Towards a strategy: mission, vision and data

Originally posted on January 26, 2019 @ 12:20 pm

This term I am starting my National Professional Qualification for Senior Leadership (NPQSL) and last Saturday travelled to Beijing to attend the first face to face session on succeeding in senior leadership.

The pre-session activities had been focussed on culture, mission and vision statements. Prior to this, I had thought of these statements as being nebulous and having no real bearing on the real business of schools. To be fair in the majority of the schools I have worked in, these are not things that have been referenced or referred to in the daily working of teachers. In fact, it is only in one school which I was involved in setting up where I can remember a meeting discussing these things. We were asked, in a meeting, to suggest ideas for our mission and vision statements and then we never referred to them again. I can remember one close friend being frustrated because no one he was working with seemed to understand what the mission and vision statements of a school were for or how they might be used. Looking back, I question whether any of the leaders I had worked for in the past really new what these things were.

The session reading began to shine a new light on these ideas for me and I summarise my notes on what I read at the end of this blog post.

In essence, a vision statement should be future orientated and formulate what the community is working towards in the long-term. I write community because whilst a school will have a vision statement, I think it is important they groups within and above the level of the whole school should also pay attention to what their vision is. If this is right I should think about what the vision is for KS5 and this vision should be linked to my schools vision as well. Vision statements should be reviewed on a regular basis in consultation with the people who work within those communities.

Mission statements are focussed on the present and the action that a community is taking to bring about that vision. Like a vision statement this mission statement will need to be reviewed regularly with input from all community members.

Both the mission and the vision of the community should influence decisions that are made in the daily “workground” and should be a lens through which policy is produced, disseminated and questioned. One of the colleagues I met had started as HOD for in a new department. They had placed a board up with titles of areas that they didn’t know about and asked their team members to write down things that they thought the HOD needed to know. From this they formulated a vision and mission for the department which is the lens by which they examine actions in department meetings.

These statements need to carefully formulated so that they can be used and communicated appropriately. Aside from their uses as described above we need to think about how they are communicated with the parental community and how they can be used to work with the parental community. There was the suggestion that we can interview parents when students are interviewed to carefully explain our vision and values in one to one situations.

When vision, mission and value statements are combined with data analysis they can be the backbone for creating a strategic plan to allow the school or community to move forward. Senior leadership has a focus on vision creating. Compared to middle leadership who have a specific team focus, and will be implementing that vision, senior leaders need to think broadly.

At this stage I think that identifying my moral purpose and the vision for my area is absolutely paramount. Both on an individual level and for the IB DP at my school. My thesis and the schools thesis need to be synthesised together for the IBDP and the UGO office.

Pre-Reading Notes

Moral Purpose – Michael Fullan

Five attributes of leadership; moral purpose, understanding change process, strong relationships, knowledge adding and coherence among multiple priorities. Moral purpose is both ends and means but we have mixed motives and that is fine. Moral purpose doesn’t exist in a vacuum. It interacts with the other components of leadership. Two case studies illustrate this: the national literacy and numeracy strategy in England and Monsanto. For leadership to be effective it must have 1. An explicit making a difference purpose. 2. Use strategies that mobilise many people to tackle tough problems 3 be held accountable by measured indicators of success 4 mobilise others sense of moral purpose Acting with moral purpose in a complex world can have insidious consequences. coherence making can be guided by moral purpose. Moral purpose must contend with diversity. Difference in morality from different cultures

Moral leadership by John West Burnham

Behaviour which is consistent with personal and organisational values which in turn are derived from a coherent ethical system. Decisions in education are naturally ethical decisions so leaders need to be ethically literate. The trad vs progressive debate. Professions have ethical purpose. Communities have a consensus over the values that they think are important. Leadership needs to secure this agreement. Culture is the expression of and reinforcement of the ethics of a community. Leaders exemplify what that society and community most value. Moral leadership can be taught through engagement with the meta narratives of ethical classics, reflection in action, coaching and networking.

Vision, strategy and planning in education by Mark Brundrett

To be effective agents of change, leaders in schools need a clear idea of some end goal. Vision is focussed on some goal to be achieved in the future. Leaders need to conceptualise and articulate a vision to influence followers through five mechanisms: 1 giving direction and purpose 2 organise action around future goals 3 provides a sense of identity and meaning 4 provides a common framework 5 vision may develop organisational norms. Personal visions possibly arise from a variety of different causes. Vision must be both individual and collective. Visions in schools and organisations will only succeed if they are bought into by the staff at all levels. Vision and strategy need to be linked at the outset and on an ongoing basis. If strategy is about achieving goals then it is inseparable from vision. Good strategy involves the organisation as a whole just like the vision. Strategies must encourage the involvement of as many people as possible so that they have a sense of ownership. Strategy must take account of long-term intentions and aspirations, the external environment, the internal strengths of the organisation, the prevailing organisational culture, expectations of stakeholders, future resources. Priorities change in education so it can be difficult to plot a straight line approach to strategy and planning. Four abcd approach to translating strategy into action: articulate, build (images metaphors experience) create (dialogues cognitive) define (formal plans)
Targets can help move things forward. School leaders need to have a vision of the school they wish to create. This will be personal but will accord with the aspirations of the wider community. Vision needs shared ownership.

What makes a school a learning organisation – OECD report

The model focuses on:

  • Developing a vision centered on the learning of the students
  • Creating and supporting continuous learning opportunities for staff
  • Promoting team learning and collaboration among all staff
  • Establishing a culture of inquiry, innovation and exploration
  • Embedding systems for collecting and exchanging knowledge and learning
  • Learning with and from the external environment and larger system
  • Modelling and growing learning leadership

Trust time technology and thinking are the four T’s that underpin the above elements. Developing a shared vision is the result of a process that involves all stakeholders. We need integrate all including those on the margins of society as alienation poses a threat to democracy. The vision needs to aim to enhance the lives of all learners. Excellence and equity are not mutually exclusive goals. Some countries have managed to successfully improve outcomes of the most disadvantaged. (Disadvantaged is often implicitly financial but also language as in EAL learners in a globalised society.)

Setting direction vision and values

Generating culture is a high priority for leaders and the concept has a synergy with vision and value statements. Values statements are concerned with behaviour. It can be used as a lens to view decision-making and the formulation of policy. Mission statement are concerned with the present and present actions. It is about what the organisation does or is attempting to do. The vision statement is about the future and linked to ideas about future goals. These statements need to be actualised and this is achieved through culture as shown in Scheins model (see picture). Culture will make or break a school and changing culture is time-consuming. All of the statements above, like all good plans, should be time limited. Changing culture involved conjoining content and process. They are always a work in progress. Various models can be used to implement culture change. This eight step model suggests:

  1. Establish a sense of urgency. Don’t change the culture if the arguments for changing it have not been convincing.
  2. Form a powerful guiding coalition
  3. Create a vision
  4. Communicate the vision. Instead of the presentation use listening and questioning during conversations to broker by in. (Turning statements into questions could be a good way to build relationships with peeps)
  5. Empowering others
    Coaching here through conversation is paramount
  6. Planning for short-term wins
  7. Consolidating improvements and producing more change
  8. Institutionalising new approaches

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