November 10, 2023

Strategic Planning, Performance Management, and Organizational Transformation in the Pacific Region

By Allison Layland, Paulina Yourupi-Sandy, and Lynette Villagomez
Credit: Lynette Villagomez

Happy Birthday, SPM! For the past nine years your process has helped states, territories, sovereign nations, and countries go beyond planning to develop and operationalize a strategic direction to improve performance and results.

SPM stands for Strategic Performance Management which reaches beyond a plan to integrate performance management with a strategic thinking and planning process. After all, performance management relies on a strong foundation built through strategic planning and a strategic plan is nothing without a strong performance management process. The process, based on research, has been used with Arkansas, Kansas, and Missouri Departments of Education, the Bureau of Indian Education, and the Hawai‘i State Public School Charter Commission.

Region 18 Comprehensive Center (R18CC) is facilitating the SPM process with the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands Public School System (CNMI PSS), the Guam Department of Education (GDOE), and the Chuuk Department of Education (CDOE) to set a strong direction based on organizational priorities and student data. Each Department is applying evidence-based practices to bring action to plans, monitor their work, and adjust as needed to sustain efforts to improve student learning. Each organization is at a different place on the SPM journey.


CNMI PSS’s journey began in 2019 with its first plan. Four years later their strategic direction continues to be implemented through a performance cycle that holds everyone accountable for monthly reporting on their actions and milestones. Their monthly reporting continues to be high (80% or higher), and data is being used to identify accomplishments and areas for adjustment or improvement. Staff document progress and completion of their annual milestones. For example, at the end of the 2022-2023 school year, CNMI PSS completed 79% of their 54 milestones and identified lessons learned to increase their completion rate for this school year.

“We were able to successfully transition from our student information system and fully use it last year because of the SPM. We were able to make sure that the actions that we wrote are completed.”

– CNMI PSS Goal 2 Team Member

Credit: Allison Layland

Their operating budget was aligned to their plan through collaborative work with Project Evident, an expert organization recruited and supported by R18CC. Teams reviewed student data and current programs to prioritize needs and initiatives based on impact and effort. They then examined their budget and funding sources and created a five year budget to support their priorities and plan.


Everyone throughout the organization is engaged in the work including PSS leadership, federal programs, division leads, and school leaders and efforts are sustained through cross division collaborative teams.

“SPM is so super useful! It always brings me back into focus. When I review my milestones and the actions, I’m always reminded of my important tasks and other tasks that need to happen to meet the actions.”

– CNMI Staff Member

CNMI PSS is a good example of the impact SPM can have on building and sustaining capacity of an education organization. Division leads have noted that the SPM process and dashboard have elevated collaboration and practice. There is more transparency in project planning and communication which allows staff and schools to see all aspects and decisions of a project that might affect or interest them. This has led to effective, timely problem solving and more equitable use of resources.

The Guam Department of Education (GDOE) is progressing on their SPM journey. R18CC was a critical reviewer and advisor for GDOE as they finalized their new Strategic Plan. Now R18CC is facilitating and coaching the GDOE in applying the SPM performance management process to implement, track progress, and report annually on the progress of their Strategic Plan. The GDOE CHamoru Studies & Special Projects Division is the first division using SPM to define and align their work with the GDOE Strategic Plan. They are applying performance management routines to track progress and adjust as needed. 

Credit: Lynette Villagomez

 “SPM has really allowed the CHamoru Studies Division to refocus our energy on our priorities. It has kept us more accountable in the work that we do and assists us in monitoring our progress”.

– Director Jimmy Såntos Teria, CHamoru Studies & Special Projects Division

The CHamoru Studies & Special Projects Division is now a model for bringing performance management to all work related to the GDOE Strategic Plan. R18CC continues to facilitate SPM with other divisions to ensure their strategic plan is effectively implemented, monitored, and makes an impact on student learning.

In Chuuk, the CDOE is beginning their SPM journey. R18CC reviewed key CDOE planning documents including past strategic plans, Joint Economic Management Committee (JEMCO) Education Indicators Report, and the General Integrated Plan for Grants Under Compact Sector & SEG Grant and provided feedback to inform CDOE strategic planning and performance management work. Student focused goals and strategies based on CDOE’s definition of a successful CDOE graduate have been created.

A new strategic direction has been created, performance measures identified, and budget alignment is occurring. Collaborative teams analyzed current work and impact to identify their annual milestones and actions.

“The process has an inclusive approach so everyone takes ownership of the strategic plan.”

– Kelesi Whippy, Education Adviser

R18CC continues to assist the CDOE identifying evidence-based tools to manage their plan and coaching teams in monitoring and tracking progress. The CDOE Director and seven staff members, with the support of R18CC,  attended the Fall 2023 Edunomics Certificate in Education Finance (CEF) training program. CEF is an interdisciplinary certification combining finance, economics and leadership with public policy and administration. The training helps participants build practical fluency in how management decisions, wide-ranging policies, and resource allocation intersect to impact student success across multiple contexts, including their own. Exciting work is ahead for the CDOE leadership and staff – and R18CC is thrilled to be collaborating with CDOE on their SPM journey.

Credit: Allison Layland

“The important part of the work is the holistic view that guides our plan so there are clear objectives and demarcation of roles and responsibilities that enables monitoring of activities and impact.”


– Director Margarita Cholymay, Chuuk Department of Education

Each of these organizations are well on their way to improving students outcomes through effective organization systems.

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