As we outlined in the start of our new series, among the most frequent questions I get asked from current and prospective clients is "who actually owns strategic planning?" In other words, it is under the ownership of the board of trustees as a governance process? Or, is the ownership of the head of school or college president, as an act of hired personnel ownership? Or, perhaps it is some combination or hybrid of these scenarios, working together to create a long term vision of the organization. It turns out that the answer to this question will tell you a lot about the maturity and function of the organization that is asking.
So, what is the administrative team's role in strategic planning? Best practices again tells us that they need to play a primary role in setting and implementing the strategic direction of the school or college. But, again, the devil is in the details: it is all how it is manifested that matters.
When we see the executive team or cabinet at a private college or school have complete ownership of the strategic direction of the organization, as well as the implementation of the plan, it often signals a highly immature or disengaged governance function. This happens sometimes under rare circumstances where a board of trustees has fallen into a "strategic slumber", often as a result of placing too much confidence in the current president or head of school. The net result is that the board really is not fully supportive, engaged, and involved in the strategic direction of the school, having deep ramifications down the road on other areas of the organization.
Always remember who the client is in these situations. The client is always the school, college, or organization. We are all in service to the client, whether it be the president, board chair, or senior staff. Our final entry in this series will talk about what "best in class" efforts in planning and strategy look like and how to make that happen.