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Education sector analysis, planning and monitoring

At the core of any effort to improve education quality and learning outcomes are three central processes: analysing the current education sector conditions, planning for improvement, and monitoring efforts to implement those plans.

The first step in planning for improved learning outcomes is sector analysis. This requires a review of the available data and research on the characteristics of the education system, its performance, and its context. The next step, sector planning, uses that analysis to strategically identify priority goals, and to determine the most effective strategies, programmes, and specific activities to achieve those goals – all in light of the available resources and capacity. Sector monitoring, in turn, involves keeping track of the plan’s implementation through indicators that measure contextual issues, inputs, processes, and outputs. Monitoring data then feed back into the analysis of the sector for another planning phase, and the cycle continues. In reality there is a great deal of movement back and forth, as new considerations re-shape previous decisions in a recursive way. 

Key characteristics of effective education sector planning

It is strategic, with the goal of learning at the core : The list of possible activities can be long. If the planning process is not strategically oriented towards achieving a specific vision for improvement, time and resources may be spent on disconnected issues, with little overall impact (UNESCO-IIEP, 2010; UNESCO-IIEP, GPE, 2015; UNESCO 2013; Abdul-Hamid, 2014). The primary objective of an education system is for students to learn. Education planning should be grounded in a discussion of the system’s specific learning goals, and should prioritize key actions most likely to improve the system’s ability to achieve these learning outcomes. To achieve this, the planning process needs to be informed by a legislative framework and a set of values that prioritizes every child’s right to learn (UNESCO-IIEP, 2010; Pigozzi, 2004). Finally, the planning process itself needs to reflect principles of adaptive learning, allowing for adaptation and refinement as planning and implementation illuminate new issues and lead to new understanding (UNESCO-IIEP, 2010).

It is grounded in quantitative and qualitative evidence : Effective education sector planning begins with a comprehensive sector analysis, including an analysis of what students are actually learning, what they are not learning and why not, and how learning can be improved, as well as other data on education sector efficiency (UNESCO-IBE, 2012; UNESCO-IIEP et al, World Bank, UNICEF, GPE, 2014).. The system’s existing Education Management Information System, and other past monitoring and evaluation, should provide some of the needed data – underscoring the ongoing need to build comprehensive and reliable data systems (Mourshed, Chijoke, and Barber, 2010). Qualitative research evidence is also important, particularly for understanding the processes that affect student learning outcomes. Policy-makers may need assistance in locating good-quality local and international research and effectively interpreting it in relation to the national context (Auld and Morris, 2016; Batchelor, 2012; Coffield, 2012). The education sector analysis process needs to be open to considering evidence that contradicts established assumptions, and should allow space for dialogue and debate on difficult issues (Pigozzi, 2004; UNESCO, 2006). 

It is context-sensitive and realistic : Education plans need to respond to the specific context in a number of ways. One of these is conflict and crisis preparedness, addressing the country’s specific vulnerabilities in an integrated way throughout the plan’s strategies. (UNESCO-IIEP, 2011, 2015). The plan also needs to avoid the wholesale adoption of methods simply transported from elsewhere. ‘Best practices’ are rarely if ever universal, and education planners need to analyse current circumstances in order to understand the key next steps to improvement within their own country’s social, institutional, and economic reality (Auld and Morris, 2016; Coffield, 2012; Mourshed, Chijoke, and Barber, 2010; OECD, 2010, 2014). Finally, the planning process needs to include attention to current and projected financial, technical, and political resources and constraints so the adopted strategies are feasible and realistic(UNESCO-IIEP, GPE, 2015).

It holistically integrates core issues : Planners need to be well-versed in issues such as non-discrimination, gender equity, conflict and crisis preparedness, and any ethical or cultural goals that are important to the education system, to bring these concerns into the planning processes (UNESCO-IIEP, 2011).  They also need to have a deep understanding of effective teaching and of the different issues and processes that affect teaching and learning (UNESCO-IBE, 2012).

It is inclusive of stakeholders : Education systems have a wide range of stakeholders, including local civil society, teacher unions, parent groups, student representatives, faith-based groups, employer associations, donors, and international organisations. –Engaging these stakeholders mobilises knowledge, capacity, and resources, which are important for effective planning, implementation, and monitoring of education policies (Coffield, 2012; USAID, 1999; UNESCO-IIEP, 2010; UNESCO, 2006). Public debate about what education quality means and how to achieve it can be taken as a positive sign, since it signals that education is an important public priority – a characteristic many of the world’s strongest education systems hold in common (OECD, 2010, 2014; UNESCO, 2006).) Yet it is also important that leadership and decision-making mechanisms are strong enough to achieve a negotiated outcome to these discussions and move forward with implementation in a coordinated way (Mourshed, Chijoke, and Barber, 2010).

It provides coherent and sustained reform : Education planning needs to take into account all subsectors – such as early childhood, primary, secondary, higher, adult and non-formal education – in a coherent way to achieve significant change (UNESCO-IIEP, GPE, 2015). Deep system reform may be necessary, rather than just piecemeal improvements (OECD, 2010, 2014). Research on education systems that have achieved significant improvement suggests that willingness to learn from new ideas and change long-standing traditions when necessary can be a key factor, especially as part of a broader institutional culture that promotes collaboration and learning over time (USAID, 1999; OECD, 2010, 2014).  To achieve such significant levels of reform often needs sustained leadership, at least for long enough to see through more than one cycle of implementation and adaptation (Mourshed, Chijoke, and Barber, 2010).

It uses regular monitoring and evaluation to improve strategic plans : The strength of an education sector analysis, and of the resulting strategic plan, is highly dependent on the quality of the data used. Thus, one key element of strategic planning is improving the monitoring and evaluation system that collects fundamental educational data, as well as increasing the capacity of education planners to understand and transform data into useful knowledge (Batchelor, 2012; Mourshed, Chijoke, and Barber, 2010)

It supports the disadvantaged, both within and outside school : An education sector plan must identify sources of educational disparities and address the specific needs of disadvantaged groups (UNESCO-IIEP, GPE, 2015). Many education systems have made significant progress in their overall levels of learning achievement by providing additional support to disadvantaged learners and underperforming schools (Mourshed, Chijoke, and Barber, 2010; OECD, 2010, 2014). Additionally, a great deal of what influences students’ learning actually occurs outside of school – including factors such as parental background and parenting practices; physical health and nutrition; psycho-social health; and having adequate time to rest, study, and play. Education planners may therefore need to collaborate with agencies outside the sector in order to achieve real improvements in learning outcomes for the disadvantaged.

