People talk about ‘strategy’. But what exactly is this? Analysing and identifying a strategic direction for a school, or any organisation, is not an easy task. First of all, let’s be clear, strategy is about winning. We are not talking about ways to do things better – this is simply operational effectiveness. With strategy, we are talking about doing things differently, about achieving competitive advantage through value differentiation. No matter what organisation you are leading, you are competing. And no matter how successful you’ve been in the past, or how established your organisation is, complacency towards the future is unwise. Never assume customers will always buy from you.

Identify your value proposition by asking yourself;

  • Why do we want to compete? Do we believe we can make a difference and, if so, how? What are our aspirations and values? What are our guiding principles?
  • Where do we want to compete? Where do we see opportunities for making a difference? Look at your external context and the opportunities and threats that face you.
  • How do we want to compete? What are our internal strengths and weaknesses that set the basis around how we can make that difference?

Together, these will help you identify what your differentiated offering will be, to whom and how it is to be delivered. Involve your team and stakeholders in answering these questions.

Tough questions, but crucial to understanding your starting point. Now, to begin the process of building a competitive, sustainable strategy, ask yourself some further questions;

  • What is the competitive environment in which we must operate? How is it changing?
  • What are our resources, capabilities and practices – and how do these give us an advantage relative to competitors?
  • Who are our customers today? Who will they be tomorrow? And how will their needs change over time?
  • What is our unique competing space, where we fulfil our customers’ needs in a way our competitors can’t?
  • How can we align our organisation, our people and our activities to deliver our unique offering?
  • And how do we prepare ourselves for the inevitable – that our competitors will continually be seeking to encroach upon that unique space of ours?

Be creative in your thinking. What will happen to your unique competing space if your competitors’ offerings improve, your customers’ needs change, but you don’t? Here, you’ll understand why you need to continually re-evaluate what your unique offering is.