Strategic Influence

Change Makers Strategic Influence Plan for Coastal Christian School

Introduction

Coastal Christian School (CCS) was an independent school in British Columbia, Canada. It operated for twenty years, from 1994 to 2014, educating approximately forty students from grades K- 9 (Peters, Seabreeze, & Tegelberg, 2018).  Change Makers, a group of Masters of Arts in Educational Leadership students at Trinity Western University, analyzed CCS’ strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats to understand the school’s strategic direction (Peters et al., 2018). Although the CCS organization failed, a strong desire to reopen the school remains amongst former staff, board members, and parents.

Goleman, Boyatzis and McKee (2009) state “Great leadership works through the emotions … Leaders must drive the collective emotions in a positive direction and clear the smog created by toxic emotions” (p. 1). Change Makers strongly suggest the former members of CCS look hard at the unhealthy practices of the organization before its closure to not make the same mistakes twice. They must remember “strategic leaders cannot achieve success by themselves. Success requires the committed efforts of many, and good ideas alone are not enough to get that commitment” (Hughes, Colarelli-Beatty, and Dinwoodie, 2014, p. 146). There is a demand for Christian education on the coast of British Columbia, filling a Blue Ocean need (Ungerer, Ungerer, & Herholdt, 2016, p. 290). The education industry competes for students, using common practices. Providing a unique learning experience, founded on Christian principles, creates a competition-free environment. Hughes et al. (2014) explain “For anyone working to become a strategic leader, developing and using strategic influence requires forging relationships inside and outside the organization, inviting others into the process, building and sustaining momentum, and purposefully using organizational systems and culture” (p. 147). This assignment endeavours to provide a strategic influence plan for Coastal Christian School to opens its doors again.

Strategic Influence

Newspaper Article

Miraculous Renewal and Rebirth for Coastal Christian School

The overwhelming need for Christian education on the Coast of British Columbia is witness to an amazing comeback for Coastal Christian School (CCS), celebrating its fifth anniversary since reopening in 2019. Located in Coastal, BC, CCS is a ‘school plant’ supported by local parents and a whopping 27.5 million dollar donation from an anonymous donor. They saw a lack of choice for parents who sought alternatives to public education and strongly advocated for its reopening (Peters et al., 2018).

Some History. CCS first opened back in 1996, founded as a ‘school plant’ with three administrative staff and approximately forty students from grades K-9 (Peters et al., 2018). The school mission stated, “A community of learners growing in grace and knowledge” (Peters et al., 2018). Even though the school faced a “hostile community opposed to Christianity, students practiced their beliefs in the community through participating in outreach projects” (Peters et al., 2018). The school board included five parents and alumni volunteers as well as the principal and a bookkeeper (Peters et al., 2018). Due to overwhelming stress and personal issues, the principal went on medical leave in March 2012 (Peters et al., 2018). The school board appointed Mr. Tee to fill in as acting principal (Peters et al., 2018). During Mr. Tee’s time as acting principal, it became evident there were underlying “financial and relational issues within the organization as a whole” (Peters et al., 2018).

Mr. Tee endeavoured together with the “overarching Christian school organization, Society of Christian Schools of British Columbia (SCSBC) and together came up with a plan to help salvage the school from financial struggles” (Peters et al., 2018). Unfortunately, the school failed in its attempt to realize its goals and CCS closed its doors in June 2014.

Many current books on leadership discuss the importance and value of having a vision and mission statement (Galbraith, 2014; Lepsinger, 2010; Hughes et al., 2014 and Ungerer et al., 2016) and for leaders to establish buy-in from their subordinates.  Lepsinger (2010) states “leaders who can look to the future and prepare the business to adapt to changes in the environment as well as skillfully attend to the granular issues of implementation” are those leaders who achieve greater success (p. 205). According to Mr. Tee, “while the school’s mission statement presents a positive desire for growth, there is little focus on being Christ-centered in the education. A more detailed and focused mission statement could better drive the school towards desired growth” Mr. Tee (personal communication, November 28, 2018).

