Now, Where and How? The importance of strategic planning
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Now, Where and How? The importance of strategic planning

The new lecturer felt that he was getting the gist of the teaching and learning process. He felt that he now wished to talk about managing, that is the business of education, with his mentor and former lecturer, who is now the Head of the new lecturer’s department.



The Head said that it is vital to understand the business aspects, as the school ideally needs to pay its way and achieve set goals. He said that formal planning was required to better manage scarce resources, and it should be used as a roadmap for the future. He called this ‘strategic planning’.


Written plan

He felt that the benefit of a written plan is that it forces one to think objectively about the organisation's future. It leads to questioning past and future assumptions and makes it easier to communicate planning objectives and strategies to key stakeholders.



The Head became more serious stating that planning is about where management wants the organisation to be at a future date and setting out how it intends to get there. Traditionally planning was always treated as being a key part of running a business and forms part of the POLC method of management that is - Planning, Organising, Leading and Controlling. He mentioned that although this POLC framework has been popular since the first principles of management books were written around a century ago the four functions were critical in management elements even in antiquity for example, they were used to manage the Roman Empire for nearly 1000 years.


The planning process: Now, where and how

The Head said that planning is a deliberate exercise that starts with the end in mind, as emphasised by Stephen Covey in his book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. This is where the planner must work backward from the future destination sought - the vision - and end in the beginning - that is today. A logical way to view the planning process is to look at the four individual steps. They are:


  • Where is the organisation now? This ‘now’ step comprises a review of the current strategic direction (vision, mission, values and purpose), the internal and external environments and the key stakeholders;
  • Where does management want the organisation to go? This ‘where’ step is the objectives of the organisation which when chosen are broken up into key result areas (KRAs) and then into key performance indicators (KPIs);
  • How is the organisation to get there? This ‘how’ step is the way that the organisation will achieve the objectives, that is move from ‘now’ to ‘where’. This third step usually is achieved using three sub-plans, finance, marketing and operations;
  • Did the organisation get there? This final step is often neglected, to the detriment of the organisation. In this step one needs to determine (1) whether the desired destination was reached, (2) if it was not reached how far off are we, (3) why we did not achieve the objectives, and (4) what remedial action is now required. In important cases, one must then later check again if the destination was indeed achieved. The Head said it was like when one has a medical issue and sees a doctor. The doctor will examine the patient and suggest a remedy but wish to see the patient later to determine whether the remedy was successful, and if not what the next steps should be.


Who do we tell about the plan?

As planning is about where we want the organisation to be at a future date and setting out how we intend to get there, the Head suggested that it is important to tell ALL key stakeholders, including the employees, because if they know what the plans are then they can help work towards achieving the objectives. He said that mission statements help as they provide a broad-brush plan with certain details being kept confidential.


Reviewing the plan

The process of preparing a plan should result in a simple living document that should be reviewed and updated regularly, say monthly or quarterly depending on the organisation or division. Care is required because if the plan is too complex it will end up being kept in the bottom of a drawer and a powerful tool to help the organisation will be lost.


Who are the users of the plan?

It is often thought that the usual users are senior management. This is not so, as one way or another all staff should be users as they will then know more about the organisation and do their jobs better if they understand the plan. Thus, keep it simple so that the key categories of users, both inside and outside the organisation, can determine relatively easily what is to be achieved and later determine whether what was sought was achieved.


The one-page plan

The Head reiterated the need to keep it simple. He said that when starting - sketch a draft plan on a single page and expand it to create the full plan. Then when complete summarise it into a one-page plan. He felt that one is more likely to use and keep it up to date if one does this.


When to do all this planning?

The Head turned to his mentee saying, “John F Kennedy said it succinctly, ‘The time to repair the roof is when the sun is shining’.” He then went off to class, and the new lecturer sat there thinking how lucky he was to have such a mentor.




Associate Professor Cyril Jankoff is Associate Dean, Scholarship at UBSS and a member of the GCA Compliance Team