Plans and policies

  • Ethiopia [ PDF ]
  • Palestine [ PDF ]
  • United Republic of Tanzania [ PDF ]
  • Seychelles [ PDF ]
  • IIEP-UNESCO; Global Partnership for Education. 2015. Guidelines for education sector plan preparation . Paris; New York: IIEP-UNESCO; GPE.
  • IIEP-UNESCO; Global Partnership for Education. 2015. Guidelines for education sector plan appraisal . Paris; New York: IIEP-UNESCO; GPE.
  • IIEP-UNESCO; World Bank; UNICEF; Global Partnership for Education. 2014. Education sector analysis methodological guidelines: Volume 1 . Dakar: IIEP Pôle de Dakar.
  • IIEP-UNESCO; World Bank; UNICEF; Global Partnership for Education. 2014. Education sector analysis methodological guidelines: Volume 2 . Dakar: IIEP Pôle de Dakar.
  • Global Campaign for Education. 2014. Planning matters: A handbook for civil society participation in national education sector plan activities and processes . Johannesburg: Global Campaign for Education.

Abdul-Hamid, H. 2014. What matters most for education management information systems: A framework paper. SABER Working Paper Series 7.

Auld, E; Morris, P. 2016. ‘PISA, policy and persuasion: Translating complex conditions into education “best practice”’. In: Comparative Education. 52, (2), 202-229.

Batchelor, S.J. 2012. Information ecosystems of policy actors: Reviewing the landscape . Institute of Development Studies Working Paper, 401.

Coffield, F. 2012. ‘Why the McKinsey reports will not improve school systems’. In: Journal of Education Polic y. 27 (1), 131-149.

Mourshed, M.; Chijioke, C.; Barber, M. 2010. How the world’s most improved school systems keep getting better . London: McKinsey and Company.

Pigozzi, M. J. 2004. The 10 dimensions of quality in education .

OECD. 2010 Strong performers and successful reformers in education: Lessons from PISA for Mexico .

OECD. 2014. Lessons from PISA for Korea, strong performers and successful reformers in education .

UNESCO. 2006. National education sector development plan: A result-based planning handbook . Paris: UNESCO.

UNESCO. 2013. UNESCO Handbook on education policy analysis and programming: Education policy analysis Vol 1 . Bangkok: UNESCO.

UNESCO-IBE. 2012. General Education System Quality Analysis/Diagnosis Framework (GEQAF) .

UNESCO-IIEP. 2010a. Strategic planning: Concept and rationale, Working Paper 1. Paris: UNESCO-IIEP.

––––. 2010b. Strategic planning: Organizational arrangements, Working Paper 2 . Paris: UNESCO-IIEP.

––––. 2010c. Strategic planning: Techniques and methods Working Paper 3 . Paris: UNESCO-IIEP.

UNESCO-IIEP. 2011. Integrating conflict and disaster risk reduction into education sector planning . Paris: UNESCO-IIEP.

UNESCO-IIEP; GPE (Global Partnership for Education). 2015. Guidelines for education sector plan preparation . Paris: UNESCO-IIEP.

UNESCO-IIEP; the World Bank; UNICEF; GPE (Global Partnership for Education). 2014. Education sector analysis methodological guidelines: Volume 1 .

USAID (United States Agency for International Development). 1999. Educational Quality Framework. Improving Educational Quality (IEQ) Project . 

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Strategic planning

The need for an iiep remains higher than ever.                                    (unesco internal oversight services, 2013).

 An effective ministry is guided by a plan which brings together all stakeholders and is regularly monitored and updated. IIEP strongly believes that planning is not a one-off activity. Rather it is a continuous practice that should engage all ministry departments and partners at national and subnational levels in a consultative and participatory process. Institutionalizing planning necessitates that ministries establish a strategic vision and priorities, coordinate their programmes and budgets annually and within a medium-term expenditure framework, negotiate with national and international financing agencies, and periodically monitor that it is on track to achieve policy objectives through implementation reviews.

Strategic planning guides educational development by giving a common vision and shared priorities. Educational planning is both visionary and pragmatic, engaging a wide range of actors in defining education’s future and mobilizing resources to reach its goals. For policy-makers, planning offers the path to:

  • implement education reform and system transformation;
  • realize equal opportunities for children and youth;
  • provide quality education for all.

IIEP has strong experience and expertise in strategic planning and has developed in collaboration with the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) two newly published documents to help ministries in charge of education transform their processes and operations to meet the challenges of a changing world:

  • Guidelines for Education Sector Plan Appraisal
  • Guidelines for Education Sector Plan Preparation
  • Guidelines for transitional education plan preparation

Strategic Planning New Publications

  • train and coach on concepts, processes and tools to improve the practice of educational planning and management;
  • analyse and reflect on education trends and issues from a policy and planning perspective;
  • provide technical assistance and policy advice on critical issues for educational development.
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  • Capacity development in educational planning and management: Learning from successes and failures

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stages of strategic planning in education

In education, evolution and adaptation are constants. Academic institutions must stay up to date with technology and teaching methods to succeed, while also managing students' social, emotional, and academic needs. With all of these considerations in addition to budgetary constraints, It's easy to see why ensuring student and institutional success requires a dynamic strategic plan.

This blog post will outline the best practices academic institutions should consider when developing an effective strategic plan to address these challenges. To create an effective strategic plan, we need to eliminate the disconnect between leadership's high-level vision and employees' tactical work. Leading academic institutions, growing companies, and organizations adapt to change through dynamic strategic planning. 