A Success Story. Today CCS is in a brand new, state of the art, K-12 school with a population of two hundred students and growing. CCS is nestled on ten acres in Coastal, BC. At the helm is a new principal, Ms. Fixit, who for the past ten years worked as head of an all-girls Christian school in Uganda, Africa. CCS also has a new sanguine school vision, “Coastal Christian School will be a model of global servant leadership in Christian education.” Its new mission statement reads “Coastal Christian school strives to develop servant-minded leaders within a nurturing Christian Worldview environment through a commitment to excellence in spiritual, academic and personal growth.”

Rather than being directed by a few people, the school now collaboratively makes decisions involving board members, parents, local community churches as well as Youth with a Mission (YWAM), a non-profit Christian missionary training school for missionary families (YWAM, 2018).

CCS is a testimony to the Bible verse, “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14). After much prayer and self-reflection, CCS  rose from the ashes, like a phoenix. Today, it is a beacon of light in the community and a great example to other struggling Christian schools.

The school building is 118,500 square feet and houses a theatre, a library, a cafeteria and a conference center. Surrounding the school are three soccer pitches which get use from local sports teams throughout the year. CCS incorporates a flourishing International Education Program (IEP) which consists of ten percent of the school population. CCS also provides a free hot breakfast program to feed the homeless and low-income families in the community. To find out more about CCS go to www.coastalchristian.ca.

Strategic Influence Plan Part 1: Overcoming barriers to success

To create a strategic influence plan, several competencies and a mindset of strategic influence are required (Hughes et al., 2104, p. 149). Coastal Christian School must be relationally driven, rooted in trust, engendering community support and steadily progressing towards the new vision. Change Makers recommends CCS reflect on the SWOT Analysis and Strategic Directions before rebuilding the school (Peters et al., 2018).

According to Hughes et al. (2014), “Strategic influence is far reaching… [and] the work of influence, therefore, is to create and ignite new connections” (p. 151). Because the old system at CCS failed, the new administration must embrace a new way. “If a new vision or strategic direction is to become a reality, leaders must break down walls that exist” (Hughes et al., 2014, p. 151). Therefore, CCS must be cognizant of the boundaries to overcome for successful strategic leadership (Hughes et al., 2014, p. 153).

Change Makers’ strategic plan to overcome the five boundaries.

  1. Vertical Boundary

Hughes et al. (2014) report “as boundaries exist between levels in an organization … strategic influence must be exercised to break down these barriers” (p. 151). Change Makers suggest CCS to

  • restructure organizational hierarchy through the Dual Leadership Model (see Figure 2),
  • implement supportive measures for the administrative staff, especially when a health issue occurs, and
  • carry out best practice measures in hiring (or re-hiring) practices to seek the best person for the job without favouritism.
  1. Horizontal Boundary

Barriers between employees in an organization occur. Hughes et al. (2014) suggest “Strategic leaders are acutely aware of the competition that can exist between peers … [so they] create opportunities for alliances that do not form naturally” (p. 152). Change Makers suggest CCS to

  • develop lateral processes which will support the Dual Leadership Model found in Figure 2,
  • open communication practices using the Progress and Performance Tool and the Reflective Change Tool found in Appendices A and B,
  • schedule regular leadership meetings and informal discussions to reflect on the results of the tools, developing a culture of self-reflection and open communication, and
  • the first instance of financial mismanagement should trigger an audit by an outside party, such as SCSBC.
  1. Stakeholder Boundary

Organizations must consider the impact of the culture outside of them as well as their impact on the ecosystem they are part of (Hughes et al., 2014). Ulrich and Smallwood (2013) note many organizations “create sustainable cultures by focusing them from the outside in. This means that the culture represents the identity of the organization in the minds of the key stakeholders outside the organization… they create a firm brand” (p. 132). Change Makers suggest CCS

  • establish clear roles and responsibilities for board members,
  • ensure board members only serve in one position per term, negating the conflict of interest issue, and
  • secure transparent financial practices to the school society.
  1. Demographic Boundary

