proceed with increasing confidence and independence.