I am a firm believer in the power of integrated, education-centred strategic financial planning.  But even I’m finding it quite hard to stay enthusiastic at the moment when my day to day life as part-time Chief Finance Officer in a MAT is focussing on emergency response and keeping the show on the road.  So, it got me thinking.  How can we add a pinch of strategic context into our work, so that when schools reopen and children return, we will not be so far behind?

A clear intention filters through the chaos and business

In May last year I was mesmerised by the inspirational Debra Searle as she explained how she had learnt to choose her attitude as she rowed across the Atlantic alone.  So mesmerised that I couldn’t speak coherently about school finance in the conference slot that followed her input, but that’s another story.

Then over the summer I read The One Thing by Gary Keller, “an extraordinary focus on one thing each day can lead to extraordinary success”.  But the trick is to find the right thing.  The one thing that makes everything else either unnecessary or easier.

I sort of do both.  I do it my way, which after all is how I advocate you do ICFP.  Your way.  But to return to the point, I try to find, each week, month and term, the one thing I will maintain a focus on and, honestly, it is like magic.  Even if I have a to-do list as long as your arm, that pesky One Thing permeates through.

Surely that isn’t enough?

I did take some light reading with me on holiday, honest, but the other book that changed the way I work was Cal Newport’s Deep Work – “distraction-free concentration that pushes your cognitive capabilities to their limit”.  I strongly recommend setting aside some time, especially if you are working from home, when you let the team know you will not be on emails.  But the bit that links with The One Thing is the need for downtime.  The really powerful result is that your unconscious mind carries on sorting out the tricky problems while you rest.  What’s not to like?

What has this got to do with doing some strategic financial planning right now?

I have some ideas to share with you.  Some small and manageable, bite-sized aspects of education-centred strategic financial planning.  Most don’t go anywhere near a spreadsheet.  Some are just concepts that might spark a few ideas.  Many of you will have seen our Seven Steps guidance on the DfE ICFP page but this is more of a hop, skip, jump version than seven careful steps.  It is ICFP for the current times.

I will write about these ideas over the next few weeks but to get you in the mood, why not get started with this question?

How would I like it to feel in September…?

  • For children and young people, for their families, for staff and governors or trustees?
  • So that we have minimised the long-term damage and reflected on what we have learnt?
  • And what might we need to do to make that dream a reality?

Have that question rumbling away in the background, let your subconscious have a play and just see what happens.  Because my next questions will stretch your thinking a little further ahead into the future.

You will be amazed at the effect

Write the question down on a bit of card and pop it on your desk where you can see it.

How would I like it to feel in September?

Make sure you have a journal or a stash of sticky notes to jot down your thoughts as and when they occur.  Or record them on your phone while you walk.

And if you can, set aside some time next week for deep work, to pull those thoughts together.  It will be worth it.

If you would like to chat through this process or pick my brains about modelling tools to work through some ideas, get in touch and I would be very pleased to help.