Attempting to plan efficiently and effectively during times of complexity and uncertainty can be an incredible challenge. Very few aspects of what will be reality in the fall are clear right now. Yet, we need to do all that we can to be prepared for whatever may come and be expected of us. Nevertheless, we do not have to be paralyzed, or adopt a wait and watch stance—nor do we have to have endless plans to cover every eventuality.
The key to planning during this time is to match our planning approach to the circumstances and environment we face. As examples, if we knew the conditions we will face in the fall and all the variables were clear, we could develop a single plan with a sequential set of steps to take us from where we are to where we need to be. Even if we faced a challenge with a couple of unknown variables and relatively stable conditions, we might develop a Plan A and Plan B to cover the options and implement the plan that best fits what develops.
Now in the face of greater complexity and uncertainty, many school leaders are developing multiple plans based on a set of alternative scenarios. The hope is that at least one of the plans will match the circumstances and expectations that emerge in the coming weeks. Obviously, this approach provides more options and increases the chances of being prepared. However, development of multiple plans requires time, effort, and resources when all these are scarce. Further, even with the development of multiple plans, at best only one plan is likely to be implemented. Thus, much of the time, effort, and resources will be wasted.
Consider taking a more flexible planning approach that will allow adjustments as conditions become clearer and variables begin to narrow. We can focus on what is known while developing a variety of ideas, options, strategies, and tactics that can be combined as needed to formulate our approach when we are ready. In this approach, start by clarifying what will likely be the outside parameters of what lies ahead, or what will not happen. For example, it is unlikely that school will open in the fall with full face-to-face instruction as was common before the pandemic. On the other hand, we can assume that learning and instruction will take place in some coordinated form. These two outside parameters define the boundaries. Between them lies the potential to offer online, blended, some modified in-person instruction, some community-based learning, and other forms of learning support. Our staff may have developed some additional innovative practices to draw upon. It may even be that some parents who had a good experience this past spring will want to remain involved even though they do not want to engage in home schooling. Use your skills, imagination, experiences, and network to identify even more potential components. The key is to identify a range of options and possibilities on which you can draw when needed.
By considering a robust set of options that might be integrated into your ultimate approach to school in the fall, you will have full flexibility to quickly select components and craft a strategy that will serve the needs of students. Meanwhile, you will not have to abandon or radically change plans that no longer fit the circumstances you face. Further, you and your team will be better able to make real-time adjustments and switch out components as conditions continue to change and realignment is necessary.