Five Steps to Creating Your Board’s Strategic History

Vol. 15 No. 7

trustees eletter vol15 no7 creatingstrategy

Over the years, ISM’s Institutional Assessment visits (now called Strategic Performance Analyses) have uncovered a disconcertingly broad range in the completeness of the organizational history provided by school documents and individuals’ memories. Your school’s “strategic history” provides both constraints and opportunities for its strategic future.

As Board President, you should consider a formal review of the quality of your existing historical portrait, reorganize that portrait, and promote the quality of your school’s future organizational “Board memory.”

As you develop a review system, the following steps will streamline the process.

1. This summer or fall, add to your annual Board agenda an item such as “Review Board and other documents and reorganize them to establish strategic continuity in the organization’s history.”

2. Convert this Board agenda item into a committee charge with language such as “By March 15 of next year, review relevant strategic documents. (This includes Board minutes, planning documents, accreditation documents, incorporation documents, bylaws, policy manuals, audit statements, annual budgets and/or strategic financial plans.) Then construct a strategic history in bullet-point format.” Limit the document to three pages with no more than 30 bullet points. Give this to the Board in March as a proposal for its approval.

3. Establish a new committee (perhaps the Strategic Continuity Committee) and select its Chair. With the newly appointed Chair, select one or two committee members (current Trustees or others). Populate the committee with individuals who will relish the task and excel in its completion. As with any new Board committee, choose from your entire constituency, not just from your Board membership or your parent body.

4. The Board President assists the new committee Chair, as needed, with the task of collecting the documents. Help the Chair keep the goal clearly in mind—a brief strategic history in bullet-point format, summarizing the past to highlight the (implied) constraints and opportunities affecting the organization’s strategic future. Make sure the committee Chair is clear that, given the fact that the Board of Trustees must operate fundamentally as a planning entity, a brief, accurate, user-friendly, strategic history is, by definition, a core Board document.

5. As the March proposal deadline nears, write a single-page cover memo to the Board members. This will go with the strategic history document sent to them 10 days before the Board meeting when the history will be discussed and presumably approved. In your memo, underscore the history’s purpose—to provide a stronger foundation for the Board’s regular strategic planning activities. Ensure the Trustees reading the history understand that it is short because it features only the major viability-related items in the school’s past. It is not a complete history, but a Board tool to be used to strengthen planning activities.

The ISM workshop, Strategic Financial Planning: Skills and Implementation, is designed to help you create the right strategic financial plan for your school. This course will run as part of ISM's 2017 Summer Institute from July 16–18 … but the workshop is filling fast. If interested, act now!

Additional ISM resources:
The Source for Trustees Vol. 15 No. 4 Preserve Your Board’s Strategic ‘Memory’
The Source for Trustees Vol. 12 No. 10 Centralize Your Board’s Key Documents

Additional ISM resources for Gold Consortium members:
I&P Vol. 41 No. 12 Refocus Your Board Agenda and Your Board Minutes
I&P Vol. 41 No. 15 Your Board’s Key Documents: Do You Know Where They Are?

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