Hughes et al. (2014) assert “Strategic leadership is not about who knows best. Rather, it involves ongoing, collaborative learning, and that means strategic leaders must create a climate where they not only exert strategic leadership themselves but also encourage strategic leadership from others” (p. 154). Change Makers suggest CCS spend time in their region to strategically

  • rebrand to suit demand on the coast,
  • provide a new vision statement to drive the school’s greater purpose, and
  • invite the surrounding Christian community to partner with them in prayer, fundraising, brand building, and making connections with new potential families.
  1. Geographic Boundary

Hughes et al. (2014) explain “Despite many similarities resulting from being in the same business and organization, market and cultural dynamics create differences that build barriers across groups” (p. 152). With the suggestion to create an International Education Program (IEP) at CCS, Change Makers advocate hiring a program coordinator with strong intercultural skills. Jenkins (2012) proposes five competencies required to foster a global mindset: “(a) thinking globally, (b) appreciating cultural diversity, (c) developing technological savvy, (d) building partnerships and alliances, and (e) sharing leadership” (p. 98). The addition of international students must not only be to generate income for the school but the mission of the school must align with the program goals. Therefore, Change Makers recommends CCS

  • build an IEP with a vision to support the overall CCS vision,
  • seek support from other International Coordinators in the SCSBC organization,
  • have a global mindset when recruiting students,
  • promote cultural exchange within the community and without via partnerships, and
  • regard Coastal, BC, as an attractive location for homestay and international students.

Strategic Influence Plan Part 2: Dimensions of Leadership Recommendations

Change Makers provides a tool for CCS to develop goals and vision with strategic influence. Table 1 comprises several dimensions of leadership, as found in Hughes et al. (2014, pp. 158-191). Change Makers suggest several practical actions in each of the leadership dimensions to help CCS succeed in the future.

Table 1: Change Maker’s Strategic Influence Suggestions for CCS
Dimensions of Leadership Recommendations for CCS
The Power of Passion According to Hughes et al. (2014), there is great value in recognizing one’s principles and passion. Change Makers suggest CCS staff members, together in a vision building setting, examine topics such as

  • goals for the future,
  • the long term impact of the school on the surrounding community,
  • definitions of a successful Christian school, and
  • the future state of the school.
Leader Expectations Having a strong understanding of which leader characteristics to look for when hiring is critical. Hughes et al. (2014) suggest using a chart outlining various strong leadership character traits and then proceeding to rank them descending from one to seven, with one being the most favorable and seven the least favorable. Characteristics such as: “autonomous, authority oriented, charismatic, face saving, humane oriented and team oriented are some of the traits which can be ranked” (Hughes et al., 2014, p.159). Change Makers suggest CCS reflect on how they view leaders who are

  • autonomous,
  • authoritative,
  • demonstrate strong characteristics,
  • participative, and
  • exhibit different strengths than their own.
Trust Assessment Building transactional trust is another step for self-development. Reina and Reina (2006), as cited in Hughes et al. (2014), mention three ways to build transactional trust: “contractual, communication, and competence trust” (p.166). Change Makers suggest CCS analyze behaviours they exhibit most frequently, such as

  • have a clear and explicit understanding of mutual expectations (contractual trust),
  • create a climate where people feel safe to tell the truth (communication trust), and
  • take action to help others develop their skills (competence trust).
Strategies for Developing Trust Hughes et al. (2014) suggest “taking the first step to open communication is in fact a high-leverage way to build trust. It creates a climate where others feel freer to share their thoughts and feelings too” (p. 165). Suggestions for CCS include

  • the leadership team meets with each department head to create an open dialogue and mutual trust, and
  • the board invites department heads to share at board meetings so the operations of the school are more fully understood.
Politics and Credibility Strategic influence affects power dynamics in organizations, therefore “shifts in strategy equate to shifts in power, and conflict is sure to be generated” (Hughes et al., 2014, p. 170). To mitigate conflicts, Change Makers suggest the leadership team at CCS

  • listen and serve others while making long-term decisions,
  • generate clear job descriptions (i.e. roles and responsibilities) for each organizational member, and
  • focus on the mission, vision, and values especially when differing opinions arise.
Networking and Influence Hughes et al. (2014) suggest drawing a “‘political map’ to demonstrate who might be connected or aligned around potential solutions” for problems plaguing an organization (p. 174). Change Makers suggest CCS stakeholders do this task individually and corporately, to understand

  • those aligned with their thinking,
  • those not yet with strong opinions,
  • those opposed to proposed solutions, and
  • those not yet connected in the organization.