A dynamic strategic plan breaks down an organization's long-term vision into short-term goals and then builds a roadmap to achieve those goals. As part of this process, the organization's plan should be reviewed and revised regularly to ensure relevance and alignment with its mission. Academic plans are typically written as multi-year plans and organizations often face challenges in developing effective strategic plans that are easy to understand and execute. Here are a few suggestions to help address these challenges:

  • Clearly define your vision: The first step in developing an effective strategic plan is to define the vision for the school. This should be a clear, concise statement that articulates what the school hopes to achieve. 
  • Identify key objectives: Once you have a clear vision, identify the key objectives that will help you achieve them. These should be specific and measurable goals that align with your vision.
  • Create measurable, outcome-focused key results: With your objectives in mind, it is important to focus on creating key results that drive outcomes, not outputs to help you reach your targets. Schools that focus on driving actionable objectives with outcome-based key results will ensure they stay aligned on what truly matters.
  • Prioritize and allocate resources: It's essential to prioritize your strategies and allocate resources accordingly. Determine which strategies are most critical to achieving your objectives and ensure that you have the resources (e.g., time, budget, personnel) to implement them effectively.
  • Monitor and evaluate progress: Finally, monitor and evaluate progress regularly to ensure that you are on track to achieving your objectives. This will help you identify areas where you may need to adjust your strategies or allocate additional resources.

By following these steps, academic institutions can develop a strategic planning framework and process that is effective, simple, and links vision to tactical execution. So now that we have the steps needed to build our strategy, let's start to bring it to life.

Take a field trip: host an annual Strategic Planning Offsite 

Before each academic year, we recommend holding a strategic planning meeting offsite with your leadership team. This is dedicated time to focus on the priorities for the upcoming year. Before diving into where you're headed, set aside time for a retrospective to discuss the previous year. In addition, discuss the current education landscape.

To build a future-focused and tailored plan for your academic institution, the team should reconfirm your mission and values, set your vision, and define your top strategic priorities. 

As you head into your offsite, we recommend the following best practices that lead to success:

  • Get Outside of the Office : Find space outside of the work environment to reduce distractions and encourage collaboration.
  • Set a Clear Agenda : Agree ahead of time on the purpose of each day, the deliverables, and actionable next steps. 
  • Make Space to Think: Carve out time for free thinking vs. relying on group thinking to encourage new ideas. If you need a template, we recommend using this worksheet to guide the conversation .

Simplify the strategic plan: align your high-level strategy with tactical execution

Academic plans are typically written as multi-year plans (5-year plans are most common) which can lead to a very detailed and dense plan. Given the complexity and length of the strategic plan, it can feel overwhelming and difficult to break the plan down and prioritize what’s most imperative to execute and focus on. We recommend breaking the larger multi-year plan into digestible annual plans that are more manageable. 

We recommend identifying 3-5 main themes in your strategic plan, often referred to as pillars or rallying cries. Once you have core themes, you can prioritize and bucket the most critical initiatives and objectives. Every theme will have specific supporting objectives and key results. We recommend using consistent nomenclature when creating themes, objectives, and key results so any team member can easily understand why the work is significant. 

Once we have the multi-year plan broken into annual plans and themes identified, we recommend defining short-term objectives (quarterly or semi-annually) and measurable metrics to drive key results. Breaking down the plan into quarters will feel more approachable and attainable. In addition, it will provide clarity and transparency for the executing team. When the strategic plan is broken down into actionable items, small wins can be celebrated along the way. This boosts motivation, engagement, and morale.  

stages of strategic planning in education

Consistency is key to a successful strategic plan

When individuals understand how their work aligns with the high-level strategy and vision, they can prioritize their initiatives. Establish clear, measurable objectives and key results that are easy to track and provide consistent nomenclature. Keep these three tips in mind when writing your strategic plan objectives:

  • Objectives should be aspirational and push people outside their comfort zone.
  • Each objective should have 2-3 measurable and quantifiable results.
  • Have a clear, defined owner responsible for recurring status updates. 

The best way to write objectives is to start by asking, “Why is this initiative important?” When you understand the why, you can create measurable outcome-driven results. Let’s walk through an example objective with key results laid out in Elate.

stages of strategic planning in education

Theme: Develop and retain a diverse educator workforce.

Objective: Strengthen and diversify the educator pipeline and workforce.

Objective Purpose Statement: Increase mentoring and leadership development programs to retain educators, particularly educators from under-represented backgrounds. 

Key metrics: 

  • Increase mentoring program engagement by 50% 
  • 96% educator retention rate 

Implement rituals and track success with dynamic strategic planning

After your plan is built, it is imperative to establish rituals to stay on track and measure progress against the strategic plan. Rituals are defined as a rhythm, cadence, and process for reviewing objectives and strategic plans. Establishing strong rituals allows critical conversations to happen proactively. When objectives are stuck in limbo or fall off track, proactive discussions can happen. However, many academic institutions have different rituals for different teams. Implementing consistent rituals regularly will help you stay aligned, measure progress, and ensure you’re having the right conversations at the right time.

stages of strategic planning in education

To keep everyone on the same page and connect tactical execution to strategic vision, we recommend objective owners provide bi-weekly updates. Across many academic institutions, strategy, and operations leaders spend countless hours tracking down updates that become outdated quickly. With Elate, reminder notifications are automatically sent to team members so they can focus more on execution and less on chasing down updates. 

stages of strategic planning in education

We recommend spending a few minutes in executive team meetings reviewing objectives that are off-track or not making progress to create an action plan moving forward. This ritual of reviewing the plan early often brings awareness to the leadership team about objectives that need attention or are falling behind. It also allows space to celebrate accomplishments and wins. 

This makes it easy to ensure the strategic plan lives and breathes. Setting and clearly defining rituals for how the plan progresses, updates are made and reviewed, and addressing red flags is key to success. 

Focus on the right metrics to measure your strategic plan's success

stages of strategic planning in education

With key results, objectives, and business-as-usual metrics all in one place, Elate keeps the strategic plan organized with a consolidated view. In Elate, scorecards provide an essential view of business-as-usual metrics and progress. Create specific scorecards for the board, enrollment, grant, and donor activity. 

Elevate your strategic plan with Elate

Strategic planning is critical for academic institutions that want to stay competitive, adapt to change, and achieve their goals. By following these best practices, higher education and academic institutions can achieve their goals and stay competitive in an ever-changing environment. 

Strategic planning has never been easier with Elate. Our platform simplifies and streamlines the strategic planning process, taking the stress out of it. We make it easy to stay on track with transparent reporting, simple collaboration, and one-click integrations with Salesforce, Google Sheets, Microsoft Teams, and Slack. Your vision can finally meet your strategy.

Learn more about our strategic planning tools and services, or contact us today to learn more about how we specifically work with other Academic Institutions!

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stages of strategic planning in education

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5 Tips for creating an effective school strategic plan for K-12

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September 29, 2023

Sarah Mathias

Strategic planning for k-12: 5 tips for superintendents.

