Leading the Strategically Focused School: Success and Sustainability

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Brent Davies

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  • Education at SAGE

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    Copyright

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    Dedication

    This book is dedicated to my strategic success: Barbara Jane Davies

    Praise for the Previous Edition

    ‘One of the great things about Brent Davies’ books is that they combine rigorous research with practical reality. Leading the Strategically Focused School is no exception. Indeed in this text Brent has surpassed himself in drawing on the two decades of research underpinning his concept of Strategic Leadership and then relating it to the current perceptions of school leaders. The result is a book that resonates with common sense but that is disciplined by the insight of someone in command of his field. This is not a book with easy answers, we have too many of those, but one that captures the holism of contemporary leadership, makes you think and leads to informed action’ — Professor David Hopkins, HSBC Chair of International Leadership, and formerly Chief Adviser on School Standards to the Secretary of State 2002–2005

    ‘Brent Davies is now established as the pre-eminent scholar on strategic leadership in schools. This book contains a balanced critique of the existing literature and breaks new ground in tackling the critical issue of how strategic leadership can be sustained. As in all his work, he draws widely from the experience of successful practitioners, and this ensures its credibility and instills confidence in those who are embarking on a career in school leadership’ — Professor Brian Caldwell, Associate Director-Global, International Networking for Educational Transformation, and Managing Director, Educational Transformations

    ‘I recommend the book to anyone who is, or who aspires to be, a leader in schools, as it makes an important contribution to the thinking required to achieve cohesive, strategic approaches to the running of schools based upon sound practical experience’ — Brian Roberts, Editor, International Journal of Educational Management

    ‘Too many organisations are over-managed and underled. There's a lot of good advice here, not least by creating in the staffroom and the corridor a culture of casual but always professional conversation. Schools that talk about their work are halfway there’ — Michael Duffy, Times Educational Supplement

    ‘Books on management can be a very dry read. Often, management books are not attuned to the issues and unique setting that is a modern day school. This book, however, is neither dry nor out of touch with the needs of management in 21st century schools … The book leads a novice manager and leader through an understanding of what strategic management and leadership is … its core messages and practical guidance will undoubtedly help the reader’ — ESCalate

    ‘Davies’ style is lucid, pithy, well written and wonderfully accessible to busy school leaders, who wish to develop a thoughtful, successful approach to improving their schools’ — Management in Education

    ‘Professor Davies has an enviable capacity to write engagingly and he is one of those all-too-rare educational writers whose theory springs from the close and discerning observation of practice. His distinctive academic contribution to the field of educational leadership has been to focus on the ‘strategic’ but always illustrating the points he makes with a vivid story’ — Principal Matters

    List of Figures

    • 1.1 Chapter schematic 5
    • 2.1 Short-term viability and long-term sustainability 16
    • 2.2 The linking role of strategic leadership 18
    • 2.3 Characteristics of successful leaders 20
    • 2.4 Elements contributing to the strategically focused school 24
    • 3.1 Vision into action 27
    • 3.2 Ashridge vision and values model 28
    • 3.3 A values grid 31
    • 3.4 A school belief statement 31
    • 3.5 Strategic change 35
    • 3.6 The leadership and management paradox 35
    • 4.1 Elements of strategic processes 40
    • 5.1 The four dimensions of conceptualizing 42
    • 5.2 Conceptual stages and conceptual questions 43
    • 5.3 Building new mental models 51
    • 6.1 Building strategic capability 53
    • 6.2 The BCG matrix 56
    • 6.3 BCG applied to schools 56
    • 6.4 Levels of involvement 59
    • 6.5 Levels of policy and motivation 61
    • 7.1 The dimensions of articulation 65
    • 7.2 The Davies and Ellison model 67
    • 7.3 Primary case example of structural articulation 69–70
    • 7.4 Secondary case example of structural articulation 70–1
    • 8.1 The main structure of a school strategic plan 75
    • 8.2 Strategic plan exemplar — primary 79–80
    • 8.3 Strategic plan exemplar — secondary 81–82
    • 8.4 Developing emergent strategy 83
    • 8.5 Building strategic intents 84
    • 8.6 Strategic intent framework 87
    • 8.7 Strategic intent exemplar 88
    • 8.8 Strategic capabilities underpinning the school's operation 90
    • 8.9 Typology of strategies 91
    • 9.1 Strategic leadership: actions and characteristics 96
    • 9.2 A model for strategic leadership 108
    • 9.3 The procedural wisdom cycle 109
    • 10.1 Leadership development needed to build transformation 116
    • 11.1 Translating strategy into action 124
    • 11.2 Moving from the strategic to the operational 130
    • 11.3 The sigmoid curve 131
    • 11.4 Elongating the s-curve and making the strategic leap 132
    • 11.5 The strategic architecture of the school — overview 137
    • 11.6 The strategic architecture of the school — detail 138
    • 11.7 Strategic activities and processes 139
    • 12.1 Short-term viability and long-term sustainability 147
    • 12.2 People in organizations 156
    • 12.3 Changing organizational cultures 160
    • 12.4 Talent leadership and management roles 160

    About the Author

    Dr Brent Davies is Professor of International Leadership Development at the University of Hull. He is also a Professorial Fellow at the University of Melbourne, Visiting Professor at the Institute of Education London University, a Special Professor at the University of Nottingham and a Faculty Member of the Centre on Educational Governance at the University of Southern California. He is an Associate Director of the Specialist Schools and Academies Trust.