“Strategic influence is expansive… Strategic leaders must not just get individuals to align with their vision; they must also ignite disparate groups to work together because strategy is reflected in the coherence and alignment in the collective actions of groups” (Hughes et al., 2014, p. 175)

Thought Experiment One strategy to generate ideas, buy-in, and commitment by others is to think of a potential problem as a thought experiment. Hughes et al. (2014) assert “Rather than determining a solution or an answer, [strategic leaders] find ways to let the solution emerge through the work” (p. 183). Change Makers suggest CCS consider asking its strategic leadership team, ‘If this were an experiment…”

  • what questions would you have? hypotheses?
  • what role would others have and what information might they bring to the scenario?
  • how could you show your team they are valued? (Hughes et al., 2014, p. 183)
Empathy and Understanding Hughes et al. suggest it is important to understand all perspectives while undertaking strategic planning (2014, p. 185). Change Makers recommend CCS implement the following suggestions in all leadership interactions

  • provide an opportunity for staff collaboration and understanding of the issues of running an organization,
  • delegate leadership roles to staff so they will understand the challenges and benefits inherent in the school, and
  • create open and honest dialogue to better understand the perspectives of staff, administration, and parent community through regular community meetings or a digital community forum
Organizational Goals Linking organizational goals with the school vision is essential in creating a focused staff and community. Hughes et al. suggest reflecting on project goals in light of the overall vision of the organization (2014, p. 187). Change Makers found the previous vision and mission statement of CCS lacking in direction and clout. To create a Blue Ocean school, it is important CCS implement the following strategies (Ungerer et al., 2016, p. 290)

  • redesign the vision statement for the organization through a series of community meetings to explore the identity and the drive of the school,
  • create a Christ-centric and biblical vision statement,
  • ensure all future decisions and planning are in line with the vision, and
  • brand the school and all parts of it with the vision statement, constantly driving all choices and learning (Hughes et al., 2014).
Stories of Success Creative ideation through fictional writing leads to inspiration and encouragement. It gives hope for the future and helps further assess the vision and future goals (Kaufman, 2014). Hughes et al. suggest listing organizational strengths then reflecting on times of success (2014, p 189).

  • Use the newspaper article “Miraculous Renewal and Rebirth for Coastal Christian School” as a vision of what could be possible.
  • In community newsletters, have a section to reflect on the recent and long-term successes of the school.
  • In planning for the future, make attainable goals but be open and thoughtful about stretch goals, which seem challenging or impossible, to ensure the school strives for excellence.
Progress of Performance Review and reflection help to guide future projects. Hughes et al. recommend reflecting on previous strategic actions and use them to plan current initiatives (2014, p. 192). CCS should

  • use the Progress and Performance Tool in Appendix A to evaluate decision and plans at regular intervals throughout the school year,
  • use the Progress and Performance Tool in Appendix A before beginning new strategic initiatives to be reflective when planning for the future, and
  • reflect on the progress at monthly leadership team meetings to ensure progress is in line with the vision of the school.
Minimize the Distractions Teamwork requires diverse perspectives under a unified vision. It is essential to evaluate the experience and alignment of all members of a team before beginning a new plan (Hughes et al., 2014, p. 193). Change Makers designed a tool to assess readiness for change amongst the team and to understand the various goals and perspectives of the team. To create unity, CCS should

  • create policy based on leadership meetings and results from the Progress and Performance Tool in Appendix A to ensure all staff members are in line with the school vision,
  • review successful examples of how the school is implementing the vision and reflect on the strategies used, and
  • challenge staff members to reflect on how they might be distracted from, or distracting to, the vision of the school through the Reflective Change Tool in Appendix B.

