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Archive for the ‘Strategic planning’ Category

I had an experience Friday, September 5, that combined my 30-plus year communication/PR/IMC management career, my love for and career-long involvement in professional associations, and my new teaching career. I designed and facilitated a leadership workshop and strategic planning session for the incoming officers of Towson’s PR Group, comprised of PRSSA and IABC student chapter members.

It was extraordinary. The officers for 2008-2009 are highly motivated to begin with. They consistently exhibited enthusiasm, thoughtfulness, and dedication during the all-day event.

The morning was devoted to the study of management and leadership, contrasting the differences and skills needed for both. This will prove valuable to these leaders as they assume responsibility for the organization and its day-to-day management challenges.

Management involves planning, organizing, leading, and controlling the use of organizational resources to achieve results. We isolated and captured what this means for the Board collectively and for each individual position on the Board.

But leadership is another matter. Managing successfully day to day is at the heart of organizational officers’ responsibility. But to be a leader involves interpersonal influence that gets individuals and the group to act. That is like herding cats.

These leaders explored what it means to achieve coordinated action as a leader and manager. The quality of their thought and the depth of their commitment was exemplary. That came clear as we conducted strategic planning in the afternoon. While the planning will be ongoing, we made a great start Friday. We will build on it in the days to come.

As I pointed my certified pre-owned, fully-optioned Buick Park Avenue home to Virginia for the weekend, I smiled all the way. It was a magnificient day seeing these fine young leaders dedicate themselves to a cause greater than themselves and do the hard work to be competent at it.

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This Christmas, what does the strategic communicator need? What’s on his or her wish list?

A Christmas wish list usually implies “stuff” like the latest laptop,  music player, digital camera, etc. But most strategic communicators have those now. No, what’s really needed is the knowledge and ability to truly be a strategic communicator.

Such knowledge and ability is like Eddie said of Clark’s Jelly of the Month Club gift in Chevy Chase’s Christmas Vacation movie, “it’s the gift that keeps on giving.”

Following is a strategic communicator’s Christmas wish list:

Research. The first gift is the ability to conduct research, both formative and summative/evaluative. To be strategic, communication programs must be built on fact, not fiction. That means conducting formative research to know as much as you can about issues facing an organization. Formative research can be primary, that is, original, designed and conducted by the communicator to address specifics of his/her organization’s situation. Or it can be secondary, adapting already-conducted research that relates most closely to his/her organization’s situation. Primary research is the most demanding and expensive, but yields the best results. It is made up of qualitative components, like interviews and focus groups, and quantitative components, like surveys and questionnaires. The completed research then becomes the basis of writing a credible situation analysis.

Goals and objectives. Once a situation analysis is written, then the strategic communicator has a basis on which to make his/her recommendations. That involves setting goals and objectives. Goals are broad brush, over-the-top, higher level concepts of what needs to be accomplished, like to improve an organization’s relationship with key publics or enhance its reputation/image among key publics. A number of objectives then come in under a goal to help manifest it into reality. Objectives are the work horses here, for each should be specific, measurable, time-sensitive, attainable, and relevant to accomplishing the goal it serves.

Strategy and implementation. Now that goals are set with appropriate objectives, the strategic communicator must decide on a mix of tactics that will reach target audiences. This involves dipping into the strategic communicator’s tool kit and selecting a mix of tactics that will reach the audience in a timely and cost-effective manner. A mix of tactics that have the highest credibility with target audiences is always better than a few tactics only. Devising effective strategy also must take into account the time schedule for tactical implementation. Gantt charts work exceptionally well for this.

Budgeting. Now that recommendations have been formulated and backed up by strategy and tactical  implementation schedules, the strategic communicator must budget the activity as competently as would be expected of any business manager. The greatest tool since the hand-held calculator for this purpose is the Excel Spreadsheet to play “what if” games until the budget is within guidelines and meets needs.

Summative (or evaluative) research. Now the strategic communicator comes full circle. You begin with research to know what needs doing. Now you end with research to see if your strategic communication efforts have accomplished goals and objectives. The key here is to concentrate on measuring and evaluating the success or failure of your objectives, the work horses of strategic communication. Strategic communicators don’t wait until the end of the planned work to evaluate it. It’s too late then to do anything about it, except learn from mistakes. Strategic communicators monitor and evaluate all along in order to make any needed course corrections to stay on target. Final evaluation then can help set up success in the next cycle of activity.

Merry Christmas to the More With Les learning community. Thank you for making this such a special year for me.

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This addresses an important need — strategic planning for schools.

This semester, I am taking a fascinating course called Transformation Leadership and Professional Development as part of my work toward my Ed.D. in Instructional Technology at Towson. In Saturday’s class, Instructor Dr. Jane Neapolitan introduced us to a wonderful resource for professional development, the National Staff Development Council, a nonprofit professional association devoted to ensuring success for all students through staff professional development and school improvement.

The main reason I love my doctoral studies is that they bring together so many things about which I am passionate. Since I joined in 1973, I learned so much about communication management through a professional association, IABC. Decades of its timely and instructive professional development offerings always help me learn what I need to be a better communication manager and consultant, and now, teacher.  For years and years, I have devoutly studied and incorporated into my practice techniques of organization development, human resources, project management, and strategic and marketing planning in order to be the best I could be. Much of this systematic study involved professional associations’ timely educational materials and courses of study.

My doctoral studies embrace all my passions, focused on developing me into a more competent scholar. Now I see yet another connection to my passion for strategic planning as a way of improving organizational effectiveness. In poking around the NSDC site, I found a blog by its Executive Director Dennis Sparks. Sparks’ blog, Leading and Learning, contains a posting about strategic planning for schools. I have directed strategic planning at several corporations and am a consultant in strategic planning. Strategic planning is the one management tool that unifies all aspects of organizational management. Strategic planning for schools! Yes!!

I know what a well-managed strategic planning process does to improve an organization. My manual on strategic communication planning, published through IABC, is further testament to my passion for effective strategic planning. Now that I am devoted to higher education, I am excited about using my skills and experience to help improve any school situation in which I may be involved. The possibilities for improvement are limitless. Schools that use strategic planning effectively will be successful, for the process is the road map to improvement.

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