1. Take care over the number of pages. The best strategic plan is the one you can throw away – everyone knows what they have to do. The next best plan is one page – it can be easily digested. A plan of ten pages is acceptable. After that the plan becomes unwieldy and is likely to be ignored.

2. Use diagrams and flow charts. Capture the key elements of your plan on one page – the use of a diagram with logical linkages is a powerful aid for people to understand the essence of the school’s direction. If that one page can be in poster format it has even greater impact.

3. Beware of too many bullet points and lists. Your strategy should tell the story of where your school is heading. Do not hesitate to put your strategy in a narrative format. But remember to keep it succinct.

4. Apply the 60 per cent test. If 60 per cent of actions in the plan are due for completion within a twelve month period, you have an operational plan, not a strategic plan. Consciously focus on the long term.

5. Prefer outputs over inputs. A good plan is quantitative and focuses on measuring outputs not just inputs. Strategic planning must be results-oriented. Remember: outcomes, not activities; deliverables, not actions.

6. Document the future not the status quo. Be cautious that you are not just documenting the status quo. Statements such as, ‘We will provide an inspiring learning environment’ are not strategic in intent. You might as well include an initiative that says ‘We will encourage staff to turn up to work’.

7. Apply the ‘True Strategy’ test. Examine your plan in light of the diagram below.

  • Accountability
  • Strategy
  • Monitoring and supervising Policy

In which quadrant do most of your school’s strategic initiatives fall and what does that tell you about your planning process? How future- and outward-oriented has your team’s thinking been?

8. Search for ‘stretch’. Ask yourself the following questions about the strategic thrust of the plan:

 Is the future marginally different or substantially different from the past?
 Does our vision for the future optimise current strengths and identifiable opportunities?
 Is there enough ‘stretch’ implicit in the vision for the school’s future; enough challenge to keep everyone on their toes?
 Does the future convey a sense of excitement that could permeate the school community as a whole?

9. Seek feedback on the plan. Always check for meaning in the plan your school produces. Ask the following questions and prepare to act on the feedback:

  • How could we improve the value and relevance of the content of the plan?
  • How could we improve its structure?
  • How could we improve the style?
  • How could we improve the format of the plan?
  • How could we simplify the wording?

10. Take a ‘future focus’, not a ‘problems perspective’. The authors Gary Hamel and CK Prahalad have said,

‘Although strategic planning is billed as a way of becoming future-oriented, most leaders, when pressed, will admit that their strategic plans reveal more about today’s problems than tomorrow’s opportunities.’

Can the same be said of your strategic plan?