Stress Test Your New Initiative: Commit or Park the Idea?

by Peter Baron

The last few weeks have been a whirlwind of insight, deeply immersed in preparing to teach independent schools how to use a business case to validate new ideas.

It’s a strategy that saves resources and sharpens our focus—ensuring we commit only to what aligns with our goals and mission.

Think of it as a stress test to determine whether you commit to the project or divert it to the idea parking lot.

Last week, I had the pleasure of hosting two hands-on workshops where independent school leaders like you tested this concept.

Participants from directors to CFOs to school heads gathered to explore a particularly intriguing scenario: whether a fictional school should implement a tuition reset.

The challenge was to build a robust business case to help the school’s decision-makers arrive at an informed verdict.

Each working group crafted a comprehensive business case and used the framework to develop recommendations that may have evolved significantly from their initial ideas, showcasing the power of thorough analysis in shaping strategic decisions.

This exercise reaffirmed my belief in the transformative power of a well-constructed business case.

So today, I want to share three simple reasons why every school—or indeed any organization—should use a business case as a stress test for validating new ideas:

  1. Clarity of Purpose: A business case forces you to step back and articulate the ‘why’ behind your idea and its mission alignment. It demands a clear understanding of the objectives and the expected impact.
  2. Risk Assessment: Developing a business case lets you identify potential risks and barriers upfront. This preemptive approach prepares you for possible challenges and helps devise strategies to mitigate them effectively.
  3. Resource Allocation: By laying out the required resources, timelines, and expected outcomes, a business case helps make informed decisions about where to allocate your limited resources for maximum impact.

As we continue to leverage business cases for strategic decision-making, a question arises: is the term “business case” the most fitting label for this exercise?

Some might hesitate to adopt this tool simply because the term “business” might seem too corporate or out of context in an independent school setting.

What are your thoughts?

Could a different name encourage broader adoption of this valuable practice?

I’m eager to hear your opinions and experiences—please hit reply, and let’s continue this conversation.

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