Strategic Planning for Educational Leadership
Strategic thinking describes how people think about and assess their desired future and create it for themselves and others.Strategic thinking can be used in work or personal context to guide the making of decisions by an individual (Bowman, 2016). The person that is applying strategic think has to have goals and objectives for the short term and long term. This makes it easier for them to plan their actions along the way and ensure that the desired future is achieved effectively. To become effective at strategic thinking, there is a need to develop a set of mental and cognitive skills.
Without cultivating on these skills, it becomes very hard to plan for the future and lay out a set of actions that will be taken to achieve it (Ebersole, 2017). This is done while making allowances for unexpected contingencies along the way. Most of the persons holding managerial and executive positions in organizations and institutions are required to be very competent in strategic thinking. The same applies for persons having senior positions in the government.
A strategic thinker must have the ability to use both sides or segments of the brain. The left side of the human brain is responsible for logic while the right side enables creativity (Bowman, 2016). Combining both makes the individual capable of analyzing the situation at hand, make predictions for the future and imagine the desired future together with a gameplan of how it can be achieved (Bryson, 2017). To use both sides of the brain requires a lot of practice and confidence. It is a very valuable skill to have. A second skill that is needed in strategic thinking is the ability to have a vision that is focused (Ebersole, 2017). This applies in both personal and career or organizational vision. Having a strategic purpose and a vision purpose are qualities that complement each other in strategic thinking and increase the odds of future success.
In addition to having a clear vision, an effective strategic thinker needs to have the ability to have well-defined objectives that are accompanied by action plans. Each of the objectives ought to be broken down into specific tasks, with the resources required for each task listed down (Bryson, 2017). A timeline for the completion of each task should also be well defined. Strategic plans do not always flow or work out as expected by the strategist. This is the reason why a strategic thinker should include some level of flexibility in their plans to cater for the possible challenges and deviations from the action plan (Ebersole, 2017). Benchmarks that are to be used in reviewing the progress of the strategic plan should also be put in place. The benchmarks are useful in recognition of opportunities that might initiate a revision of the initial plan (Bowman, 2016). This can only be possible if the strategic thinker is proactive and anticipates a change at any time in the implementation stage of the plan as opposed being reactive to changes after they have already taken place.
A high level of awareness and perceptiveness is required of the strategic thinker. They are capable of recognizing external and internal clues in their environment and use them later to recognize an opportunity that can be incorporated in the strategic plan (Bowman, 2016). They are good and attentive thinkers, listeners and readers that will use the subtle information they collect every day to come up with solutions and plans for their personal and career lives. A strategic thinker must embrace learning in his/her whole lifetime (Ebersole, 2017). This is because learning has the effect of gifting them with experiences that became handy when thinking strategic issues and plans (Bryson, 2017). Strategic thinking requires the person doing it to occasionally take some time off from their major occupations. This is usually a form of retreat or vacation, and it is on such occasions that great ideas for a strategic plan are stumbled upon.
Importance of strategic thinking
Strategic thinking has numerous merits in personal life and business life as well. It forces an individual to make predictions of the future based on the present conditions. A strategic thinker then has the responsibility of ensuring that he/she is well prepared for that future or to make provisions that will make the later outcome favorable (Hill, 2014). Strategic thinking makes an individual or a team question the status quo and want to improve the performance of the organization or the quality of life of the members of the organization (Verghese, 2017). The curiosity that is roused by questioning makes it possible to view the available information from different perspectives. Through doing this, different approaches, possibilities, and outcomes are realized by the strategists.
This approach to planning and making decisions enhances the leadership skills of a person. This is made possible by the coherence of communication of ideas that a strategic thinker gives to the other members of the team in an organization. The information possessed gains the strategic thinker respect among peers and subordinates, making it easier for them to trust his/her directives and execute accordingly (Hill, 2014). By so doing, the processes taking place in the organization are streamlined, improving the performance of the company later on (Johnsen, 2015). Strategic approach in making decisions by a firm boosts the confidence of the members in the leader and also gives the management boldness required to handle conflicts at the workplace in a fair manner that leaves all the involved parties satisfied with the resolution given.
Most organizations and business tend to deal with limited resources in times of money, people and time. Strategic thinking takes this into consideration when coming up with plans for the future and gives the owner a glimpse on how the limited resources can be used to attain the objectives of the company in an efficient and effective manner (Hill, 2014). Strategic thinking reveals to the management the teams and markets that are most likely to succeed and those likely to fail with a fair degree of accuracy (Verghese, 2017). In this manner, it assists the company in avoiding costly mistakes. An example of a mistake that can be avoided by a firm is setting up of a new retail branch in a location where there is low human traffic.
Engaging in strategic thinking helps the decision makers in an organization to acknowledge that the business environment is dynamic (Verghese, 2017). Changes are experienced all the time. Changes can be experienced in the national or local economy; the spending power of the consumers varies from time to time; and prices for inventory can rise or fall unexpectedly (Hill, 2014). These changes can represent either a threat or an opportunity to the organization. Strategic thinking makes the management prepare adequately these changes and maximises the opportunities and advantages presented by the changes.
Strategic thinkers run their organizations like a chess player. The opponent, in this case, includes the competitors and other players in the industry (Santovec, 2014). An organization that applies strategic thinking has a habit of continually comparing its strengths and weakness with those of the competitors in the field (Verghese, 2017). The outcomes of this comparison are used in the determination of the right time to turn the tides in its favor (Hill, 2014). This approach of thinking gives the management of an organization a chess mentality, which determine where, when, and how to improve products and services. It also determines the message that is sent out to the consumers and marketplace at a particular time.
