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3 surprising ways school leaders make planning strategic priorities simple

August 15, 2017

In our last blog post we talked about the 3 step process for selecting your strategic priorities or “big rocks”. If you happened to miss it, you can check it out here. Now that you have selected your big rocks you’re done with summer strategic planning right? Not exactly. The best school leaders have a process and system for everything. You’re on the right track but now the work involves planning and prioritizing for successful implementation. We will cover prioritization in a future blog post, but for now let’s dive deep into the planning phase.

You have successfully selected your big rocks to implement for the upcoming school year.  You were very thorough and objective, analyzing various data points, gathering input and recommendations from key staff members and selecting the right number of big rocks, not too few or too many.  Now the question becomes: how to plan for successful implementation?

Derived from our BRES Effective Leader Framework, big rock 2a Selection & Prioritization and big rock 2c Empowerment, this planning process will help ensure effective implementation.

3 surprising ways school leaders make planning strategic priorities simple:

1) Create action items for each big rock

What is an action item? Notice how the following statement – “This year, one of our big rocks will be data driven instruction” – is too broad.  The following questions remain:

  • what specifically is DDI?
  • what are the steps to DDI?
  • what step(s) will we be implementing this year?
  • what do these steps look and sound like when implemented effectively in classrooms?

Creating action items for each big rock helps answer these important questions and ensures you implement all the critical components of DDI.  Below is an example of two possible action items for the big rock of DDI, followed by a brief description:

  • interim assessment administration – administer common bi-weekly interim assessments using a school-wide interim assessment criteria template as a guide. The template objectively outlines expectations for assessment length, alignment and rigor.
  • analysis meetings – hold bi-weekly data analysis meetings with the following components: sharing of best practices, brainstorming solutions to student miscomprehension and calendaring re-teaching days and times for all students and his/her deficient skill(s)


2) Assigning persons responsible for implementing each action item

After creating your action items, the next key step is to assign responsibilities to staff members. This involves the following:

  • Matching each action item to an individual who will be responsible for ongoing implementation. Simply put, who will carry out the day to day assigned task?
  • Designating an individual who will be accountable for coaching and supporting the staff member implementing each action item.

This step is crucial because it clearly defines roles on your team ensuring successful implementation.


3) Establish clear metrics for success for each big rock action item

Having metrics for each big rock action item will help you:

  • define what exemplary implementation looks like
  • gather data on whether or not you are on target for exemplary big rock implementation (how close/far away from meeting the metric are we?)
  • know exactly when you meet the target for exemplary implementation

In addition, having clear data based metrics with criteria for what defines exemplary implementation, makes data collection possible so that necessary adjustments and targeted coaching supports can occur during the implementation process.

To be an effective school leader requires efficient systems and consistent follow-through. With clear action items, defined roles for individuals implementing those action items, and objective data-based metrics for success to help benchmark progress to exemplary implementation; you are one step closer to beginning implementation and maximizing the chances it will be done with fidelity to increase the success of your school for your kids.