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Implementing Strategy
This recent post by the Stanford Social Innovation Review provides an intriguing perspective on the role of strategic planning in organizational development. Proctor is currently in the midst of its ten year reaccreditation evaluation by NEASC, critically evaluating each of our program offerings, practices, and goals as a school.

This process is time consuming, but also incredibly valuable as an institution, as all members of the community are engaged in cirtically evaluating what we do, how we do it and why we do it the way we do. We, as faculty and staff, learn much about our school that we may not have known, and have the opportunity to recognize areas in which we excel and others where we must continue to improve.

The aforementioned article proposes a necessary transition away from strategic planning, to simply implementing on going strategy as an organization. While Proctor has historically held strategic planning retreats, the aim of those gatherings has never been to set up a rigid five-year plan, but rather, like the NEASC evaluation has allowed us to do, critically evaluate what we do and why we do it.

The article notes, "We think that what is necessary today is a strategy that breaks free of static plans to be adaptive and directive, that emphasizes learning and control, and that reclaims the value of strategic thinking for the world that now surrounds us."

It goes on to say, "Creating strategies that are truly adaptive requires that we give up on many long-held assumptions. As the complexity of our physical and social systems make the world more unpredictable, we have to abandon our focus on predictions and shift into rapid prototyping and experimentation so that we learn quickly about what actually works."

"Instead of the old approach of 'making a plan and sticking to it,' which led to centralized strategic planning around fixed time horizons, we believe in 'setting a direction and testing to it,' treating the whole organization as a team that is experimenting its way to success."

Earlier this week, Kanika shared the first weekly blog post from European Art Classroom's term abroad this winter, capturing perfectly the varied goals of that program. Kanika writes, "Visiting places we've only dreamed of seeing, learning from experience, this is European Art Classroom. We are having a blast and can't wait to see what the rest of the term brings our way."

What is perhaps most exciting about the enthusiasm for European Art Classroom is the manner in which it originated…out of a challenge to evolve an existing program in France…from the ideas of a few faculty who were passionate about art, history, and traveling. Adaptive strategy in action.

Proctor's Project Period program underwent a similar revision two years ago, revived out of student voice, altered slightly, but nonetheless providing intentional, experiential learning opportunities that continue to shape the Proctor experience of every student.

When seeking to obtain a snapshot of Proctor's programming, and for the aims of this blog, specifically its academic programming, one must use a wide-angle lens to capture all we seek to do. While we love the programs we offer, we also recognize that not every program will exist forever in its current state. This is exciting; to think about the potential evolution of programming that will continue to define Proctor as a leader in providing experiential, customized learning experiences in concert with academic support.

The Stanford Social Innovation Review article identifies a cascade of strategic choices (shown in the image above courtesy of www.ssireview.com) where an organization continuously reflects on its vision, where it will play, how it will succeed and what capabilities it will need to create the impact it has sent out to achieve. As Proctor continues to evolve its programming, we feel confident we are asking these questions and preparing ourselves to adapt to whatever the 21st century in education brings our way.
Proctor's academic programs afford countless offerings to students every year.
What has made Proctor's programming so successful is the school's willingness to be adaptive in nature.
No program is set in stone forever, as the evolution of Project Period and European Art Classroom over the past two years have illustrated.
It is this willingness to adapt to a changing world, to adopt new technologies, and to further develop off-campus learning experiences that makes a Proctor education relevant.
While the core of Proctor's mission remains unchanged, a willingness to evaluate HOW we accomplish that mission is always at the forefront of our thinking.