Effective strategic planning for K-12 is critical for achieving your district's goals. But how do you create strategic plans that work? Engage and align your educational partners—teachers, staff, students, and parents—throughout the process. And evolve your plan as needed.

ThoughtExchange can help you with your district’s strategic planning goals from concept to completion—and all steps in between. Here’s how.

In this Article

Gather community feedback, district consults community for more effective strategic plan, gather internal feedback, superintendent engages senior education leaders to inform plan, find common ground, district finds common ground in safety initiative, align your community on the strategy, district uses thoughtexchange to pass $110m budget, measure performance, district follows up on changes, thoughtexchange for strategic plans that work.

Need insights to inform your strategic direction or want to assess your strategic plan’s viability? Involve your educational partners for community feedback . Consult students, parents, and community members throughout the planning process so your strategy aligns with their perspectives.

Whether you’re setting strategy at the district, school, or department level, consulting participants will uncover unbiased insights, enhance trust, and ensure greater success with new strategic directions.

A school district gathered community feedback to inform their strategic priorities before planning. This enabled them to create a strategic plan that addressed the community’s most pressing concerns.

Using ThoughtExchange, they asked:

What are some important things for us to consider as we develop our new strategic priorities?

Hear what your community really thinks with an Exchange

ThoughtExchange engagement and survey platform allows superintendents to scale open-ended feedback, reducing the time and resources spent on town halls and meetings while providing insight into what people really think.

Our Exchanges prioritize qualitative data. Participants share their ideas anonymously and rate the thoughts of others based on merit, with the most supported ideas rising to the top.

Multilingual capabilities allow for simultaneous translation in 104 languages, so participants can share and read thoughts in their preferred language, ensuring a diverse, inclusive, community-wide discussion everyone can participate in.

Whether you’re bringing 10 or 10,000+ people into one Exchange, you’ll discover what’s most important to your community and inform your strategic direction.

Looking for more strategic planning in education tips? Read: Strategic Planning in Education – 3 Keys to Success

Do you know what your staff thinks about your strategic priorities? It’s time to find out. A long-time superintendent noted that to succeed, a strategic plan must be “something everybody lives and works daily.”

Getting internal buy-in is essential for success. Inform your plan and refine your strategic objectives by asking your principals, teachers, and staff how they align with the strategies they use to fulfill their roles.

Checking in with staff throughout the planning process builds trust, support, and ownership. Gather feedback and identify knowledge gaps in the strategy before seeking broader validation.

A new superintendent launched an Exchange with more than 150 senior leaders representing 50 campuses.

As a leader, what are the most important things I need to know to support you and make this a successful year?

She was able to answer their feedback in real time and use their insights to inform her plan for the year. Checking in throughout the process will ensure her plan meets her district staff’s needs. You’ll get better data, even with large districts.

Surveys get you all the data you need in one place

Your strategic planning process may require various engagement methods to track progress. From Exchanges to surveys, we’ve got you covered.

Keep all your data in one place with surveys . Surveys allow you to efficiently gather and analyze qualitative and quantitative data to quickly and accurately inform decisions.

With a variety of question types, instant analytics, branching, secure access, and participation grouping, surveys have everything you need for fast, effective engagement. Plus, analyze thousands of open-ended and comment-box answers with ThoughtExchange’s AI Advisor tool.

Use ThoughtExchange to inform, refine, and align your strategic plans. Present the plan and gather your people’s thoughts to ensure your strategy is on track. If needed, ask for additional insights and refine your plan as needed.

Brighton Central School District’s Superintendent, Dr. Kevin McGowan, understood that meaningful, transparent, two-way communication was key to his district’s safety initiative .

That’s why he used ThoughtExchange to gather insights about law enforcement in schools. An Exchange, allowed McGowan to capture marginalized voices he may have otherwise missed. It also made space for a safe, open conversation between community members with different perspectives on law enforcement in schools.

Understanding his community’s feelings of fear, anxiety, and pressure helped McGowan make better, more inclusive decisions about his school safety initiative.

YouTube video

Find common ground with Differences

ThoughtExchange’s Differences feature identifies common ground by revealing where participants agree and disagree in real time. Identify polarizing ideas and discover strategies everyone agrees on.

Include everyone’s insights in a collaborative discussion space, so community members feel heard. Break down silos and expose your community to the breadth of perspectives in your district. Easily find agreement between polarized groups.

High-performing districts are aligned, engaged, and change-ready. Districts that prioritize community alignment see increased attendance, improved student performance, stronger school reputations, and positive relationships between staff, students, and families.

Leaders in top-performing schools know that their strategic plans will likely only succeed with community support and the insights that come with community engagement.

Ensure your district is on the same page by allowing your community members to contribute to and shape your strategy. Involving your community from the start creates trust, support, ownership, buy-in and robust, supported strategic plans.

A school district faced almost 2 million dollars in unexpected expenses. At the same time, they were just about to put their proposed 2022/2023 budget to vote, asking their educational partners to approve a 2.98% increase in the tax levy and an almost $5 million increase on the previous year’s budget.

Knowing community feedback would be vital for creating a supported, strategic budget, they launched an Exchange.

They asked:

What are your priorities for the 2022-2023 Operating Budget of the Guilderland Central School District?

Staff, students, parents, and community members all shared their priorities. The Exchange data had a positive impact on their operating budget.

Find agreement with Differences

After you’ve launched your strategy, continue to measure its performance, evaluate, and check in with your educational partners for feedback. Run surveys or drill deeper with a series of Exchanges to assess your strategic direction and how it performs at the school and community levels. Gather insights from staff and educators to monitor progress.

Build ownership and buy-in when making key decisions. Support the decision-making process by including more perspectives and ensure greater outcome adoption. Consider what information you need to share, such as how far along you are in the decision cycle and how you intend to use the results to inform the decision.

From quick quantitative data to qualitative, in-dept discussions, ThoughtExchange’s robust platform gets you all the data you need in one place. Easily export your data as CSV or a report to share with interested parties.

Check in with your educational partners after the decision has been implemented and people have had some time to assess the impacts. Strategic planning is not a one-off process. Be ready to reassess and pivot with your community's support.

A district had implemented changes for the new school year and wanted to understand how they were affecting the community. During the first week of school, they sent an Exchange out.

Now that we've started the new school year, what do you think is working well and what areas could be improved?

