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“It’s a Bird! It’s a Plane! It’s… a Charter School Leader!” (Yet, even heroes need a plan)

As many in the sector have heard, this week marks the California Charter School Association (CCSA) Annual Conference, a gathering built to energize, educate, and extend connections in the charter school community. Blue Garnet will be presenting with Dr. Ana Ponce and Atyani Howard of Camino Nuevo Charter Academy (CNCA) to share insights and learning from the Strategic Business Planning work we did recently.

But who cares about strategic business planning anyways? After all, isn’t it just an impractical, pie-in-the-sky activity that funders require but might not be relevant to the day-to-day? And besides, running a high performing charter school is tough; California funding is limited and challenging, facilities are elusive and costly, and leaders are asked to give a lot of themselves to ensure the children they serve succeed. So doesn’t it make sense to focus on addressing the most pressing, immediate issues?

Actually, no. At least not always. I see charter leaders as extremely pragmatic, highly entrepreneurial, and steadfastly passionate. I almost see them as superheroes, hurdling and combating all the tasks and challenges of launching and running a successful charter school. As you can imagine, the challenges don’t leave leaders with much time to get their super hero capes cleaned and dry pressed! But as Dr. Ponce and CNCA can attest, a proper Strategic Business Planning process, when done well, can ward off the crippling, kryptonite-like effects of not having an effective plan.

CNCA and Blue Garnet are excited to share 7 “to-do’s” for Strategic Business Planning, as well as practical ways that CNCA benefitted, including:

  • Engagement of the right stakeholders
  • Prioritization of energy and resources via a decision-making framework
  • Tightened alignment across multiple school sites
  • Stronger culture-building across multiple school sites
  • Greater comfort with accountability at all organization levels

To do strategic planning well:

  1. Understand that it’s a journey to ask and answer the tough questions
  2. Baseline where you are at as an organization (candid, ready/willing/able assessment)
  3. Start with the end in mind, and define your “secret sauce”
  4. Determine how you’ll afford it (ongoing and one-time revenue and cost drivers, with a multi year forecast)
  5. Define your success with measures and tools for accountability (a.k.a. organization-level performance dashboard)
  6. Engage the right people in the right ways (culture building and communications)
  7. Come with a healthy supply of patience and your sense of humor

Additionally, we will helping leaders determine if it’s the right time to engage in strategic business planning.  As we will highlight at the conference, a good Strategic Business Planning process is the foundation for a High Performing Organization; in fact, CNCA would argue that their strategic plan is “a living, breathing document” and “map that guides us.” But rather than restrict them, it allows CNCA to be a nimble, flexible organization

So if you feel alone as a leader, if you feel like the organization is driving you, or if you need clarity on how key decisions will be made, come find us at 11am on Tuesday! Or if you miss the session, you can download the materials here and here.

What are your thoughts or experiences with Strategic Business Planning? Share in the comments below!

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