Of the fourteen blog posts I wrote this past school year, “Are you sharpening the saw?” had, by far, the most hits online, so I’m going back to the well of Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People with today’s post, “Begin with the end in mind.”

I know that many times we live day by day and don’t look too far down the road. Sometimes there are reasons for that, such as when we have events in our lives that we just need to get through without worrying about the long view. As a beginning teacher in the late 1980s, that’s how it was for me sometimes. I focused on weekly lesson plans or, if I was lucky, unit plans. Backward design, beginning with the end in mind, was a foreign concept to me. I was not equipped to start at the desired outcome and see the big picture, which is necessary to employ backward design.

These same challenges apply to organizations as well as individuals and can present strategic planning hurdles. Organizations can become focused on the day-to-day to the exclusion of long-term vision. Bottom line efficiency and practical decisions can lead to forgetting why people are doing what they are doing and what the larger purpose is. Schools can fall into this trap like any other organization, and most of us have had a “can’t see the forest for the trees” moment.

The strategic planning process undertaken by school board members, administrators, teachers, students, parents, and community members this spring helped us reflect about why we are doing what we are doing and what we want to accomplish. In other words, it helped us begin with the end in mind as we set goals for the next five years. Once we had goals, we wrote theories of action for each goal to help make them actionable. In other words, we were seeking ways to put theory into action and make our progress on goals measurable. The school board will be able to identify priorities within theories of action of the five-year goals to set annual goals for themselves. Administrators and teachers will be able to complete action plans and align their goals with district and board goals.

Beginning with the end in mind really is about alignment. The degree to which all educational stakeholders are pulling in the same direction and aligned with others’ goals determines the amount of progress we can make. The same is true for the city, college, Chamber, Indianola Economic Development, school, and residents of Indianola.

My personal belief is that every person should live his/her life with the end in mind. What kind of legacy will we leave to our children and community? Is the world a better place because we have been in it? I hope all of us can say, “Yes,” to that and can be intentional about trying to make that true.

Stay tuned for details about the district’s strategic plan and the board approved vision, mission, beliefs, goals, and theories of action!

I welcome your comments and would love to hear from you and connect with you:
Art Sathoff