They received valuable feedback from their staff, students, and parents, informing some necessary adjustments to the new policies. The superintendent of the district has an unprecedented level of support from her community because of her willingness to ask for and act on their feedback using ThoughtExchange.

Demonstrate impact with our suite of reporting, presentation, and facilitation tools

Be bold with your strategic plans knowing that ThoughtExchange makes gaining community engagement and buy-in easier. By accessing your community’s unbiased, critical insights, throughout the planning process, you can be confident that your plan addresses your district’s real needs.

Author’s note: This post was originally published on December 5, 2022, and has been updated for accuracy and relevance.

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The Importance of Strategic Planning in Education

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Strategic planning is a method used in various industries to deliberately guide decision-making. In education, strategic planning provides leaders with guidance to keep the institution operating, carry out its missions and comply with regulations. Educational strategic planning focuses on the future of a college or university, providing an intentional way to reflect on performance and determine where to implement initiatives to make positive changes for the future.

To create effective university strategic plans, administrators and stakeholders must understand the ins and outs of how they work and how they can apply them.

In This Article

  • Lack of Ownership
  • Poor Strategic Alignment
  • Poor Communication
  • Slow Plan Adoption
  • Improve Efficiency
  • Engage Stakeholders and the Community
  • Form a Focus
  • Plan a Future
  • Test Your Hypotheses
  • Use Specific Language
  • Make Implementation a Priority
  • Hold Team Members Accountable

Transform Strategic Planning and Execution Within Your Education Institution With AchieveIt

The challenges of strategic planning in education.

Universities and colleges face several pressures and challenges that can complicate strategic planning in educational environments. Understanding some of these challenges can help you overcome them to create an impactful approach.

1. Lack of Ownership

While strategic plans involve feedback and participation from all of your institution’s departments and entities, you should limit ownership of the plan and documentation to one person. Without explicit ownership over the strategic plan, initiatives are more likely to be lost, forgotten or overlooked. With one person in charge, your school is more likely to achieve success.

2. Poor Strategic Alignment

Alignment and representation across your university are crucial to success. Universities and colleges often experience a lack of strategic alignment because the church and state divisions typically have different goals for schools. These clashing perspectives lead to poor strategic alignment and a stand-still in decision-making.

3. Poor Communication

Many educational institutions also struggle with strategic planning due to poor organizational communication. Effectively implementing a strategic plan requires institutional-wide teamwork. Poor communication significantly increases the difficulty of agreeing upon and executing effective solutions and setting attainable goals.

4. Slow Plan Adoption

With a significant focus on innovation and growth, universities may make numerous changes in a year. Constant changes often lead to low motivation to adopt new plans. The longer your teams take to implement a strategic plan, the more likely it is to become outdated. When this situation happens, the plan becomes irrelevant to your current processes.

Why Education Institutions Need Strategic Planning

Despite the inherent challenges, educational strategic planning is necessary for a successful institution operation. A strategic plan can help you improve several aspects of your educational institution through intentional goal-setting and initiative implementation. Strategic planning for colleges and universities helps students, staff and the community progress toward a better future.

Here are a few reasons you should use strategic planning in education:

Improve Efficiency

1. Improve Efficiency

One of the biggest reasons to begin strategic planning is the opportunity for improved efficiency in numerous areas of your organization. The challenges of educational planning often lead to a lack of efficiency. Strategic planning for schools allows leaders to determine more effective ways to streamline processes.

For example, your decision-making teams may take significant time to agree on new policies or procedures. Strategic planning helps your institution use time more efficiently because it allows you to form decision-making strategies.

Improved efficiency also results in better cost-effectiveness. The less time is wasted, the more money you’ll save, especially over time.

2. Engage Stakeholders and the Community

Strategic planning involves more people than only the primary decision-makers — your planning should involve your community and stakeholders. Feedback from these entities can help you develop a more beneficial and strategically targeted plan based on what these entities want or need from you. Engaging the stakeholders and community also shows you value their input and want to create an environment where they want to be.

3. Form a Focus

Determining a focus for the school year ahead can be challenging without clear objectives. Without focus, your institution will struggle to grow and attract students and staff. For example, you may have vague expectations for the upcoming school year, which prevents decisions and progress from being made. A strategic plan allows you to determine your goals and focus for the upcoming year and beyond while also helping you track your progress.

4. Plan a Future

Strategic planning is ideal for planning a successful future for your institution. Developing a plan for your future helps ensure your school can grow and continue benefiting from its offerings. Rather than being unprepared for the next year and future school years, you can effectively strategize to make the most of your school year.

Strategic Planning Tips for Education Institutions

Strategic Planning Tips for Education Institutions

While every school’s strategic plan will look different depending on its goals and resources, the strategic planning process is often similar for colleges and universities. Explore a few tips for educational strategic planning to help you get started:

1. Test Your Hypotheses

You’re ultimately hypothesizing the outcome when you set initiatives in your strategic plan. These hypotheses are often based on assumptions, though it’s typically best to experiment to determine what would work and what may not. For example, if you ask your faculty to begin submitting weekly reports, conduct a quick test to ensure they can do so and have time to do so.

2. Use Specific Language

Using vague or wordy language increases the risk of confusion and the possibility of initiatives being misunderstood and ignored. Swapping out complicated words for simpler, more specific words can help ensure everyone understands your plan. It can help to have someone review the language you use to ensure nothing is confusing and everyone is on the same page.

3. Make Implementation a Priority

Because schools involve numerous departments and divisions, implementing a plan can be difficult without prioritization . Make your plan a priority to ensure it’s properly implemented. Doing so is often easiest when leaders promote and require implementation.

4. Hold Team Members Accountable

Another way to make university strategic plans stick is by holding team members accountable. School performance management software allows you to track reports and other strategy-related information to determine who’s completing their duties so you can keep them accountable.

Educational institutions require significant planning to ensure a successful school year. Strategic planning software for higher education can help you focus your strategy despite your institution’s challenges. Software like AchieveIt has features that help your team turn ideas into actions.

A few things you can do with our software include:

  • Solve common implementation challenges: AchieveIt makes connecting members of your team and various initiatives easy. You can track projects, keep everyone on the same page and quickly send updates.
  • Gain comprehensive visibility: Our platform lets you see every initiative in real time, providing comprehensive visibility over progress.
  • Consult with our experts: Our strategic plan experts help you execute your plan effectively. Draw on our expertise for inspiration or customize one of our templates to create your plan.

