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021: Embed a culture of strategic thinking

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Following my exploration (in episodes 12 to 16) of strategy and strategic thinking in the context of the fast pace of change and the high levels of uncertainty in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, in this episode I look at ways that you can embed a culture of strategic thinking in your school.

I outline the importance of strategic thinking by drawing on the research report I created in 2018 called 'Rethinking Strategy in Independent Schools'. In this report, I summarised how an awareness of strategic thinking among staff members in schools was lagging behind a similar awareness in staff in corporate organisations where the strategic thinking skills were improved through professional development courses and coaching. With the COVID-19 pandemic this report is as relevant now as it was in 2018.

I outline how leaders can role model the desired new behaviours in strategic thinking to help change the culture of their school. Then I explore how Edgar Schein’s six primary culture-embedding mechanisms can help change leadership behaviour and encourage a change in organisational culture. Examples range from reviewing and discussing the external changes that will affect the school in 5 to 10 years’ time, to reflecting on reactions to crises and unexpected events such as the pandemic.

Episode highlights

  • Role modelling desired behaviours by leaders (04:40)

  • The first mechanism: what is focused on and measured? (06:50)

  • The second mechanism: the basis for resource allocation (08:40)

  • The third mechanism: the basis for hiring and promotion (10:39)

  • The fourth mechanism: what is modelled and coached? (11:36)

  • The fifth mechanism: the basis for rewards and status (13:42)

  • The sixth mechanism: reactions to crises and events (15:00)

References and resources

Episode 012: Strategic response to COVID-19 (Strategy Toolkit 1):

Episode 015: Supercharge your strategic thinking (Strategy Toolkit 4):

Episode 016: Strategic thinking in three dimensions (Strategy Toolkit 5):

‘Rethinking Strategy in Independent Schools’ research report:

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