The growth of a business is the best metric of indicating the progress of the organization. As such, businesses are always under great pressure to grow. The growth of an organization is often accompanied by higher revenues for the investors and success in the competition with other organizations (Verghese, 2017). Having strategic thinkings makes the management feel under pressure to evolve their practices and make the company move forward (Bianca, 2014). This leads to increased innovation in the company, regarding processes and operations (Hill, 2014). The company, thus, becomes a trend setter as opposed to a follower in the market. Once a company is identified as dynamic, it usually ends up appealing to the market more and increases its market share.
As mentioned earlier on, decision making is a key function of the management and strategic thinkers in an organization. Firms that have made strategic thinking a core component of their management philosophy often become better at strategic thinking over time (Bianca, 2014). Strategic thinkers tend to realize how making small, almost insignificant changes in their business environments results in a profound effect on their revenues (Verghese, 2017). Strategic thinking enables the management to make decisions that would have been overlooked earlier on, and in the process make the company more competitive (Hill, 2014). A strategic thinker is in a position to predict with a good degree of accuracy how the competitors are likely to react to the actions and strategies they put in place. It makes the management and leadership of an organization to start viewing it as their consumers would do, thereby making the business decisions based on what would best appeal to the clients.
Strategic thinking in an educational setting
Education is a strategy in itself, aimed at ensuring that the population is knowledgeable enough to continue with the advancement of civilization. It is a form long term investment in the younger generation, to impart values and knowledge that will be used in the continuity of the human race (Billingham, 2012). Education ensures that mankind does not revert to primitive practices, and this is done by preserving the knowledge that has been acquired over the years (Santovec, 2014). An education system is organized in a manner that enables the products of that system to be capable of facing and resolving present challenges. It also imparts them with curiosity that makes them become innovators in various fields.
In education strategic thinking can help improve the performance of the students and also in making materials taught in school more practical and applicable in real life. The allocation of resources in the education sector is one of the major ways in which strategic thinking is applied in planning for the future of the sector (Santovec, 2014). The application od strategic thinking in the education sector is a bit different from the business sector. The difference comes from the fact that in the business sector, the strategy is aimed at getting more customers and higher revenues (Maluma & Kovacevic, 2012). In education, the intention is to achieve all the broad goals of improving the performance of students and responding effectively to the changes in the demographic while staying within the restricted budget that is given to the schools (Cook, 2012). An educator needs to understand the differences between operating in the education sector and business, to assist in the application of targeted strategic planning.
The application of strategic planning in the education sector began in the 1980’s, and this was done by adopting the models that were used in the private business sector. Over time, strategic planning in the education sector had evolved and diverged from the original models that were applied initially (Maluma & Kovacevic, 2012). The reason for this is to suit the needs and philosophies of the education sector, which are much different from the ones used in private businesses (Maluma & Kovacevic, 2012). Some scholars have even expressed concerns that strategic planning in the education sector is so distinct from mainstream strategic planning, that there is a need to coin a new name for it (Maluma & Kovacevic, 2012). There is an increased political aspect in the application of strategic planning in education this is done to increase the number of community stakeholders involved in education (Bryson, 2017). In the business sector, strategic planning is a boardroom activity. In the education sector, however, it is a process that involves the community.
Unlike in the past when policies regarding the education sector were made solely by the educators, strategic planning in the present involves the participation of the parents and other members of the community as well (Sá & Tamtik, 2012). This is due to the understanding that it is possible for the educator to be out of touch with the needs of the students and community, as they might be blinded by the idealist approach to education (Billingham, 2012). Leaders in the education sector have recognized that failure to consider the needs and opinions of the community can make the strategic plan fail (Maluma & Kovacevic, 2012). They, therefore, collaborate with the community in drawing up strategic plans for the school districts. The needs of schools districts differ depending on the prevailing demographics and the resources that are available to the communities. Hence, it is not possible to use the same script when implementing strategic plans in multiple areas.
An education leader interested in becoming successful in strategic planning needs to consider three factors and apply them in strategic planning. The fast one is to ensure that the educators, community and all interested parties reach a consensus regarding what is contained in the strategic plan (Johnsen, 2015). With this in mind, it is advisable to have a reference document at hand, which is made available to all of the stakeholders (Maluma & Kovacevic, 2012). The second important consideration is to have the community engage early in the process of coming up with a strategic plan. This is done with the aim of gauging the insights and preferences of the community in time (Sá & Tamtik, 2012). A strategic plan that is supported by the community has a higher chance of success than one having limited input from the community (Bryson, 2017). The third key consideration is to be open minded and a collaborative leader as well. A collaborative education leader gains the support of the community, and his/her suggestions are well received. Investing in community support pays exponentially at the end (Maluma & Kovacevic, 2012).
Key players in education strategic planning
The key players in education strategic planning include the communities in the education districts, the parents, educators, and officials in the department of education. Coming up with strategic planning entails treating the views all these stakeholders with the same weight (Cook, 2012). The community is best placed identify the educational challenges facing them and make them known to education leaders. The educators are the ones acting as liaison between the community and the officials in the department of education (Maluma & Kovacevic, 2012). The parents have a direct stake in the strategic plan carried out by the educators, while the officials in the department of education are the ones that make approvals for the budget to be allocated to the education districts.
In conclusion, strategic thinking and
planning refer to the process of setting desired goals, deciding on the actions
that are required to achieve them and mobilization of the resources that are
needed to make those goals a reality. A strategic plan, in particular,
describes how the objectives can be achieved making use of the resources
available. The application of strategic planning in the education sector is
different from doing the same in private businesses, as the community affected
has to be included as well. The various key players in education strategic
planning include the community, educators, and officials from the department of
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