Let’s actually do this. Request a demo of AchieveIt to see what we can do for you today.

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  • What is strategic planning? A 5-step gu ...

What is strategic planning? A 5-step guide

Julia Martins contributor headshot

Strategic planning is a process through which business leaders map out their vision for their organization’s growth and how they’re going to get there. In this article, we'll guide you through the strategic planning process, including why it's important, the benefits and best practices, and five steps to get you from beginning to end.

Strategic planning is a process through which business leaders map out their vision for their organization’s growth and how they’re going to get there. The strategic planning process informs your organization’s decisions, growth, and goals.

Strategic planning helps you clearly define your company’s long-term objectives—and maps how your short-term goals and work will help you achieve them. This, in turn, gives you a clear sense of where your organization is going and allows you to ensure your teams are working on projects that make the most impact. Think of it this way—if your goals and objectives are your destination on a map, your strategic plan is your navigation system.

In this article, we walk you through the 5-step strategic planning process and show you how to get started developing your own strategic plan.

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What is strategic planning?

Strategic planning is a business process that helps you define and share the direction your company will take in the next three to five years. During the strategic planning process, stakeholders review and define the organization’s mission and goals, conduct competitive assessments, and identify company goals and objectives. The product of the planning cycle is a strategic plan, which is shared throughout the company.

What is a strategic plan?

[inline illustration] Strategic plan elements (infographic)

A strategic plan is the end result of the strategic planning process. At its most basic, it’s a tool used to define your organization’s goals and what actions you’ll take to achieve them.

Typically, your strategic plan should include: 

Your company’s mission statement

Your organizational goals, including your long-term goals and short-term, yearly objectives

Any plan of action, tactics, or approaches you plan to take to meet those goals

What are the benefits of strategic planning?

Strategic planning can help with goal setting and decision-making by allowing you to map out how your company will move toward your organization’s vision and mission statements in the next three to five years. Let’s circle back to our map metaphor. If you think of your company trajectory as a line on a map, a strategic plan can help you better quantify how you’ll get from point A (where you are now) to point B (where you want to be in a few years).

When you create and share a clear strategic plan with your team, you can:

Build a strong organizational culture by clearly defining and aligning on your organization’s mission, vision, and goals.

Align everyone around a shared purpose and ensure all departments and teams are working toward a common objective.

Proactively set objectives to help you get where you want to go and achieve desired outcomes.

Promote a long-term vision for your company rather than focusing primarily on short-term gains.

Ensure resources are allocated around the most high-impact priorities.

Define long-term goals and set shorter-term goals to support them.

Assess your current situation and identify any opportunities—or threats—allowing your organization to mitigate potential risks.

Create a proactive business culture that enables your organization to respond more swiftly to emerging market changes and opportunities.

What are the 5 steps in strategic planning?

The strategic planning process involves a structured methodology that guides the organization from vision to implementation. The strategic planning process starts with assembling a small, dedicated team of key strategic planners—typically five to 10 members—who will form the strategic planning, or management, committee. This team is responsible for gathering crucial information, guiding the development of the plan, and overseeing strategy execution.

Once you’ve established your management committee, you can get to work on the planning process. 

Step 1: Assess your current business strategy and business environment

Before you can define where you’re going, you first need to define where you are. Understanding the external environment, including market trends and competitive landscape, is crucial in the initial assessment phase of strategic planning.

To do this, your management committee should collect a variety of information from additional stakeholders, like employees and customers. In particular, plan to gather:

Relevant industry and market data to inform any market opportunities, as well as any potential upcoming threats in the near future.

Customer insights to understand what your customers want from your company—like product improvements or additional services.

Employee feedback that needs to be addressed—whether about the product, business practices, or the day-to-day company culture.

Consider different types of strategic planning tools and analytical techniques to gather this information, such as:

A balanced scorecard to help you evaluate four major elements of a business: learning and growth, business processes, customer satisfaction, and financial performance.

A SWOT analysis to help you assess both current and future potential for the business (you’ll return to this analysis periodically during the strategic planning process). 

To fill out each letter in the SWOT acronym, your management committee will answer a series of questions:

What does your organization currently do well?

What separates you from your competitors?

What are your most valuable internal resources?

What tangible assets do you have?

What is your biggest strength? 

Weaknesses:

What does your organization do poorly?

What do you currently lack (whether that’s a product, resource, or process)?

What do your competitors do better than you?

What, if any, limitations are holding your organization back?

What processes or products need improvement? 

Opportunities:

What opportunities does your organization have?

How can you leverage your unique company strengths?

Are there any trends that you can take advantage of?

How can you capitalize on marketing or press opportunities?

Is there an emerging need for your product or service? 

What emerging competitors should you keep an eye on?

Are there any weaknesses that expose your organization to risk?

Have you or could you experience negative press that could reduce market share?

Is there a chance of changing customer attitudes towards your company? 

Step 2: Identify your company’s goals and objectives

To begin strategy development, take into account your current position, which is where you are now. Then, draw inspiration from your vision, mission, and current position to identify and define your goals—these are your final destination. 

To develop your strategy, you’re essentially pulling out your compass and asking, “Where are we going next?” “What’s the ideal future state of this company?” This can help you figure out which path you need to take to get there.

During this phase of the planning process, take inspiration from important company documents, such as:

Your mission statement, to understand how you can continue moving towards your organization’s core purpose.

Your vision statement, to clarify how your strategic plan fits into your long-term vision.

Your company values, to guide you towards what matters most towards your company.

Your competitive advantages, to understand what unique benefit you offer to the market.

Your long-term goals, to track where you want to be in five or 10 years.

Your financial forecast and projection, to understand where you expect your financials to be in the next three years, what your expected cash flow is, and what new opportunities you will likely be able to invest in.

Step 3: Develop your strategic plan and determine performance metrics

Now that you understand where you are and where you want to go, it’s time to put pen to paper. Take your current business position and strategy into account, as well as your organization’s goals and objectives, and build out a strategic plan for the next three to five years. Keep in mind that even though you’re creating a long-term plan, parts of your plan should be created or revisited as the quarters and years go on.

As you build your strategic plan, you should define:

Company priorities for the next three to five years, based on your SWOT analysis and strategy.

