The overall purpose of each work team's kickoff meeting was for team members to begin to get to know one another.

It was an opportunity to become acquainted with the strategic planning process, and begin envisioning what the ideal future might look like for their respective lever for change. 


  • Purpose: To ground members in their reasons for participation, and to begin to share stories with one another.
  • Activity:  Members answered the following questions:
  • What brings you here?
  • What motivated you to join the work team?

Ice Breaker

  • Purpose:  To help members get to know one another’s strengths and challenges, and to begin building a team identity.
  • Activity:  Each member was given one pink and one orange post-it note. On the pink post-it, they shared one of their greatest assets or a “superpower.” On the orange post-it note, they shared what “trips you up, makes you feel stuck, and/or drains you of energy,” or their “kryptonite.”

Overview of the Process

  • Purpose:  To describe the governance structure and levers of change, providing the overall context for the strategic planning process and the team’s place within it. 
  • Activity:  Mini-lesson on the process delivered through a slide presentation.   

Visioning Exercise

  • Purpose:  To generate ideas about a desired future for the Salem Public Schools as a way of laying the groundwork for achieving their goals.
  • Activity: Members were asked to pretend they had just been asked to speak at a press conference, as though they were talking about the district’s progress ten years hence. Members were asked to reflect upon the following three questions:
  • What does success look like and feel like for our city? What are the major outcomes and results we’ve achieved?
  • What are some of the key improvements we made to achieve this success?
  • What was our role as the leaders in creating or inspiring these outcomes and change?

Creating a Team Charter


  • Purpose:  To review logistical details and establish team norms for the duration of the strategic planning process.
  • Activity:  Each team discussed the following topics:
  • Logistics
  • Meeting schedule: Work team meeting dates
  • Level of effort: Discuss and agree upon general time commitment of six 3-hour meetings with smaller group meetings in between
  • Agenda: Process for developing agendas for each meeting (In our work with Salem, it was determined that we would collaborate with the co-leads of each work team.)
  • Minutes/Notes: Determine who will take notes at each meeting (In our work with Salem, we provided note-taking support and developed detailed syntheses of each meeting.)
  • Team Norms
  •  Ground rules: Discuss and document how to work together to ensure the team’s best efforts and set expected team behaviors. In our experience over the years, we have seen groups skip this exercise; they always come to regret it.  How you have the conversation is as important what the conversation is about. If someone violates the ground rules, the group can hold that person accountable by simply pointing to the document.
  • Team decision-making: Agree how to reach decisions as a team (i.e., by majority vote, consensus, etc.)
  • Team roles: Agree on a definition and assignment of roles (i.e., facilitator, recorder, timekeeper, etc.)


The process of developing a work team charter is an essential piece of building a strong team. By discussing expectations and roles upfront, any potential for confusion is mitigated, and the work team is empowered to take ownership of the task it has been assigned.

Crafting a Learning Agenda


  • Purpose:  To generate key questions and identify key data points that will inform a research and learning agenda for future meetings.
  • Activity:  Team members were asked to “take 2-3 minutes to silently brainstorm their learning needs and to then reflect on what they wrote in small groups of 2-3. At the conclusion of the meeting, members answered the following questions:
  • Who else should we involve in this process?
  • What do we commit to do between now and the next meeting to move this work forward?
  • How did we feel about this meeting and what might be improved for next time?