Hope is not a strategy

I am a big fan of motivational quotes. Hope is not a strategy, part of a quote from James Cameron is one my favourites. I think it is really applicable to the School Business Manager;

Hope is not a Strategy.

Luck is not a factor.

Fear is not an option.

Hope is not a Strategy
Me and Barry on our Wedding Day

Good School Business Managers, in my experience, are strategic animals. We don’t just hope that actual vs budget will match at the end of the year. No, we set up a detailed forecasting analysis system that will allow us to closely monitor income and expenditure and report differences (I hate surprises).

We don’t just hope that a key member of staff, such as the Senior Caretaker, isn’t going to leave. No, we engage in succession planning and take short videos of his boiler coaxing techniques in order to bring a replacement quickly up to speed, should the need arise.

We don’t hope that our building next to the canal isn’t going to flood. No, we think about defences and business continuity for when the inevitable actually happens.

Enjoy the strategic

I enjoy the strategic part of my job the most. It is woven into every aspect of my role and I’ve had to train my brain to think of the “what if” scenarios for every function and proposal. The downside of this is that it can make me come across to colleagues as a harbinger of doom. So it needs to be tempered with a decent slice of humour.

A Business Continuity Plan and, it’s brother, the Crisis Management Plan need to be working documents. There is no point writing down carefully what you are going to do in the event of…if you don’t then test it out. I try to squeeze scenario testing into SLT agenda as often as I can. “What if there is an incident at home and we need to get a student back from a trip immediately?” “How will we react if our admissions don’t reach PAN?” “What if the school kitchen is gutted by fire?” “What if the DHT snaps his Achilles?” This sort of exercise not only informs what we would do and keeps the documents alive. It also helps build us into a cohesive team, working together in an imagined crisis.

Avoid the constant fire-fighting

Strategy can get lost in the day-to-day pressures of working in a school. Sure, we have School Improvement Plans. We consult stakeholders on how they would like to see our community evolve, grow and improve. But, with my business head on, I sometimes worry that we don’t look objectively enough. We don’t spend enough time on the strategic tools, such as SWOT and PESTEL; don’t consider our brand or our USP to ensure we are maintaining how we want to be perceived by the outside world; we concentrate too much on fire-fighting the operational issues.

I think that SBMs need to be the ones that are pushing and leading the strategic work in schools. We can keep it regularly on the agenda and promote debate with what-if questions.

A School Business Manager is the sort who doesn’t ignore the fact that it is going to rain on their August wedding day. They say “Sod it” and wear their wellies.

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