Collaborative Strategic Planning
During the 2014-2015 school year, Princeton Public Schools used the strategic planning process that was described in Patrick Sanaghan's book Collaborative Strategic Planning in Higher Education (NACUBO, 2009). Collaborative Strategic Planning was a highly engaging process that was inclusive and efficient. It included a five phase process that was designed to create commitment for the implementation of the strategic plan. The internal Planning Task Force drove the process.
The team followed several phases throughout the planning process:
- Phase I: Getting Organized
- Phase II: Data Gathering and Engagement
- Phase III: Making Sense of the Issues
- Phase IV: Vision Conference
- Phase V: Goals Conference
- Phase VI: Individual School Board Input
- Phase VII: Board Approval
- Phase VIII: Board Approval
- The importance of the process to the future of our District.
- Committing to the resources needed for the planning process (stipends, time, room, food, etc.)
- Superintendent involved as a champion and supporter, but not the driver or controller.
- Superintendent will visibly and authentically support the process by communicating with stakeholder groups.
- Collaborative Strategic Planning Task Force is developed. Internal participants learn about the process, timeline and their roles.
There is a Planning Task Force training session to learn interactive planning activities. Each of the activities teaches the task force members to engage with other stakeholders throughout the district.
The planning has these benefits:
- Task force members own the process because they are at the heart of it.
- Internal stakeholders witness their peers and colleagues create an effective planning process.
- The credibility of the planning process increases because it is led by insiders.
- Task force members develop the expertise to do collaborative planning in their own departments.
- The District saves money because insiders, no consultants, do most of the work.
After the Planning Task Force has conducted many interactive meetings throughout the District, a great deal of information goes into a centralized database. At this stage, the Planning Task Force develops five to eight strategic themes to help focus the planning process.
Next, the Planning Task Force forms teams to write concept papers, which describe the strategic themes and their importance to the District. These papers take the information gathered from the data gathering phase into more manageable chunks to inform stakeholders about the issues.
The concept papers are about five pages. They will provide the historical context of the issues, identify regional, state, or national perspectives about the issues, and describe how the district stakeholders see the issue, based upon the data gathering information.
All of the concepts are reviewed by task force members before being shared with the community. During the writing of the concept papers, task force members discuss each other's work.
This highly interactive meeting involves 50 to 100 stakeholders. External and internal stakeholders provide a broader and unique perspective as the participants envision the institution's future. The Vision Conference has three elements:
- Review of Concept Papers and Discussion.
- All conference participants have a chance to review the concept papers and glean these themes from each one.
- Stakeholder Review.
The Planning Task Force convenes to create a board implementation plan for the District. Appointment of strategic plan implementation contact people happens.
Participants use the vision statement to create a set of goals for each strategic theme. After agreeing on the goals, participants create action plans for each one. Feedback processes ensure that all participants share their advice and ideas.
The draft action plan goes to the Superintendent and Directors for discussion and review. They create a detailed implementation plan.