A Post-P.O.S.T. Post – Strategic Thinking Case Study

Written by Alan Sufrin

Originally posted at darimonline.org

This blog post is a reflection on something that hasn’t happened yet.  Whoa.

The reason I can do this is because of the remarkable opportunity I currently have as the Network Weaver for a project of The Jewish Theological Seminary’s William Davidson Graduate School of Jewish Education called “ReFrame.” And because I decided to use the POST model for my network weaving and marketing plan.

First, a bit about ReFrame. It seems like everyone in the field of Jewish education these days holds the following truths to be self-evident: (a) Hebrew School stinks, and (b) summer camp is fantastic. This is especially true in the world of Conservative Judaism, where the Ramah camps are exceptional when it comes to experiential Jewish education, and where supplementary religious school attendance is generally dropping off at an alarming rate. JTS has a close association with the Conservative movement and is uniquely positioned to take the awesomeness of camp and inject it into Hebrew school. Ultimately, JTS aims to offer a “Boot Camp” style training in making pilot schools more experiential in their approach, and this work may start during the coming summer.

I applaud Dr. Zachary Lasker of The Davidson School at JTS for recognizing early in the process of developing ReFrame that since many Jewish educators are already trying to create an experiential framework for their complementary schools, we need to have a conversation about it. It’s like an ongoing, national meeting of Jewish educators, where we all talk about successes and failures when it comes to creating opportunities for our students to live the omnipresent experience of being Jewish. That’s where POST comes in.

I had 3 reasons for using POST in implementing this “National Conversation” phase of ReFrame:
JTS is an institution with deep roots and a long history (127 years). It has been hard for institutions like this to keep pace with today’s climate of change and innovation, especially where my job in communications and the use of social media is most concerned. This led my partners, Dr. Lasker and Jane Shapiro, and I to focus way too much on making sure we’d have easy access to the tools we’d need. As a result, there was very little emphasis placed on the objectives of this “National Conversation.”

So POST seemed like a natural fit. We decided that due to the tight time constraints, we’d have two meetings. I called the first one “PO(ST),” and the second “(PO)ST;” the letters of the stages we’d focus on in each meeting being outside the parentheses.  Here’s the email I sent to my colleagues in advance of the first meeting, with my notes on how it actually went:

Hi Zach and Jane,
This email should help us prepare for our PO(ST)* meeting next week, with the ultimate goal of creating an editorial calendar for what I’ll call “The Big Push” (i.e. the next 6 months).  For the Cliff’s Notes version of this email, you can probably just skip to the bullet points.

But first, here’s a written reminder of POST:

P = People (In our case, “person,” a.k.a. “buyer persona.” Who is our target audience?)
O = Objectives (What are they?)
S = Strategies
T = Tools/Tech
And here’s a visual reminder of POST

P
We need to identify our target audience for ReFrame.  Who are we conversing with in this “national conversation”?  Teachers? Students? Women? Men? Jews of a specific flavor?
As I’ve mentioned before, I think the best way to go about doing this is to have a single person in mind.  It helps if this person really exists.  It might even be one of the three of us. That way we can design our campaign around the likes and dislikes of this person, thus really grabbing their attention, creating a relationship, and ultimately being m’daresh (extracting) her/his help for the rest of the ReFrame project in some way (see “O” for more on this).
This person will be at the bullseye of our target audience, and there will be many, many people on the rest of the target.  In other words, our goal is NOT to enlist the ideas/opinions/helpfulness of only one person, rather it IS to enlist the ideas/opinions/helpfulness of all the people who fall anywhere on the target. The reason I insist on choosing only ONE person is because it will help us focus our efforts when devising our O, S, and T.  For example, with one person in mind, we only have to devise one S (=strategy), and on a practical level, I am only one person, and only part-time after all.  If it helps, no one ever has to know who this person is, other than the three of us (***cut to the three of us in a dimly-lit, smoke-filled room***)
Zach has already mentioned that this person should probably be an Educational Director of a complementary school, so that helps to narrow the field.  In this vein, here’s the first Action Point:

Let’s each bring one name (or two names at the most) of someone who might fit best at the center of our target.  It would be extra cool if this person is currently the Education Director (or the equivalent) of a complementary school.  We’ll spend the first part of our meeting teaching each other about the person we suggest, and pick one winner.
Hopefully, this part of the meeting will only take a max of about 20 minutes.

In the end, we chose a “buyer persona” that was not one of the three of us.  It took exactly 25 minutes, thanks in part to the fact that we did actually come to the meeting with some suggestions.  However, the focus on “one ‘P’ person = one strategy = way easier in the long run” took some convincing, and is something I feel strongly about from my business education and background.

O
These are our SMART goals – the most difficult part of the POST.  Ultimately, we should have a 10 stanza document in a table: column #1 pertains to the SMART goals we have for our person, and column #2 pertains to the SMART goals our person has for him/herself.  I’ve attached a table here for your review.  Since we don’t have our “person” in mind right now, let’s just begin to think about how we might fill in the columns.  A lot of work has gone into the summary document that’s been put together, and which goes really far in outlining ReFrame’s objectives.  Let’s spend part of our meeting putting that in POST terms.  Here’s our second Action Point:

Please review the attached table (it’s the MS Word doc) and begin to think about how we might complete the columns.  Where do the ideas put forth in the summary document fit in?  Where do your own ideas fit?  Are your answers to the “guiding questions” similar to the ideas in the summary document?  Feel free to use the doc to help when filling in your ideas; if you do, you can bring it with (digitally) to the meeting or email it to me beforehand.

