How would your school deal with the following four elements of strategy execution? Specifically, if you were to map out your strategy, how would you vertically order the following areas? How are they linked, and how would you prioritize them? (They are not in any recommended order here)
- Execution capabilities
- Core objectives
- Competitive objectives
- Customer outcomes
For those familiar with curriculum design, the UbD (Understanding by Design) method can be used here. Where would UbD have schools begin? With customer outcomes. In other words, what can the school provide customers that will 1) make them content with the product, 2) keep them coming back, and 3) encourage them to spread positive word of mouth regarding the school? Begin with the end in mind, and work backward from there.
Historically, independent schools have been uncomfortable with the notion of customer outcomes as a/the primary driver of the business model, as it seems to suggest that schools are placating families by providing them with what they want, when they want it, which would mean that school curricula would be manipulated constantly.
Customer outcomes can be balanced by a focus on competitive objectives and core objectives. The former signifies how each school differs from its competitors, and the latter is synonymous with what we normally term "mission." Although the core objectives tend to remain fixed (we are who we are), competitive objectives should be in flux; their change allows schools to direct the change(s) that customers might like to see, while remaining true to core objectives. Competitive objectives need to be in flux; they represent the levers and dials that schools use to translate core objectives into customer outcomes. As technology progresses, for example, it changes our competitive objectives, or at least, it should change them. These objectives consist of new initiatives, upgrades, and so forth. To provide one example, increasing the leverage of social networks can increase the intimacy between school and "customer" (parents), a win-win for both parties, but it doesn't mean ignoring or changing our core objectives, our mission.
Execution capabilities are also important: these are the capabilities of those who are in-house--faculty, staff, administration. Do these folks bring to the table everything that is needed to keep the message of core objectives (the mission) fresh and meaningful to the customer, by means of competitive objectives?
How does your school come up with competitive objectives? Is it a board "think tank," is it the head alone, or are faculty and staff members encouraged to identify such objectives? If it's only the board or head, there will be a palpable "distance" between the board/head and faculty/staff, with the latter feeling as if the former doesn't understand what things are like in the trenches. In this case, there's work to be done on strategic alignment within the school, and much of that is cultural work. And that's perhaps the hardest work there is.