"Strategic Planning Should Be a Strategic Exercise" by Graham Kenny
Harvard Business Review, October 4, 2022
Leaders in corporate, government, and not-for-profit organizations are often disappointed in their strategic plans. After committing significant planning effort, they often end up with plans that are too similar to previous ones or that ultimately fail to distinguish their organization from competitors. To address these concerns, Graham Kenny first defines strategic planning as "designing a system whereby the various key stakeholders of an organization interact to produce a virtuous circle that is, in turn, a source of sustainable competitive advantage." Strategic planning, then, becomes a process that involves key stakeholders in continuously evolving understanding of the organization. This allows organizations to remain competitive and provide a value-added experience for their community – and would-be community – members. Kenny helpfully decouples "strategic planning" from an "operational action plan," two categories that are often conflated in traditional school strategic planning processes. In schools, this distinction might look like the relationship between a Portrait of a Graduate (strategic) and the plan that supports teachers as they put pedagogical, curricular, and assessment practices aligned with the Portrait of a Graduate into practice (operational). The three tips Kenny offers will help ensure that "strategy" sits at the core of a school's strategic planning: (1) distinguish between operational and strategic plans; (2) understand strategic plans as dynamic, not static; and, (3) aim for your school community to arrive at new insights about itself. Kenny's clear framing can aid schools in establishing strategic priorities more effectively while enabling strategic planning to become a process that robustly supports what is critical for the forward movement and growth of any school or organization: learning.