I think this will probably take the rest of our meeting time.  But just in case it doesn’t…

It did indeed take the rest of our 1.5-hour meeting, but it was well worth it.  We completed the table (see attached template), and clarified our objectives.  I think it was also helpful to categorize the objectives as “our goals for the ‘P’” and “‘P’s’ goals for him/herself,” and then focus on those goals which overlap.

S, T
I’ve attached a sample editorial calendar template (Zach and I have already gone over this one a bit).  With whatever time is left in this meeting, I’d be glad to do some iyyun (in-depth study) on this with you, but in the meanwhile, feel free to peruse and send questions.  I’m sure we’ll have many more meetings in the future about S and T, as indeed we already have :).

And we did.  Here’s the second email I sent, notes included:

Hi Jane and Zach,

As I mentioned, awesome meeting yesterday!  Aaaaaand now, the part we’ve all been waiting for:
S = Strategies
T = Tools

Unlike P and O, the order in which we discuss S and T is not so relevant.  There’s even a lot of overlap between S and T, to be honest.  I sometimes think that the inventors of the “POST” method decided on its name just because “POTS” wasn’t as cool… or was it?

The truth is that I later learned that we did this wrong.  It should have been that “P” and “O” are less important in order than “S” and “T,” but I stand by what we did.  I think this actually worked better for our purposes, and you’ll see.

S
Let’s use this time for the following two things:
(1) identifying the areas of our SMART goals for [our “P” persona] that overlap with [our “P” persona]‘s goals for her/himself, and
(2) filling out an editorial calendar.  Essentially, these are deadlines for us (read: me, mostly) to meet. That is to say that since I’m working part-time, (assuming) limited to 6 months, having an editorial calendar would be the best thing possible to keep me (read: us, mostly) organized and on track.  This will probably take most of our meeting time.  That being the case, here’s an action point:

Please take a few moments to look over the editorial calendar template and consider how you might like to see it filled out.  What would you change about it (the dates, for example)?  The SMART goals we have for DB which overlap with his goals for himself are the areas we can affect with ReFrame.  How and when should/can they be effected?  Feel free to edit the template itself when going over these considerations, and bring it (digitally) on Monday.

Yup, this took most of the meeting time.  In fact, I’m pretty sure it took up the whole time.  I quickly learned how new the philosophies behind social networks sometimes are, and how deeply integrated their tools can be.  We found it really difficult to wrap our heads around the concept of a “National Conversation” about experiential Jewish education in supplemental schools, and what practical implications that conversation might have for us.

T
We’ve all discussed this a number of times already; now with “POS” in mind, let’s make sure to discuss how our view of using various tools has changed.  As was mentioned yesterday, there’s already a national conversation about complementary education happening – we’d like to join it now as ReFrame.  Who are the major and minor actors in this conversation?  Where are the discussions happening?  What tools are they using?  How are those tools being used in the context of this conversation?  Is there room for ReFrame to innovate technologically within the conversation?
I’d like for us to make a list of the tools that are both at our disposal and relevant to the current conversation.  Then, I’d like to make a sublist of how to use those tools.  For example:

  • Wordle: Visual measurement of conversational evolution over the next 6 months
  • Facebook: Dissemination of video(s); Dissemination of word clouds or bloggable text images; Collection of responses and other conversation data; Responding to current conversation threads; Davidson page or new ReFrame page to spread conversational breadth
  • Blogosphere: ReFrame blog: white paper reactions from current conversational actors; Other Jewish Ed. Blogs: ReFrame’s POV
  • YouTube
  • Email contact database
  • Twitter
  • On-land events and meetings
  • Website
  • Jewish news publications: online and print
  • Carrier pigeons
  • Etc., etc.

Ideally, this part would be entirely at my/our discretion.  However, my concern is with regard to a point that Zach has brought up a number of times, namely that it might be difficult for us to do much of the above on behalf of the Davidson school and JTS without some kind of official permission.  It would be great to spend some time on this part, at least to get started.  I think it’ll be especially important to discuss the tools as we see them already being used. Otherwise, I think the focus of the meeting is on the editorial calendar, which as I’ve said, has some crossover with our “Tools” discussion.

We never got to the “Tools” discussion in this meeting.  We spoke about them later, but suffice it to say that we had come a very long way from the initial discussions we’d had that focused almost entirely on tools and technology to be used.  We now knew much more vital things, like for whom and why the tools were to be used.

So far, POST has been helpful for ReFrame in designing a plan for our plan.  I think it was frustrating for all of us that with so little time and so many potential obstacles, we were still discussing ideas that seem so basic, but in the end, I’m convinced that POST will have helped us actually save time.  And with a clearer vision of the project, the hurdles won’t seem so daunting.

ReFrame is about avoiding the epidemic that plagues the Jewish professional world, of “anything you can do, I can do better,” where we end up redoubling our efforts and wasting precious time, energy, money, and other resources on stuff that’s not that important in the long run.  But when you do it right, there’s nothing more important than a Jewish education.  POST has helped us see that, and I personally can’t wait to see the outcomes.

 


Alan SufrinAs of a few weeks ago, Alan Sufrin is the “ReFrame” network weaver for the William Davidson Graduate School of Jewish Education at JTS, America’s largest non-denominational school of Jewish education.  As of about a decade ago, Alan Sufrin is a passionate Jewish educator andmusic producer and performer.  As of about 4 years ago, Alan Sufrin is the proud husband of Darim Online’s own Miriam Brosseau.  As of a few minutes ago, Alan Sufrin discovered how much he enjoys writing about himself in the third person.

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