At last week’s California AEYC Conference, DayCareTools presented a workshop entitled “Strategic Planning in the Child Care Industry”. What we found was that very few child care programs have a Strategic Plan and those that do have one often do not implement it. I suspect that there are quite a few program managers who don’t understand what a Strategic Plan is and why they should have one.
If you look at the above graphic of little Billy, it will explain the “why” part pretty well. Billy has a mission to accomplish, but his method of completing that mission is anything but effective. He is wasting a lot of time and resources in reaching his destination. (Of course, with children, the journey IS the point, but in program management, we need to be a bit more efficient.)
A well-written Strategic Plan will help you to understand where you are, where you want to go, how you will get there, and how you will know when you have arrived. Some times you may want to consider developing a Strategic Plan would be when you are starting a new program, considering making a major change to your program, when the program is in a state of transition and seeking a new direction, or when you are ready to make an in-depth examination of your programs and services.
Through careful examination, your Strategic Plan will help you to understand your program’s strengths and weaknesses as well as external opportunities and threats. This deeper understanding of your own program will help you to constantly improve and to differentiate yourself from your competitors.
The key to all of this planning is to make sure that your plan will be implemented once it is completed. First of all, the program manager cannot complete the Strategic Plan alone. All stakeholders must be represented on the planning committee; staff, management, parents, board members, community members, etc. People are much more likely to buy into a plan if they have had the opportunity to contribute to its development.
Next, the plan must be SMART; Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-Sensitive. If any of these components is missing, you will have great difficulty in implementing the plan.
The final component is accountability. Who is accountable for ensuring completion of which tasks by when? Since strategic planning is often quite foreign to child care providers, DayCareTools has developed a Strategic Plan template that will help you to understand the components of a plan and has partnered that template with a simple “how-to” guide.
Check it out here.