Katherine Small


A new president had just been appointed to this nonprofit school. She and the board agreed that developing a strategic plan would help ensure that they had a common vision and agreement regarding important goals and priorities. Katherine Whitney facilitated the planning process.


Because of the importance of connecting with so many different stakeholder groups, Katherine used a research-based approach as the foundation for the strategic planning process. In addition to an environmental scan to capture information on the market and the competition, the process included:

• Interviews with 16 distinct small groups.
• A written survey sent to statistically significant samples of all constituencies.
• Discussion sessions for each of the stakeholder groups.

The compiled information provided a broad-based SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) analysis, as well as an opportunity to identify issues that were important to the various groups.

With that information and a strategic planning steering committee that involved representatives from each group, Katherine led the group through reviews and revisions of the vision, mission, and core values, followed by development of goals, strategies, action steps, and time tables. The process was transparent and iterative to allow significant opportunities for comments from people not involved on the steering committee.

The steering committee used the approach of preliminary board approval, open comment period, final board approval, and presentation to the school community.


The deliverables to the school were the strategic plan document; a planning binder that included results of all interviews, surveys, discussion groups, and external research; and an Excel file sortable by due date for each of the action steps identified.

Perhaps as important as the strategic plan document was the planning process. The steps taken helped the school community come together with a shared vision for the future of the school. Groups had the opportunity to share opinions and understand the interrelated aspect of many of the goals.

The plan became a tool for the president and her management team, as well as an integral part of discussions at board meetings. Five years after the first plan was done, the school engaged Katherine to return to facilitate the next round of planning.