Seven years ago, you probably wouldn’t have wanted Tom Bennett’s job as Interim Director at Santa Fe Christian Schools in Solana Beach, California.
- Sizable debt and red ink had delayed accreditation
- No leadership team in place, no effective organizational structure and virtually no reporting lines in effect
- Several open faculty positions
- Plus, two weeks before the school year began, the previous Head of School resigned
“To create a new strategic plan that could turn us around, we needed an objective measure of our workplace culture. We needed to be data rich, and we were data poor. I wanted a data warehouse, and didn’t even have a data shed.”
- “The only way to ensure consensus and buy in, was to involve everyone–board, faculty, staff, plus parents and alumni. It would be time consuming, yet the biggest reason that strategic plans fail is the lack of shared vision, therefore:
- “We couldn’t rush or ‘push’ our decision-making from top down. Whatever we decided had to come, collectively, from the bottom up. People need to know their voices were being heard. Thus, a solution:
- “We formed our own ‘kitchen cabinet.’ It was a no-holds-barred breakfast gathering for anyone and everyone—teachers, receptionists, bus drivers, maintenance people—to say anything that was on their mind. It made for very direct, clear communication.
The strategic plan took two years to create. In the process, Bennett got his wish, reaping a storehouse of fresh, objective data that revealed just how effective the school’s approach actually was.
Today, five years after their strategic plan took effect, Santa Fe Christian’s workplace engagement scores— indicators of overall employee satisfaction and organizational effectiveness—have increased to be in the top 20 percentile of Christian schools. Executive leadership is solid, finances are sound and enrollment remains strong. The commitment to involve everyone and make the needed, time-consuming course corrections were worth it, says Bennett. “Without a doubt, the remarkable, ongoing outcomes among our faculty, staff are in direct correlation to our commitment to create, honor and execute a shared vision worthy of a work community dedicated to serving Christ.”