Yearly objectives for the first year. You don’t need to define your objectives for every year of the strategic plan. As the years go on, create new yearly objectives that connect back to your overall strategic goals . 

Related key results and KPIs. Some of these should be set by the management committee, and some should be set by specific teams that are closer to the work. Make sure your key results and KPIs are measurable and actionable. These KPIs will help you track progress and ensure you’re moving in the right direction.

Budget for the next year or few years. This should be based on your financial forecast as well as your direction. Do you need to spend aggressively to develop your product? Build your team? Make a dent with marketing? Clarify your most important initiatives and how you’ll budget for those.

A high-level project roadmap . A project roadmap is a tool in project management that helps you visualize the timeline of a complex initiative, but you can also create a very high-level project roadmap for your strategic plan. Outline what you expect to be working on in certain quarters or years to make the plan more actionable and understandable.

Step 4: Implement and share your plan

Now it’s time to put your plan into action. Strategy implementation involves clear communication across your entire organization to make sure everyone knows their responsibilities and how to measure the plan’s success. 

Make sure your team (especially senior leadership) has access to the strategic plan, so they can understand how their work contributes to company priorities and the overall strategy map. We recommend sharing your plan in the same tool you use to manage and track work, so you can more easily connect high-level objectives to daily work. If you don’t already, consider using a work management platform .  

A few tips to make sure your plan will be executed without a hitch: 

Communicate clearly to your entire organization throughout the implementation process, to ensure all team members understand the strategic plan and how to implement it effectively. 

Define what “success” looks like by mapping your strategic plan to key performance indicators.

Ensure that the actions outlined in the strategic plan are integrated into the daily operations of the organization, so that every team member's daily activities are aligned with the broader strategic objectives.

Utilize tools and software—like a work management platform—that can aid in implementing and tracking the progress of your plan.

Regularly monitor and share the progress of the strategic plan with the entire organization, to keep everyone informed and reinforce the importance of the plan.

Establish regular check-ins to monitor the progress of your strategic plan and make adjustments as needed. 

Step 5: Revise and restructure as needed

Once you’ve created and implemented your new strategic framework, the final step of the planning process is to monitor and manage your plan.

Remember, your strategic plan isn’t set in stone. You’ll need to revisit and update the plan if your company changes directions or makes new investments. As new market opportunities and threats come up, you’ll likely want to tweak your strategic plan. Make sure to review your plan regularly—meaning quarterly and annually—to ensure it’s still aligned with your organization’s vision and goals.

Keep in mind that your plan won’t last forever, even if you do update it frequently. A successful strategic plan evolves with your company’s long-term goals. When you’ve achieved most of your strategic goals, or if your strategy has evolved significantly since you first made your plan, it might be time to create a new one.

Build a smarter strategic plan with a work management platform

To turn your company strategy into a plan—and ultimately, impact—make sure you’re proactively connecting company objectives to daily work. When you can clarify this connection, you’re giving your team members the context they need to get their best work done. 

A work management platform plays a pivotal role in this process. It acts as a central hub for your strategic plan, ensuring that every task and project is directly tied to your broader company goals. This alignment is crucial for visibility and coordination, allowing team members to see how their individual efforts contribute to the company’s success. 

By leveraging such a platform, you not only streamline workflow and enhance team productivity but also align every action with your strategic objectives—allowing teams to drive greater impact and helping your company move toward goals more effectively. 

Strategic planning FAQs

Still have questions about strategic planning? We have answers.

Why do I need a strategic plan?

A strategic plan is one of many tools you can use to plan and hit your goals. It helps map out strategic objectives and growth metrics that will help your company be successful.

When should I create a strategic plan?

You should aim to create a strategic plan every three to five years, depending on your organization’s growth speed.

Since the point of a strategic plan is to map out your long-term goals and how you’ll get there, you should create a strategic plan when you’ve met most or all of them. You should also create a strategic plan any time you’re going to make a large pivot in your organization’s mission or enter new markets. 

What is a strategic planning template?

A strategic planning template is a tool organizations can use to map out their strategic plan and track progress. Typically, a strategic planning template houses all the components needed to build out a strategic plan, including your company’s vision and mission statements, information from any competitive analyses or SWOT assessments, and relevant KPIs.

What’s the difference between a strategic plan vs. business plan?

A business plan can help you document your strategy as you’re getting started so every team member is on the same page about your core business priorities and goals. This tool can help you document and share your strategy with key investors or stakeholders as you get your business up and running.

You should create a business plan when you’re: 

Just starting your business

Significantly restructuring your business

If your business is already established, you should create a strategic plan instead of a business plan. Even if you’re working at a relatively young company, your strategic plan can build on your business plan to help you move in the right direction. During the strategic planning process, you’ll draw from a lot of the fundamental business elements you built early on to establish your strategy for the next three to five years.

What’s the difference between a strategic plan vs. mission and vision statements?

Your strategic plan, mission statement, and vision statements are all closely connected. In fact, during the strategic planning process, you will take inspiration from your mission and vision statements in order to build out your strategic plan.

Simply put: 

A mission statement summarizes your company’s purpose.

A vision statement broadly explains how you’ll reach your company’s purpose.

A strategic plan pulls in inspiration from your mission and vision statements and outlines what actions you’re going to take to move in the right direction. 

For example, if your company produces pet safety equipment, here’s how your mission statement, vision statement, and strategic plan might shake out:

Mission statement: “To ensure the safety of the world’s animals.” 

Vision statement: “To create pet safety and tracking products that are effortless to use.” 

Your strategic plan would outline the steps you’re going to take in the next few years to bring your company closer to your mission and vision. For example, you develop a new pet tracking smart collar or improve the microchipping experience for pet owners. 

What’s the difference between a strategic plan vs. company objectives?

Company objectives are broad goals. You should set these on a yearly or quarterly basis (if your organization moves quickly). These objectives give your team a clear sense of what you intend to accomplish for a set period of time. 

Your strategic plan is more forward-thinking than your company goals, and it should cover more than one year of work. Think of it this way: your company objectives will move the needle towards your overall strategy—but your strategic plan should be bigger than company objectives because it spans multiple years.

What’s the difference between a strategic plan vs. a business case?

A business case is a document to help you pitch a significant investment or initiative for your company. When you create a business case, you’re outlining why this investment is a good idea, and how this large-scale project will positively impact the business. 