Organizational Design

Traditional Leadership Model

Historically, the structure of Coastal Christian School is a Traditional Leadership Model, commonly found in private schools (see Figure 1). Galbraith’s classification of the structure of CCS is a functional line operating structure (2014, pp. 25, 192). Figure 1 shows the structural hierarchy of CCS from 1994 to its closing in 2014. According to Galbraith, lateral processes work to decentralize the management decisions to give each department control and authority (p. 71). The only actual lateral process at CCS was the education of the students, as indicated in purple in Figure 1. All other highlighted areas in Figure 1 were under the direct control of the principal and other employees, each group taking initiative over those areas simultaneously. By having two or three groups work on these joint areas independently with little communication, they often produced redundant results. The principal controlled and directed the linear hierarchy of CCS. She was accountable to the authority of the board, and she met with them monthly to give progress reports of the school. While in theory, the board had authority over the principal, there was little real accountability. This was due to issues of secrets, poor communication, and “information was territorially guarded” (Hughes et al., 2014, p. 131). The bookkeeper and the secretary were also responsible to the principal. However, due to their long-standing friendship outside of the school, they dealt with financial issues independently of the principal and each other. They kept many facts between themselves and failed to communicate financial difficulties with the school board adequately. It is important to note the three branches of responsibility for the principal, as this workload may have played a role in her medical leave. While this type of vertical structure is common in private schools, there are many other structures to provide more accountability and opportunity for collaboration (Young, 2013).

Figure 1. Historical Organizational Structure of Coastal Christian School

Dual Leadership Model

A Dual Leadership Model puts more onus on the board to keep the principal accountable and provide relief for the burden of management. Figure 2 diagrams a suggested organizational structure for CCS when they decide to reopen. Through this Dual Leadership Model, the principal becomes responsible for monitoring the leadership of each employee. The principal delegates responsibility for curriculum planning and coordination to the primary teacher. The intermediate teacher takes on the role of discipline and special education. A financial officer controls all financial decisions. A custodian manages daily maintenance, and the secretary manages office administration. The principal controls each of these areas acting as a manager to keep each area on track with the plan. From the bottom of Figure 2, we see the school board also oversees each area.

The relationships guided between each group and area of responsibility come from the Five Functions of Management: (Fayol) by Van Vliet (2011). The following defines each of the five functions, as explained by Van Vliet. The first is planning. Planning is vision building and looking to the future. Organizing is strategic thinking and understanding needs to accomplish success. Commanding is directing the work and executing it. Coordinating is assessing causes for struggle and evaluating other sources to aid in the execution. Finally, controlling is evaluating the action, ensuring it meets the plans and vision of the organization. All areas of management function require cross-communication.

While there are other models to benefit this structure, the Dual Leadership Model meets the needs and fixes several challenges existing in the historical organizational structure of CCS. Through the support of employees, the principal is free to delegate, be accountable, and prioritize the critical duties of vision building and education. The School board becomes more hands-on in the guiding of the school and is equal in authority to the principal. Ultimately, the principal and the school board are responsible to the school community. Because CCS had a school community interested in enacting a strategic plan and provided support in many ways, the school board must be more hands-on in their involvement.

The Dual Leadership Model provides an opportunity for Transformational Leadership to create a contextual perspective rather than a task-driven leadership model. By allowing each subgroup to take on roles and responsibilities, it becomes the leader’s duty to mentor and guide the employees, rather than devote all of their time to task accomplishment (Wang, Oh, Courtright, & Colbert, 2011, p. 249).

