Why the best laid plans in schools fail – Part 1


A lot of schools have strategic plans or school improvement plans, many school leaders see a commitment to some kind of strategic planning as important for school success. It is interesting that, for a variety of organisations, despite strategic planning and plans for change, 70% of such efforts fail.

There are a number of reasons for this and it is worthwhile spending time going over some of the pitfalls associated with successful execution of strategic plans. In the first part of this series, it is worth briefly commenting on how leaders often overlook adequate resourcing of plans and projects, which contributes to some wonderful ideas and initial efforts falling flat on their face. Furthermore, the fall out of not having enough resources is an insufficient capacity to make the necessary change and the anxiety and frustration that may come as a result of this.

So what can we do about it and change this 70% of plans that fail?

  1. Strategies should be based on resources: In no way should a lack of resources should stop schools from being ambitious with their plans to improve. It is just that we may need to set more realistic plans in line with the the resources that we have at our disposal. Alternatively, some other actions may need to be sacrificed, put on the back burner, so that more resources can be made available to a particular project.
  2. Conduct a resource assessment: Schools need to conduct a thorough resource assessment before committing to a plan. What resources are available? What is needed for operational maintenance and what is required for projects? Does any money need to be set aside for things that may arise unexpectedly down the track i.e. contingency?
  3. Actionable steps should have a resource allocation: Projects arising from strategic plans do not commonly involve one actionable step. As best possible, all projects earmarked in the strategic plan should have their resourcing broken down into each actionable step. This ensures that once resources have been put into the first steps of change, detailed planning has made sure that resources are available for the latter stages to complete the project and achieve the goals set.
  4. School strategy execution should be tied to annual budgeting: The annual budget can help guide what can be done in each year of the strategic plan. Our idealistic visions of what schools should be like, oftentimes, lead us to dislike the fact that a budget should drive strategy and change. Bottom line is that resources are finite and this has to be acknowledged, see point 1.

By keeping in mind some of the methods above, leaders can ensure that the capacity to make change in their school through strategic planning vastly increases. It should be said, however, that planning for change is complex and there are other factors that need to be considered, which will be tackled later in this series.

photo credit: Pointe Blanche @ Summit @ Pic de Jallouvre @ Hike to Pic de Jallouvre via photopin (license)

Published by Richard Bruford

Richard is currently Secondary School Principal of Suzhou Singapore International School, one of China's leading international schools. He leads workshops across the Asia-Pacific region for the International Baccalaureate in the areas of pedagogical leadership and approaches to teaching and learning. Richard consults with schools on the topics of school improvement and effective implementation and use of technology. With a background in public and independent school education in the UK and Australia, Richard is enjoying his international school adventure in China. He is passionate about developing and supporting educational leaders, as it is essential to improving all schools. Richard is a proud family man and feels lucky to be married to Kim and father of their son Austin. In his spare time Richard enjoys to swim, bike and run and is a now retired football player and coach (with occasional guest appearances)

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