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Strategic Framework vs Strategic Plan

March 25, 2017


From time to time I get asked, “What is your strategic plan for Saline Area Schools?”  First, I respond with, “We don’t have a plan…. instead we have a framework.”  Using the term, “framework” to define the mission and direction for the Saline Area Schools gives me the opportunity to explain why a framework is more advantageous than a strategic plan in the current era of fast moving policy changes and technological advancements.  

A plan is defined as, “a detailed proposal for doing or achieving something.”  In theory, a strategic plan is a good thing for organizations like school districts to have in place.  Research shows that employees want to feel like they know the direction in which they are headed,  and that a sense of purpose helps stakeholders feel connected to the greater cause.  Most schools work on three to five-year plan cycles.

A framework is defined as, “a basic structure underlying a system, concept, or text.” The framework provides the structure within which an organization can operate. Research also shows that employees prefer some degree of autonomy in their work. With a strategic framework, teachers are afforded the autonomy to experiment creatively with a variety of instructional strategies and learning spaces. In the case of Saline Area Schools, the framework is reviewed and revised annually.

A strategic plan tends toward short-term, actionable tasks. A strategic framework, while focused, allows the flexibility to adapt to changing global trends, policy mandates, and marketplace needs.

We see the benefits of a framework vs. a plan as these:

  • A framework is more flexible in adapting to marketplace changes.  Plans are often too rigid and precise to adapt quickly enough to meet emerging needs and shifts in policy.
  • Frameworks provide clear guidance without being too prescriptive.  Plans can easily become too detailed to allow staff the autonomy to make their own decisions.
  • Frameworks provide an umbrella for all organizational activities. Plans become so specific in some areas that staff do not see a connection to the greater outcomes.
  • Frameworks are easily understood and communicated.  Plans can become lengthy and cumbersome.

Here is a link to the Saline Area Schools’ current Strategic Framework.  The original framework was adopted by the Board of Education in 2011 and has been reviewed and revised annually.


One Comment leave one →
  1. Jkrouskoff permalink
    March 25, 2017 11:05 am

    Thank you for articulating the differences so precisely. Flexibility, appropriate levels of autonomy, collaborative reflection, and the annual revisions make a powerful recipe for sustainable change and ongoing improvement!

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