Effective Practices : Long-range and Strategic Planning
Annual Performance Objectives
Planning Section 3
1. Which individuals, committees and other bodies draft annual performance objectives for the school year?
2. If performance objectives are not drafted by all school employees and committees, on which basis are people/groups selected to participate in this process?
3. Which person or body of the school is responsible for initiating the request for annual performance objectives, for ensuring that the objectives written by various individuals and groups all dovetail, and for reviewing the status of performance versus objectives throughout the year?
4. By which means do you ensure that the individual and group objectives support the accomplishment of the school’s strategic and/or long range plan?
5. Are individuals’ performance objectives part of the annual employee evaluation process? How are they included?
6. What are the key elements of the philosophy that informs your policies, practices and procedures with respect to annual performance objectives?
7. What is particularly effective with regard to your school’s use of annual performance objectives?
8. If you could change some aspect of your work in regard to annual performance objectives what would you change and why?
Which individuals, committees and other bodies draft annual performance objectives for the school year?
The strategic plans developed by schools contain a number of objectives for the institution as a whole, and often include specific objectives for various committees and individuals. However, as a whole the idea of setting performance objectives for committees and individuals on an annual basis is one that is beginning to generate conversation in our Waldorf schools but has not yet been put into wide practice. Schools are beginning to experiment in this area, and the results of their experience to date are shared below.
Most schools surveyed indicated that they do not establish annual performance objectives for any individuals, bodies or committees beyond what is specified in the school’s strategic plan. One school indicated that each member of the administrative staff now creates written operating plans that are month by month calendars of objectives and programs that will be worked on. This is a new discipline, and the school recognizes that it needs additional practice to make these plans specific, measurable and observable.
This same school also reports that the faculty development committee works with its teaching employees to develop individual professional development objectives. These objectives are not tied in any way to the delivery of the school’s strategic plan, but are focused on professional and self development. The finance committee also creates a list of things it will work on in the coming year, but this list is not as formal or specific as what is done by administrative staff members.
While our Waldorf school communities seem to recognize the benefit of creating shared imaginations and strategic plans and enjoy doing this work, we are far less experienced and comfortable at asking people to make specific commitments, either as groups or as individuals, to ensure that these imaginations will be realized.
Schools wishing additional information about the use and structure of performance objectives are encouraged to see: Performance Objectives and Personal Development.
If performance objectives are not drafted by all school employees and committees, on which basis are people/groups selected to participate in this process?
As noted above, none of the schools surveyed have a wide spread system of personal and organizational operating objectives. There appears to be a higher prevalence of objective setting activity taking place in the administrative portions of our Waldorf schools. These administrative objectives address both individual and organizational goals. Some schools also have individual development goals for teaching personnel, but there seem to be few cases where schools also establish organizational goals for teachers, even when these individuals are the chairs of significant bodies or committees within the school.
The greater prevalence of objective setting in the administrative parts of our schools seems to originate from Board members and administrators with experience in non-Waldorf business settings where management by objective is a common practice. However, the use of performance objectives and concrete planning cannot be dismissed as non-Waldorf; it is an important skill that is in critical need of development in our school communities. Steiner himself emphasized the importance of form when he wrote in Knowledge of Higher Worlds that, “Disregard for strict forms is only shown by those who do not know that the exterior is the avenue of expression for the interior. No doubt it is the spirit that really matters, not the form; but just as from without sprit is null and void, so also would spirit remain inactive if it did not create for itself a form.”
While it is clear that form is an important part of delivering an artistic education, it is legitimate for schools to question if a form such as management by objective is a proper one in an educational setting. Certainly our world today is enamored with standard setting as a solution to the educational dilemmas we face, and parents in Waldorf schools are not immune to this pull. Our challenge in the teaching realm is to translate the benchmarks already inherently established in our rich curriculum into language that is clear and accessible to non teachers. As we gain experience in meeting this challenge we will help our parents gain confidence in the spirit of our work by helping them to see the form that supports it.
Which person or body of the school is responsible for initiating the request for annual performance objectives, for ensuring that the objectives written by various individuals and groups all dovetail, and for reviewing the status of performance versus objectives throughout the year?
It is the administrator who typically requests objectives from his or her administrative staff, and who reviews them to ensure they dovetail with each other in an effective manner. When the objectives meet both people’s standards then they are presented to the school’s Administrative Development Committee for additional comment and acceptance. The administrator is the individual writing the performance evaluations for the administrative staff, and includes the status of pre-established performance objectives in the annual evaluations. The evaluation will also typically include a section on personal development needs for the coming year.
Teachers’ performance objectives are set in conjunction with the school’s Teacher Development Committee. Today these objectives, beyond those inherent in the curriculum directing the actual teaching, are generally focused on personal development rather than on school-wide objectives, so there is little need to ensure that the objectives established for various teachers dovetail with each other.
By which means do you ensure that the individual and group objectives support the accomplishment of the school’s strategic and/or long range plan?
Schools with strategic plans designate an individual or group to follow up on progress for objectives established in the plan. However, in this study we found little evidence of objective setting practices by groups and individuals in support of organizational goals beyond what is specifically named in the strategic plan.
Are individuals’ performance objectives part of the annual employee evaluation process? How are they included?
Performance objectives were often included in the annual evaluations of administrative staff members. Evaluations of teachers occur less frequently in our schools, and do not always include information on the teacher’s achievement of the personal developmental objectives that were set in partnership with the Teacher Development Committee. For more on teacher evaluations please refer to the Human Resources section on Evaluations.
With respect to strategic plan objectives it is interesting to note that many of the program mangers for various objectives in the strategic plan are not employees of the school; they are parent volunteers. Follow up on strategic plan objectives must be done consistently with all program managers, employee and volunteer alike, so there is never a feeling that a higher level of scrutiny is given to volunteers than to school employees.
What are the key elements of the philosophy that informs your policies, practices and procedures with respect to annual performance objectives?
The following suggestions came from one school with the greatest strength and experience in the area of performance objectives: Start with individual objectives and evaluations. The staff must get used to being formally evaluated on a regular basis. This is a great opportunity for people to feel supported and understand that the purpose of the objective setting and evaluation is to provide support for their efforts.
Operating plans tend to be more realistic if they are tied to evaluation. Otherwise they can become wish lists rather than true objectives. When others see an individual’s wish list and assume that these are committed objectives it can lead others to assume that needed work is not getting done. Good operating plans build confidence between colleagues.
Pilot this approach in your administrative group. Show that it works, and then it can be expanded to the chairs of other bodies of the school.
The school’s big goals may not happen even with good operating plans, but they have a much greater chance of success if we are clear and conscious about what we want to achieve and what we are doing to make things happen.
What is particularly effective with regard to your school’s use of annual performance objectives?
The timing of the objective setting and evaluation cycle is important, and should be tied to the school calendar. Objective setting for the following school year should be timed so that any needed resources (financial and human) can be requested before the budget is being finalized. A mid-cycle review can take place before the holidays, with a final evaluation completed in March.
If you could change some aspect of your work in regard to annual performance objectives what would you change and why?
Schools indicated that they are still looking for the best practices in this area. The idea of creating personal objectives that support organizational development in addition to personal development is a new one in our schools, and the discipline to make this a regular, cyclical part of our habit life will require careful nurturing so that we create strong forms that are spirit filled.