    He has published extensively with 30 books and 80 articles on leadership and management. His recent books include: Talent Management in Schools (with Barbara J. Davies, 2011, Sage), Developing Successful Leadership (with Mark Brundrett 2010, Springer), The Essentials of School Leadership (2nd Edition, 2009, Sage), Passionate Leadership (with Tim Brighouse, 2008, Sage); Developing Sustainable Leadership (2007, Sage); Strategic Marketing for Schools (with Linda Ellison 2007, Beijing Normal University Press); Naujoji Strategine Kryptis Ir Mokyklos Pletre (2006, Vilnus: Homo libre); School Leadership in the 21st Century (with Linda Ellison 2005, Routledge), The New Strategic Direction and Development of the School (with Linda Ellison 2003, RoutledgeFalmer), The Handbook of Educational Leadership and Management (with John West-Burnham 2003, Pearson).

    Acknowledgements

    I would wish to acknowledge the contribution of countless school leaders who I have worked with over 30 years in the UK, Australia, Hong Kong, New Zealand and the USA on leadership development programmes. They have provided me with the insights and ideas that are included in the book. In particular, I would like to thank Linda Ellison with whom I wrote School Development Planning (1992), Strategic Direction and Development of the School (1999) and The New Strategic Direction and Development of the School (2003) for being a strategic colleague in my learning journey. I would like to thank Barbara Davies and Linda Ellison, my co-directors on the NCSL research project ‘Success and Sustainability: developing the strategically focused school’ (NCSL, 2005) for their insights and hard work that produced such a seminal report. I would like to thank Barbara Davies for her leadership model in Chapter 9 which was a conceptual highlight of her doctoral thesis. I would also wish to thank her for several joint chapters (see for example, ‘Strategic Leadership’ in my Essentials of School Leadership, 2009, Sage) and articles that we have written together over the last five years that have contributed to the thinking underlying the second edition — in particular, our joint book Talent Management in Schools (2011, Sage) which provides the material and insights for Chapter 10 of this book. I put on record my thanks to Martin Coles who at his time at the NCSL supported and developed the research. I thank the NCSL for their help in sponsoring the Success and Sustainability project and for granting permission to replicate the diagrams in Chapters 7 and 8. I thank Sage for permission to use some of the material from my article ‘Rethinking strategy and strategic leadership in schools’, Educational Management and Administration (2003) 31(3): 295–312; and from B. Davies and B.J. Davies (2009) ‘Strategic leadership’, in B. Davies (ed.) The Essentials of School Leadership. London: Sage. I would pay tribute to the work of Derek Wise whose work I use in this book. An outstanding educator who sadly died in 2010.

    Turning strategy into action is the most difficult activity. The ideas and concepts of the first edition of this book have received wide dissemination, thanks largely to the work of colleagues at the Specialist Schools and Academies Trust. In particular, I would like to thank; Daniel Belcher, Maria Cannom, Claire Carter, Jennifer Durban, Paula Edwards, Grace Hardy, Sylvia Paddock, Deborah Perry, Elizabeth Reid and Sue Williamson. Disseminating my work in Australia has been made possible by the help and support of: Wendy Cahill, Brian Caldwell, Bronwyn Knox, Graeme Lane, Keith McDougal, Tony Mackay, Mary Oski, Ken Thompson, Nick Thornton and Barbara Watterston. I would like to thank them all. In Hong Kong, I would like to thank Allan Walker and in the USA, Gib Hentschke for their support.

    Finally I would like to thank my colleagues at Sage: Jeanette Graham, Marianne Lagrange and Matthew Waters who have made this book possible.

    Preface to the Second Edition

    Since the publication of the book in 2006, I have carried out numerous keynotes and one-day courses on the theme of the book. I am pleased it has become the seminal work on strategic leadership in schools and has been adopted by the Specialist Schools and Academies Trust as a key leadership development tool. The book features in many of their leadership development courses as well as standalone strategic courses, which are planned well into the future. Victoria, in Australia, has adopted the book for all their schools, as have the independent and catholic sectors there. Most gratifying has been the positive response from countless school leaders who have used it with their leadership teams as both a leadership development tool by using the ‘leadership reading’ approach of reading a chapter a month and discussing it by creating a strategic reflection group; and also, most significantly, as a means of developing a strategic framework for their own school's development.

    I have taken the opportunity of the second edition to update all chapters but in particular have added a new chapter (Chapter 10) on developing strategic talent. The shortage of able leaders not only to improve current performance but also to drive strategic transformation is a major challenge for the education system. Performance in a current post is not the same as potential for strategic leadership. This new chapter considers how we might identify, nurture and develop future strategic leadership talent. It has been a profound professional and personal experience working with so many school leaders over the last five years on the strategic leadership of their schools. I hope this book will provide the impetus to continue to do that over the next five years.

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