Most districts require an annual school improvement plan. In many cases, creating one is more of an act of compliance, rather than a real roadmap for change.
Here are three ways you can advance an improvement strategy for results.
1. Be S.M.A.R.T
While most improvement plans have a series of goals, it’s important to make sure the goals are SMART- Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Results-driven, and Time-bound. A simple online search will yield tons of resources, templates and tools for SMART GOALS development. But then what? This is just the first step and the easiest. The real work is developing the tactics and strategies that will be needed to advance towards reaching the goals.
Ask yourself where are you now and what’s missing or preventing the advancement you seek? What barriers (perceived or real) need to be overcome? Be clear and have a vision for where you want to be and articulate what success will look like when you tell the story that has the happy ending. This will be your Theory of Action. “If we do (fill in the actions) then we will (fill in the desired results.)” Determine what needs to happen to get there. These actions should direct your steps and help you decide if you have the necessary people with the needed skills, and the right resources, tools and supports in place to move forward.
2. Now Be S.M.A.R.T-ER
The reason why most improvement strategies fail is not because the goals were not SMART or because they were not developed with the best of intentions or attempted with fidelity. Instead, they fail because leaders failed to measure the impact of the execution. To avoid this be SMART-ER and add Evaluation and Review to your goals.
Most leaders make the mistake of thinking that once the plan is written and submitted, the work is just to enact the strategies that were outlined, assign tactics to the individuals responsible for them, and then hold them accountable, perhaps by checking in periodically. This link between strategy and action sounds feasible but is most often the place where the breakdown occurs. Leaders can’t be expected to oversee every aspect of implementing an improvement strategy, but to measure if the return on the investment (of time, resources, and people) is making a difference, there must be an ongoing commitment to evaluation and review during implementation and not just after. Sometimes a mid-course correction will be necessary, or an unforeseen obstacle pops up. The only way to know and address this is to stay diligent about not just the end goal, but the process by which you get there. Determine the key performance indicators (KPI’s) that will help to establish efficient management of individual strategies and help track progress of the work during the implementation.
3. Be R.A.C.I
Avoid the assumption that everyone knows and understands the strategy and action steps. Its not enough to just publish or distribute the improvement plan documents. Involve others in developing the strategies so they can share ownership (rather than just buy-in) and know how to enact upon the improvement strategy in their respective roles. Determine who is RACI- Responsible, Accountable, Consulted and Informed. Find out what resource needs or professional development those who are responsible and accountable might require. Focus on the performance of those who will drive the strategy and provide the necessary feedback and support throughout implementation. This will build in a system of accountability and a progress monitoring model that allows those who are responsible and accountable to share data towards the key performance indicators.
By being SMARTER and knowing who is RACI, you can execute your improvement strategy, measure progress towards specific targets that can be tracked to provide organizational insights, create accountability to ensure that tactics and strategies are aligned, attainable, actionable and alive, and central to the daily work of improving your school.
Get Started on Your Improvement Strategy Today
Improving strategy implementation doesn’t have to be a negative or apprehensive process. In fact, it shouldn’t be.
Here at Valbrun Consulting, we help school leaders and executives learn how to create successful learning environments through effective strategy management.
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