The Art of Implementing Strategic Plans
One of the most important roles of a leader is the development and implementation of a plan. How good a job one does at that vital step can make all the difference in the plan’s success or failure.
During the edLeader Panel “The Art of Implementing Well,” Anthony Kim, Chief Learning Officer at Education Elements, a Scholarus Learning Company, talked with two superintendents about how to successfully implement strategic plans.
From the beginning, Kim made it clear why implementing well is so important. “Part of the reason I think we haven’t, as a country, made this level of progress that we hope to have made is because we haven’t been able to implement a lot of great ideas very well.”
Dr. Rick Robins, Superintendent of Canyons School District (UT), stated that he’s found the hardest part of implementation to be “all the noise and all of the different opinions that come with engagement,” which can be a challenge to work with since engaging the stakeholders is the key to implementation.
For Dr. Robins’ plan that he’s implemented in his school district over the past two years, he’s engaged with different groups in the community, such as parents, teachers, and students, and listened to what affects them on a daily basis. Amy Creeden, Superintendent of Enlarged City School District of Middletown (NY), added a challenge she found in implementation: finding when to release control and trusting in others to follow her vision.
Both superintendents talked about how to get others to want to follow their plans. “I think if we really want educators to buy into personalized learning for our students, then … we’ve got to support that same vision for adult learning for them,” said Dr. Robins. He created programs that engaged teachers and paid them for the extra time they spent learning, getting them invested and helping them advance their own careers, which was also a great recruiting and retention strategy.
Creeden agreed, adding that leaders need to make sure their teams feel the value of what they’re doing and that leaders need to invest in teachers with professional development opportunities. Both seasoned leaders made it clear that a crucial part of implementation is giving people a voice at the table so they can become invested in the plan.
Years of experience have taught both superintendents valuable lessons about implementation. Creeden warned against lacking clear guideposts or expectations, which risks the plan having a low impact. She then pointed out that clear communication in the plan meant a greater impact.
In addition, Dr. Robins added, leaders need to establish clarity from the start and don’t assume people know things or can figure them out. He also talked about how leaders should think about how they measure success, and that they need to look forward and be results oriented.
Kim asked the two how they go about bringing new people into their plans, something that can be crucial for a plan’s progress. Creeden explained that an important part is engaging students in the plan and paying attention to where changes need to happen. She also stated that leaders need to be willing to change and reroute their plans if something isn’t working.
Dr. Robins stressed listening to feedback from the team so you don’t miss what’s actually happening with the plan. Flexibility and adjusting the plan can make a huge difference. He added that districts competing for talent is a challenge, so leaders need to offer teachers what they actually need, such as support and competitive compensation.
Both superintendents heavily stressed the importance of clear communication with educators, parents, students, and other groups, since they all need different types of support, feedback, and communication. Clear communication and getting people invested in the plan are the keys to the art of implementing well.
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Article by Jon Scanlon, based on this edLeader Panel