Most schools, I would argue, treat the concept of "strategy" in their "strategic plans" as an exercise in deduction. At least, that is what viewing almost 50 strategic plans from independent schools over the past few months has shown me.
One example of a strategy: "Given that we have fewer laptop carts than our 'competitor schools,' we must increase the number of laptop carts available to our faculty and students."
As Richard Rumelt says, however:
"The problem with treating strategy as a [deductive] exercise is that systems of deduction and computation do not produce new interesting ideas, no matter how hard one winds the crank. [...] Treating strategy like a problem in deduction assumes that anything worth knowing is already known--that only computation is required. [...] The presumption that all important knowledge is already known, or available through consultation with authorities, deadens innovation." (Good Strategy, Bad Strategy, 244).
A real tack toward strategy would be questioning whether it's even necessary to have laptop carts: could a school think beyond that? Also, is "keeping up with the Joneses" strategic?
Therefore, I must ask: why do schools bother with template strategy planning, especially now?
Looking at the strategic plans cited above, it is evident that the overwhelming majority followed some sort of template: let's restate our mission, principles, a brief history, and our philosophy, and follow up that section with a verbose section of "strategies," "goals," or "objectives." The widespread utilization of this template suggests that it is "the" method that works, though my analysis would suggest that the method fails far more often than it succeeds.
Template planning does one thing really well, however: it produces comprehensive and highly predictable "to-do lists". True innovation is rarely found there. Should schools expend all that time and effort in forming a major to-do list that, by design, tends to eschew innovation? Many plans have over 100 "action items." That's hardly strategic, folks. That's busy work.
Busy work may be germane to continuing to meet the mission of the school, but, largely, it's not "strategic" work. Let's be honest and call it what it is: a really nice (and expensive) checklist wrapped up in a really nice (and expensive) publication.