By Dennis Phillips
In team sports, success can be equated with good strategy. As the World Cup got underway rest assured that Team Canada spent hours on the practice pitch running through a full playbook of specific techniques and tactics — their strategy. Each player strives to improve their individual skills but more importantly, it’s how those individuals come together as a team using their strategy that will have the most impact.
And while the outcome for Team Canada was not exactly as they would have hoped, their strategy got them to the ultimate pitch in the first place and put them among the best in the world.
It’s the same for Sacred Heart School of Halifax. Over the past two months, our community has been part of a strategic planning process to help us define our next three-year plan —to seek our own ultimate pitch as it were. It’s important because, as Bob Dylan once said, “The times they are a-changin’.” We know we cannot stand frozen in place for too long nor rest on our laurels. If we do, we will be like passengers on a stalled train looking out the windows watching the rest of the world pass us by. The pandemic has taught us, whether we liked it or not, that if we refuse to be flexible, nimble, or responsive, change will come regardless.
The pandemic has taught us, whether we liked it or not, that if we refuse to be flexible, nimble, or responsive, change will come regardless.
As a Sacred Heart school, we are fortunate to have a well-defined roadmap thanks to our Goals and Criteria that are shared by all Sacred Heart schools around the world. They are the mission, vision, and direction that guides us. Yet even with these very defined Sacred Heart Goals, they are not a crystal ball that allows us to foresee the future or even understand where it may lead us and our students. We still need a strategy to embrace innovation, technology, creativity, and the unknown, all facets of a rather large societal shift we are in the middle of.
So, as part of our strategic planning process, we are following the ideas of Greg Bamford, a leading school strategist. He suggests first we focus on compasses over maps because we don’t need a definite route, we need to set a direction. We also can’t focus too quickly on solutions lest we might miss what our needs are. Third, collaborate, collaborate, collaborate — more minds lead to better thinking and a diversity of perspectives. Fourth, we have to take ourselves out of the present and place ourselves in the future, we must ask ourselves, what IS possible without getting stuck in what we think will happen. And finally, we need to focus on what is distinguishable about our school, we need to be centred on the essentials. Which is again, where our Five Goals help keep us grounded.
Many for-profit companies measure their strategic planning success on profits, revenue, and cash flow. Some have sales goals related to repeat business, targets, and standards.
Independent, Catholic Sacred Heart schools thankfully operate in a much different environment where the measure of success is related to mission, student character, academic promise, and personal growth. Success is also determined by how well the community lives the mission and vision of the institution as it changes and adapts to the times we live in.
In the end, we cannot leave growth and evolution to chance or random predictions; a Sacred Heart student’s future is too precious. If we want to provide our students with the tools that will help them succeed in the future, much like in soccer, we need a great strategy.