Figure 2. Suggested Organizational Structure of Coastal Christian School

Conclusion

To conclude, Coastal Christian School is poised to take an optimistic journey to realize the dream of re-establishing the defunct, failing Christian School into a glorious comeback. With a new, fresh vision for the school, CCS can flourish in numbers and grow by adding a vibrant new demographic of international students. Rebranding themselves through partnerships with Christian organizations such as YWAM and partnerships with visionary philanthropists can give the school the boost it needs to re-open the doors. Engaging the entire community to take pride in their Christian school will put CCS’ once humble school on the map. Implementing Change Makers’ suggestions for strategic influence and direction ensures their future success!

References

Atha, D. (2018, November). Strategic leadership team project [Web log post]. Retrieved November 12, 2018, from https://create.twu.ca/ldrs501/unit-7/

Change Makers (2018, October, 10). [personal interview with [Tee, M]].

Galbraith, J. (2014). Designing organizations strategy, structure, and process at the business unit and enterprise levels (3rd ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Goleman, D., Boyatzis, R., & McKee, A. (2009). Primal leadership: Realizing the power of emotional intelligence. Retrieved from https://www.researchgate.net/publication/245507316_Primal_Leadership

Holy Bible: New International Version. (2001). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

Hughes R., Colarelli-Beatty K., & Dinwoodie D. (2014). Becoming a strategic leader. (2nd ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Lepsinger, R. (2010). Closing the execution gap. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Jenkins, D. (2012). Global critical leadership: Educating global leaders with critical leadership competencies. Journal of Leadership Studies. 6 (2). pp. 94 – 101.

Kaufman, S. (2014, July 23). Why Inspiration Matters. Retrieved from https://hbr.org/2011/11/why-inspiration-matters

Peters, S., Seabreeze, & Tegelberg, R. (2018, November). Change Makers SWOT of Coastal Christian School. Retrieved November 25, 2018, from https://books.twu.ca/strategic-discoveries/?post_type=chapter&p=711&preview_id=711&preview_nonce=d502812f92&preview=true

Ulrich, D., & Smallwood, N. (2013). Leadership sustainability: Seven disciplines to achieve the changes great leaders know they must make. McGraw Hill Education.

Ungerer, M., Ungerer, G, & Herholdt, J. (2016). Navigating strategic possibilities: Strategy formulation and execution practices to flourish. Randburg: KR Publishing.

Van Vliet, V. (2011). Five Functions of Management: (Fayol). Retrieved from https://www.toolshero.com/management/five-functions-of-management/

Wang, G., Oh, I., Courtright, S., & Colbert, A. (2011). Transformational leadership and performance across criteria and levels: A meta-analytic review of 25 years of research. Group & Organization Management, 36(2), 223-270.

Young, P. (2013, July). The Structure of Schools. Retrieved from http://www.monkeymagic.net/2013/07/27/the-structure-of-schools/

YWAM. (2018, November). Retrieved November 24, 2018 from https://www.ywam.org/

Appendix A

Progress and Performance Tool
What was the strategic initiative?
Comment:
Is there an existing policy which applies to the strategic initiative?
Comment:
How does this initiative further the vision of the school?
Comment:
What tasks went according to plan?
Comment:
What tasks changed as the initiative progressed?
Comment:
Which changes created a favourable outcome?
Comment:
Which changes created an adverse outcome?
Comment:
How did the changes affect the performance of employees?
Comment:
How did the changes affect the opinions of the shareholders?
Comment:
Were the changes beneficial to the strategic goal?
Comment:
What could be done to mediate the negative outcomes in future strategic initiatives?
Comment:

 

Appendix B

Reflective Change Tool
Give an example of a situation where you felt successful in furthering the vision of the school.
Comment:
Give an example of a situation where you felt you hindered the vision of the school.
Comment:
What challenges distract you from implementing vision?
Comment:
In what areas do you feel you need to improve to further the vision?
Comment:
 Are you successful in your current position?
 Comment:
 How can the leadership team support you better?
 Comment:
 How can the school community support you better?
 Comment:
 What tools or strategies can facilitate your success?
 Comment:
 Are you mentored for growth in a positive way?
 Comment:
James 1 teaches trials and tribulations help develop perseverance and are God’s way of strengthening us. How have the challenges working here strengthened you?
Comment: