“Come up with a plan, and then work that plan” is a statement made again and again by Bill Zimmerman, a great leader in the steel fabrication business. I never worked for Bill, but know several people who did, and they kept using this statement in many areas of their career, and personal life. It applies to Christian schooling as well. Think of a road trip in your car; you plan your route, and only deviate from that route if absolutely necessary, and after that brief deviation, you get back on your planned route to your destination. Without a planned out course to take, you will wander aimlessly, get off course, expend unneeded effort or fuel, travel on bumpy roads, and possibly even get stuck in mud, only to be late or possibly never arriving at your destination.
Proverbs 16:3 and 9 come to mind: “Commit your works to the LORD, and your thoughts will be established…A man’s heart plans his way, but the LORD directs his steps.” God gave us a brain, so use it. Keep your focus on the Lord, and His Word, prayerfully and decidedly establish your schools vision and plan, and He will direct your steps along that plan. I hear too often of people aimlessly bumbling through life, or life’s situations saying something like “God will show me what to do”, or “God will take care of me”, or “God will direct my steps”. Although I do not disagree with those at all, what does come to my mind is the analogy of going outside without a coat when it is 30 degrees below zero and saying “God will take care of me.” Don’t put God in a situation like that. God gave you a brain; use it to plan your way, and plan ahead.
School leaders should have a vision for their school, and a plan to accomplish that vision. Here is a quick bit of sequential advice for your school’s plan:
- Brainstorm for ideas.
- Give reasons for those ideas.
- Write a plan to accomplish those ideas.
- Choose goals or milestones of accomplishing those ideas.
- Celebrate attaining those goals.
- Review the plan.
- Revise if necessary, and continue.
1) The leaders or directors of the school sit down in a brainstorming session, and make two short lists. List one is the short term dreams, ideas, or goals for your school. Ask “what do we want our school to look like in 5 years.” Write those down, prioritize them, and arrive at a list.
List two is long term dreams, ideas, or goals, and is the same as above, but for 10 or maybe 15 years. Keep in mind, that many short term ideas or goals are stepping stones toward long term ideas or goals.
All successful people had a dream. Martin Luther King Jr.’s entire fame was based on one statement, a statement that fostered reasons, that gave excitement, that gave purpose, that gave inspiration to an oppressed group of people: “I have a dream…”
All successful companies had a dream. Microsoft had a dream “A computer on every desk.” Ford had a dream: “Making the automobile affordable.” Have you seen the movie “Tucker, a man and his dream?”
(Some ideas you may come up with might be to increase your enrollment by a certain percentage, or establish and fund a financial aid program, or add a girl’s volleyball team, or hire a Guidance Counselor, or add so many new classrooms, or cut overhead costs by a percentage. Whatever the ideas, be specific, such as the specific percentage.)
2) Now that you have those two lists, write down next to each item, the REASONS you want to accomplish those ideas. A famous saying is “If you have enough reasons, you can accomplish the most incredible things!” Therefore REASONS are a source if inspiration. Everything starts with an idea, it is backed up and driven by reasons, then solutions or answers will follow.
3) The plan. How are you going to achieve those ideas? The reasons will motivate you, but you need a plan. This is the hard part, but buck up and write down how you think you will accomplish the ideas you have. Get SERIOUS about it, don’t just hope; poor people hope, successful people are serious and come up with a plan to achieve their hopes. If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail. Read it, and refine it., then settle on it. Now work it. You can change it if you absolutely need to, but the idea is to get a plan and work that plan.
Get excited about your plans. Get everyone else excited about the plans. Be a person that says “Oh great! it’s Monday, another week to work on our plans!”.
4) Now, write down some GOALS to achieve those. Primarily these are calendar dates, but may be percentages of the total, or a quantity to achieve. Without goals, people loose interest, and the plans fizzle. Without a goal, games are not worth playing, right? So set some realistic and attainable goals. Some call them milestones, but I like the term “goal” because I like football. Picture the goal line or goalpost, and every member of the team planning, motivating, and striving go get to that goal. They celebrate when they reach that goal, and don’t quit there, but they regroup, and do it again.
So celebrate when you reach a goal! Have a pizza luncheon, or donuts in the morning. Then regroup, and head for the next goal.
Don’t set the goal too high, and don’t set it too low. If you find while working toward the goal that it seems too high, move it lower (or visa-versa). A good leader will ascertain the situation, and decide if the motivation is waning, and give hope and excitement by moving the goal if needed (either way).
5) Set dates for reviewing the plans you have made along the progress of those plans. Ask questions such as “how are we progressing?”, “are we still on track for our goal?”, “is there anything we should be doing different?”, “is there any improvements we can make to the plan or goal?”.
Also, review your plans after you have achieved them (or not). Learn from your mistakes, or you will repeat them again. Become goal oriented. Become plan driven.
Back to the football metaphor again. The team huddles up between plays. So get your staff together once a week or so and discuss the plan, and strategy. Ask how everyone is doing in their part toward achieving the goals. Halfway through the school year, do this again, only on a more formal basis just like the football team goes into the locker room at halftime, and the coach and players discuss how the strategy is working, and what changes need to be made to accomplish the goals.
6) “Rinse and repeat”. Clean up your mistakes or unproductive endeavors, and do another plan. Make vision planning and achievement a part of your school’s routine. Maybe have an annual school vision retreat or meeting where you only discuss and plan the above. Discuss accomplishments, and failures. Plan how to remedy the failures. Discuss and implement new dreams or ideas. Never forget though, that just like a football team, there is a coach. That coach is in charge of the overall plan, and uses the players to carry out that plan. Just as in Proverbs 16 mentioned earlier, that coach is the LORD. Between each play and before each huddle, the quarterback looks or runs to the sideline and finds the coach. Do that often, look to the LORD and His Word for direction, encouragement, and maybe correction.
I have seen schools and home schools have a theme each semester, or each school year. That theme could be tied to the school goals for that semester or year. Getting the whole school excited about the theme can be fun and rewarding, and draws focus to the goals and plan of the school, as well as get more people involved in accomplishing the goals.
I will not have a post on Memorial Day.