We often receive an inquiry about strategic planning from school leaders at the point where the school enters the re-accreditation self-study process. Thinking ahead, the leaders realize that their schools have strategic plans in place that are at best dated and all too often irrelevant given changes in the market. The one standard common to most accreditors is that schools have a current strategic document is what prompts reaching out to us, and it is often the moment when we begin new strategy engagements with clients.
The above convergence begs the question of what links accreditation self-studies and strategic plans beyond the accreditor’s requirement that the school have a plan in place? Our short answer, eliding a number of details, is that accreditation and strategy are correlated, but should not overlap in every respect. This is to say that the data and understandings gleaned through the accreditation study can inform strategy, but should not drive it in a linear fashion. There is much more that must be taken into account when one strategizes for a success future.
The above graphic illustrates how this works. Accreditation is one among several data points that feed into an assessment of the context from which strategy will derive, but it is an episodic source of data happening every 7 to 10 years. Strategy in today’s world must move faster or else it becomes irrelevant. Too close a linkage between accreditation and strategy risks turning it into an operational school improvement plan, rather than a framework for school success in the future. The former may be necessary, but is seldom sufficient for guiding the school through turbulent and uncertain times.