You might end up building business cases for things on your strategic plan’s roadmap—but your strategic plan should be bigger than that. This tool should encompass multiple years of your roadmap, across your entire company—not just one initiative.

What’s the difference between a strategic plan vs. a project plan?

A strategic plan is a company-wide, multi-year plan of what you want to accomplish in the next three to five years and how you plan to accomplish that. A project plan, on the other hand, outlines how you’re going to accomplish a specific project. This project could be one of many initiatives that contribute to a specific company objective which, in turn, is one of many objectives that contribute to your strategic plan. 

What’s the difference between strategic management vs. strategic planning?

A strategic plan is a tool to define where your organization wants to go and what actions you need to take to achieve those goals. Strategic planning is the process of creating a plan in order to hit your strategic objectives.

Strategic management includes the strategic planning process, but also goes beyond it. In addition to planning how you will achieve your big-picture goals, strategic management also helps you organize your resources and figure out the best action plans for success. 

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More From Forbes

Strategies for succession in family real estate businesses: safeguarding generational wealth.

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Family Office Executive | Co-Mgr Member Evergreen | Founder Family Office Real Estate Institute | President Harvard Real Estate Alumni Org.

For many families, the foundation of their wealth lies within their real estate businesses, an asset class known for its ability to generate substantial returns over time. Transitioning these businesses to the next generation is often pivotal to continuing the family's legacy and preserving and growing their wealth.

Keys To A Successful Generational Transition

Based on my first-hand experience working with several prominent families in the real estate industry, achieving a smooth transition requires addressing several key areas.

• Transferring Knowledge

The transfer of knowledge is the first significant hurdle to overcome. It's important to ensure that the incoming generation is adequately prepared to navigate the complexities of the real estate market. This preparation often involves a combination of hands-on mentorship and formal education in real estate principles, which can equip your successors with the requisite skills and confidence for leadership.

• Strategic Alignment

Aligning investment strategies across generations is equally important. Given that real estate markets evolve, there might be better strategies moving forward than what worked for one generation. Seek to strike a balance between maintaining the risk-averse, income-generating approaches that have traditionally characterized family real estate investments and embracing more dynamic, growth-oriented opportunities that new market conditions present.

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Apple watch series 10 to boast welcome upgrade report claims, wwe raw results winners and grades on april 15 2024, • unifying the vision.

It's important for there to be a strong unity of vision and mission within the family business, especially one that leverages the unique opportunities within the real estate sector. For instance, your family real estate business might champion sustainable development and legacy building, focus on innovating real estate with technology, foster community and lifestyle, revitalize historic properties or expand access to affordable housing. Whatever the focus, having a unified vision can help ensure that all family members and stakeholders are aligned toward achieving common goals, which can, in turn, reduce potential conflicts, support the business's stability and growth and make a lasting impact on the industry and the communities your business serves.

How To Create A Strong Succession Plan

1. focus on education..

As mentioned earlier, education and training should play a pivotal role in succession planning. There are many ways to provide the next generation with a solid foundation in real estate investment and management principles. Education from family real estate organizations (Full disclosure: My company offers these services, as do others), as well as real-life experiences and mentorship, can form a comprehensive approach to preparing successors for their future roles.

Some best practices I have found over the years for encouraging family members to pursue such education include:

• Ensuring access to educational resources.

• Setting up mentorship opportunities.

• Involving family members in practical projects.

• Promoting networking with other families.

• Celebrating any academic and professional milestones.

One or more of these practices can collectively create an environment conducive to growth and innovation within the family enterprise. I also recommend encouraging the next generation to gain experience outside the family business. This exposure can bring new perspectives, skills and ideas to the business, enriching its strategies and potentially leading to innovation and growth.

2. Ensure clear communication.

To effectively prepare family members for roles in family business and real estate management, it's important to craft a clear, well-communicated succession plan. I recommend that your plan detail the transition process, identify potential successors and define a timeline and criteria for the transfer of leadership and responsibilities. Incorporating elements such as financial and logistical support for educational endeavors, connections with external mentors and early involvement in business operations can also address potential challenges like resistance to change and balancing educational goals with business duties.

Open communication is key, allowing the plan to be adjusted based on individual interests and strengths and fostering a flexible approach that accommodates academic pursuits and practical business experience. This holistic strategy can help ensure that the next generation is well-prepared for leadership, facilitating a smoother transition and the ongoing success of the family business.

3. Create a family governance structure.

Establishing a strong family governance structure is another important element. This structure should define the roles, responsibilities and processes by which the family business is managed and provide a framework for resolving disputes and making decisions. It can help all those involved ensure that the business's and family's values are aligned and that strategic decisions reflect the collective interests of the family members.

In conclusion, transitioning a family real estate business to the next generation is complex but manageable. By focusing on knowledge transfer, strategic alignment, maintaining a unified vision and ensuring comprehensive education and training, your family can secure their legacy and continue to grow their wealth through real estate across generations.

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    Strategic planning can be broadly defined as a process used by organizations to define strategy and provide direction regarding future decisions. Grounded in the organization's mission and vision, it is widely recognized as fundamental to an organization's success over time. A growing number of higher education institutions are incorporating strategic planning processes at the institution-wide ...

  20. (PDF) Strategic Planning in an Educational Development Centre

    Abstract. Strategic planning in universities is frequently positioned as vital for clarifying future directions, providing a coherent basis for decision-making, establishing priorities, and ...

  21. Strategic Planning: 5 Planning Steps, Process Guide [2024] • Asana

    Step 2: Identify your company's goals and objectives. To begin strategy development, take into account your current position, which is where you are now. Then, draw inspiration from your vision, mission, and current position to identify and define your goals—these are your final destination.

  22. Stages and Approaches to educational planning

    According to Adesina (1982), there are three rival approaches to educational planning that time that fall under the traditional educational planning approach. These are: The social demand approach The manpower requirement approach The cost benefit analysis. Over time, various forecasting techniques and simulation models were developed which ...

  23. Strategic Planning Process Model for Distance Education

    Using the informed opinion from a panel of peer-nominated experts via iterative Delphi questionnaires, a 10-phased strategic planning process model for distance education was developed. This model ...

  24. Strategies For Succession In Family Real Estate Businesses

    As mentioned earlier, education and training should play a pivotal role in succession planning. There are many ways to provide the next generation with a solid foundation in real estate investment ...