Archive for the ‘ Leadership ’ Category

Stress-test Strategy

Always stress-test your strategy. Solid advice from Robert Simons in Harvard Business Review.

http://hbr.org/2010/11/stress-test-your-strategy-the-7-questions-to-ask/ar/pr

I especially love this one…

The debate must be about what is right, not who is right. People should check titles and office politics at the door. You should encourage everyone to take risks, state unpopular opinions, and challenge the status quo.

A tactic is only good as long as it accomplishes what it is supposed to do. Measure the outcomes. If the tactic is wrong, then have the guts to admit it and pivot to create a better one. Nothing worse than riding a bad tactic just to save face.

See You in the Funny Papers

For those of you that don’t get to read the Harvard Business Review, but do read the comics every day, here’s one for you – Daniel McGinn’s interview with Scott Adams, the Dilbert creator.

http://hbr.org/2013/11/scott-adams/ar/pr

It was often the Dilbert post (I subscribed on-line) that got my morning started. It was uncanny…often like he was sitting in my office, listening to my phone conversations or taking notes in my meetings! No, I don’t have pointy hair, but I did work with Alice, The Fist of Death.

And here’s another from Meghan Ennes for those of you that like pictures and words. http://blogs.hbr.org/2013/10/how-dilbert-practically-wrote-itself/

The last time a comics creator got this much publicity, he cancelled on me (Gary Trudeau). Don’t do it, Scott! There’s way too much good material still out there.

The Trouble with Education (Part Two)

If we learned anything from Malcolm Gladwell’s research about hockey players, it should be that grouping children by age puts younger students in the same age group at a significant disadvantage. Parents understand this. Given the choice between putting their child in kindergarten at the earliest possible opportunity, or waiting until the next year, most (given the choice) “hold back” their child’s entry into kindergarten. Why? So that he or she has the advantage of another year of mental and physical development and a better chance of success (at or above grade level) when compared to their “peers”.

Date of manufacture has nothing to do with a student’s intelligence and anyway, lifelong learners don’t have an expiration date.

So why do we continue to move our students through the educational assembly line grouped by age (grade level)? We even celebrate our ability to get students through high school “on time” by reporting a four-year graduation cohort as the graduation rate. But is that really cause for celebration?

Students that are unable to learn as fast as their same-age peers are not less intelligent.  Tossing them on the academic scrap heap in a comparison sort of their grade level, simply because it takes them longer to learn than others of the same age, is a waste of talent.  All 21st century students must learn what we teach. We no longer have the luxury of leaving some of them behind. We don’t have to time and date stamp their acquisition of that knowledge either.

Is combining all students of a certain age into a grade level really the best we can do?

And another thing…

(Stay tuned for Part Three.)

Good Communication (sample)

Every superintendent has a opening-of-school communication and then the follow-up. This portion of a follow-up letter from Dr. Carolyn M. Kossack, Superintendent of Little Silver, is particularly noteworthy. She explains with transparency (and a little bit of humor) why parents weren’t permitted in the schools during the first days of school this year.

We continually re-evaluate safety and security procedures for the district in order to keep your students
safe. Therefore, this year and moving forward, we opted not to open the doors for parents to escort their
children to their classrooms, which has historically resulted in hundreds of adults roaming through the
hallways. Respectfully, this was our best opening ever in terms of students transitioning to their new
routine. This year we did not have any crying students (only tearful parents).

I can see it, can’t you? Dr. Kossack nailed it!

Clarity of Purpose

It is often very easy to assume that in educational organizations, everyone knows what the target is. Not so in my experience. Victor Lipman in his piece in Forbes says very clearly that  without clarity, management doesn’t work.

http://www.forbes.com/sites/victorlipman/2013/10/01/without-this-quality-management-doesnt-work/?goback=%2Egde_718907_member_5792793493000695811#%21

Do not assume that everyone is headed in the same direction. Make sure everyone on the team knows what is important and how you intend to get there.

Candor in Communication

Laura Rittenhouse left Lehman Brothers in 1997 and began analyzing the candor of CEO communications.  As Sally Helgesen says in Strategy + Business there is no substitute for candor.

http://www.strategy-business.com/blog/Laura-Rittenhouses-Candor-Analytics?gko=d416c&cid=20131003aagC&utm_campaign=20131003aagC

Smoke and mirrors in the form of academic jargon and/or obfuscation has its price. If there were a Rittenhouse Ranking for organizations like yours, where would you rank?

Strategic Planning 101

From 12 ways to improve your leadership to 3 ways to a healthy lifestyle I think most advice from bloggers is too simplistic and often just plain wrong. The latest from Ron Ashkenas and Logan Chandler is the exception. These four tips for a better strategic plan are right on target. http://blogs.hbr.org/2013/10/four-tips-for-better-strategic-planning/

  • Test the assumptions.
  • Banish fuzzy language.
  • Escape from template tyranny.
  • Ask provocative questions.

A bad plan is worse than no plan at all.

Great Places to Work?

The Great Places to Work Foundation just published this year’s list of the 50 small and medium-sized organization that are great places to work.

http://www.greatplacetowork.com/publications-and-events/press/2281-great-place-to-workr-announces-2013-best-small-a-medium-workplaces-list?goback=%2Egde_1733557_member_275044989#%21

See any school districts on this list? This is a missed opportunity for smaller school districts. To my knowledge no school district has ever been on the list. This is a goal worth pursuing. Anyone want to step up?

Orchestration

Ron Ashkenas in his latest blog post to HBR makes an interesting observation about leaders and making decisions. There is no doubt that making decisions is part of being in charge, but we often neglect the other part – orchestrating decisions.

And while it may seem easier to just make the decisions yourself, in many cases this won’t lead to the best outcome — nor will it increase your team’s capability to make future decisions. The alternative, however, is not to shy away from decisions, but rather to create an orchestrated process by which the right people are engaged, including yourself.

http://blogs.hbr.org/2013/08/dont-make-decisions-orchestrat/

Understanding and achieving that balance between making and orchestrating is what makes our team.successful  And isn’t that what leadership is all about?

Education in Search of Relevance

My ancestors worked with their hands. They loved making things. For better or worse, I have inherited that gene. I have been a draftsman, a farmer, a carpenter and one day perhaps even a potter again.

My grandfather, Henry, worked at the Crane and Breed Company in Cincinnati, Ohio as a wood carver. This is the kind of work he used to do – hearses and caskets.

Image

After he retired, I remember him working daily at his tool bench in the basement making or improving one household item or another until he was satisfied. I often wonder what he would be improving, if he were still alive. I suspect he would be using an i-pad and a 3-D printer to do it.

The maker culture has finally made its way into education. Project-based learning is a logical gateway to transform the modern classroom into a makerspace. Stephanie West-Puckett in her blog on Edutopia provides a thorough explanation of how and why this should occur. read her post at http://www.edutopia.org/blog/classroom-makerspaces-transformative-learning-stephanie-west-puckett

Like you, students need to find nurturing places in real life and on the web to geek out with others who share their passion. They’ll thrive in spaces that perpetually rekindle their desire to make meaningful contributions toward personally relevant issues, ideas, people and interests.

Education in search of relevance to students. Now there’s a radical idea!