The WHAT The ABCs of “BHAG,” “SWOT” and many other terms used in the strategic planning process. BHAG This acronym stands for “Big, Hairy Audacious Goal.” It is a phrase similar to a vision statement, in that it’s intended to focus on a very ambitious—but not impossible—goal. Some experts say that to truly be a BHAG, the organization must be looking 10 to 30 years into the future. An example of a BHAG is President Kennedy’s moon challenge: “The nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to Earth.” CORE VALUES These describe the collective beliefs and behaviors of the team or organization in specific relation to achievement of the vision and mission. They are not (necessarily) a reflection of personal ethical or moral beliefs. A core value for a school nutrition department might be: “Respect: Valuing the inherent dignity of our coworkers and our customers” or “Personal Growth: Encouraging and supporting ongoing professional and personal growth among all team members.” An organization typically has no more than five core values. ENVIRONMENTAL SCAN This is a research process designed to gather data about different areas and factors that have a direct or indirect impact on your group or organization. In school nutrition, an environmental scan might include population and demographic trends; changes in school scheduling philosophies; turnover rates in top district and/or school administrative positions; growth or decline of commercial foodservice and retail; political control of government bodies; nutrition science; and so on. The results of the scan can help you to identify helping and hindering forces. HELPING/HINDERING FORCES Similar to the process of conducting a SWOT analysis, identifying helping/hindering forces can guide your strategic conversations in setting appropriate and achievable strategic goals, objectives and strategies. For a school nutrition team, a helping force might be an engaged and supportive parent-teacher group. How can you use this group to your advantage in achieving your plan? Are there specific goals or objectives that are more likely to succeed with their involvement? A hindering force might be the recent bankruptcy of a local dairy. What will be the impact on your milk bid? On your budget? Are there specific goals or objectives that you should identify to help address this new reality? KISS This acronym stands for “Keep It Simple and Short.” It’s a good reminder for most steps in your strategic planning process. Don’t get bogged down in long statements that risk either confusing or boring the intended audience. METRICS This is the collective term used to discuss the various quantifiable measures that are used to track and assess different factors. The best decisions are always informed by data. Gather, analyze and understand the metrics related to individual strategic goals, objectives and strategies—which all should be specific and measurable. You don’t want to arbitrarily establish an objective of “increasing participation by 50%” without first reviewing metrics about enrollment, current participation levels, student preferences, budget and so on. MISSION STATEMENT While a vision describes where you want to be in the future, a mission statement describes what you do today. It often summaries “what” you do, for “who” and broadly states the “how.” Focusing on your mission each day should enable you to reach your vision. In strategic planning, a mission statement can be used to broaden or narrow the potential scope of the plan. Let’s say your mission is “To work together in a spirit of inclusivity and integrity to serve healthy school meals (what you do) to all students (who you do it for).” In this case, you may decide not to focus any key goals and objectives on nutrition education activities and instead ensure that you have a focus on team building and ethics awareness. OBJECTIVES In the planning process, you develop objectives for each of your strategic goals. They are similar to your goals in nature and in language—they should be focused on the “what,” rather than the “how” and should be written to be SMART (see below). They can be considered more detailed sub-goals, if you will. Each strategic goal is likely to have a few objectives that follow. Each should be very clear with no room for misinterpretation and easily describe what constitutes “success” in observable or measurable terms. Let’s say you have a strategic goal for “Culinary Excellence.” One objective could be “Seventy-five percent of serving sites will include scratch-prepared meals on the menu by the beginning of SY 2019-20.” Note that the objective doesn’t describe how you will accomplish this; that’s the purpose of the strategies/tactics. SMART Another clever acronym, this one encourages the development of goals or objectives that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-determined. This will help you to avoid a plan that stipulates “creating a happy kitchen environment,” which is vague, difficult to measure, impossible to ensure and lacks a defined period. It’s a nice goal, but not a particularly SMART one. STRATEGIC GOALS Sometimes referred to as strategic pillars, these are goals that form the basis for the detailed objectives and tactics that will comprise the actual work you do. They come from your vision and mission, establishing the highest-level outcomes sought by the group. Resist the temptation to organize your current activities into categories and call these strategic goals. Instead, think of these as future results that will get you closer to your mission. STRATEGIES Each strategic goal leads to objectives, which lead to individual strategies or tactics. These indicate the specific activities that will help you meet the objective and move closer to the goal, the mission and the vision. At this point, you and your team are looking at the “how” of the overall equation. Strategies describe how the group will commit its resources to accomplishing the goal. This is a critical step in the process because it brings focus to the need for operational allocation of resources. When developing strategies, they should be reviewed for necessity, feasibility, appropriateness and sufficiency. That is, are they worth the commitment of resources and will they be a good investment of time, talent and treasure? SWOT ANALYSIS This acronym stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. In strategic decision-making activities, a group might be asked to identify factors and attributes that apply to each category. This assessment tool is a snapshot in time that looks at factors that are internal and external, as well as positive and negative. When depicted graphically as four quadrants in a square, this analysis offers a helpful visual that can allow more focused thoughts toward informed decisions. Let’s say that one department strength is that several cafeteria managers excel at creative promotions, while a weakness is the low participation among students who pay full price for meals. A threat is found in the many off-campus lunch options, while an opportunity is an active parent association concerned about safety. These four factors could lead your team to partner with the parent group on advocating for closed campuses, while developing new promotions that borrow restaurant-style tactics. VISION STATEMENT This is an aspirational statement of where you want your team, department or organization to be in a distant (but within your lifetime) future. It’s sometimes called a “big, hairy audacious goal” (BHAG). A vision should set the overall direction for the organization and be bold and inspirational. It summarizes the “what” of your team’s work, and it represents the “why.” It does not address the “how.”
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