Three essentials for creating energy through planning

Dennis Sparks

To a large extent, school leadership is about creating and focusing the energy of the school community on a small number of important priorities.

Carefully-designed and well-executed plans are obviously a key factor in providing that focus and maintaining enthusiasm for the work across many months and perhaps years.

But plans that cannot be altered when alterations are warranted discourage those affected by the plans and dissipate energy.

In my experience there are three essentials for creating energy through planning:

1. Making a plan: The process of planning creates energy. Even simple “back of the envelope” planning can create a sense of direction and motivation.

2. Changing the plan: Almost always the implementation of a plan will produce learning that appropriately leads to adjustments in the plan.

In addition, conditions often change from those that were present when the plan was made, particularly when it is a multi-year plan.

A useful mantra is, “Make plans, but hold those plans loosely.” Persevering with a plan that is clearly not working depletes energy.

But it is also true that frequently and capriciously changing plans depletes energy. Knowing when to stay the course with a plan and when to change it is an essential aspect of the artistry of skillful leadership.

3. Consistently applying “next action thinking: Plans that don’t produce and maintain momentum are bound to fail.

An essential ingredient in the successful implementation of a plan (and for that matter of professional learning) is the ability and discipline to determine the specific next action when a current activity comes to an end. Once momentum is lost, it may never be regained.

What have you learned about successful planning and the implementation of those plans?

3 Responses to “Three essentials for creating energy through planning”


  1. 1 Bob Jackson June 3, 2015 at 7:19 am

    Remember the 7 P’s. Prior preparation and planning prevents pretty poor performance.

    • 2 Dennis Sparks June 3, 2015 at 7:30 am

      I had not heard that before, Bob. It’s great! It reminds me of the old say, “Don’t let someone else’s lack of planning become your emergency” (or some variation on that theme).

      • 3 Bob Jackson June 3, 2015 at 8:49 am

        I love it. I really enjoy your leadership submissions every Wednesday. Keep up the great work!


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