​As our Strategic Planning Committee prepares to begin their work this weekend, I’ve found myself spending a lot of time thinking about the future of Cary Academy. Over the past months, I’ve been working with our board members, leadership team, and employees to identify the big opportunities that are available to CA at this particular time in our history.

The phrase Big Opportunity was coined by retired Harvard Business School professor John Kotter in his most recent book Accelerate. In many ways, I’m attracted to Kotter’s ideas here because they connect so well to research on strengths-based leadership. For an organization to thrive today it needs a special combination of consistency and innovation, which involves building on its strengths and unique characteristics to take advantage of new opportunities.

As Kotter would say: A big opportunity describes a window into the future that is open or about to open. A big opportunity statement (BOS) is both rational in light of available data and emotionally compelling to people inside the organization.

A BOS appeals to the heart and the mind.

This isn’t to say that the new Cary Academy strategic plan will not help us address shortcomings. Continual improvement is a part of the school’s DNA, and our new plan will need to address some things that are holding us back. However, at its core our strategic plan should point us in the direction to an even brighter future.

Over the last few months, I’ve run several exercises with different groups to write some big opportunity statements. These were exercises to help us better identify and understand our strengths and to think about where they might lead us next. To help with this process, we used the following template for a BOS:

Because of contextual factor X or our special capability Y, we have a very real and exciting opportunity to offer service Z or do thing ZZ.

Kotter believes that a big opportunity statement must be rational (why us, why now, why bother), emotionally compelling (a sincere and positive appeal to the heart), and clear (no jargon).

After our employees reviewed our most recent community survey data, they wrote many big opportunity statements. Here are just two:

  • Because we do well in fostering character development, we can give students more opportunities to exercise authentic leadership.
  • Because of the strength of our world language program, we have an opportunity to broaden exchange opportunities in other disciplines.

We’ve been doing a lot of data gathering over the past 12 months to help inform our new strategic plan. We’ve had focus groups and surveys designed to help us understand our strengths and gather suggestions for improvement. I like big opportunity statements because they attempt to connect the two things in a short and pithy way.

At this time, I’d invite all of you to share some of your ideas for a great BOS for Cary Academy. The challenge for this exercise is to do this in the 140 character limit of a Tweet. Share your BOS with the hashtag #CABOS, and I’ll make sure they get included on the list of ideas that go to the Strategic Planning Committee this weekend and the Action Teams that will begin soon afterwards. I’ll share out a few more of the ideas that have already been generated from my Twitter account @mike_ehrhardt.

Happy Tweeting.