Archive for the ‘ Leadership ’ Category

Maeda Exits

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John Maeda announced on Wednesday that he will be leaving his post as president of Rhode Island School of Design. RISD is one of a handful of premier post-secondary institutions. His interview by Shauncey Ferro in Fast Company is here. http://www.fastcodesign.com/3023047/why-john-maeda-is-leaving-risd-for-a-venture-capital-firm?partner=newsletter

Although the fact that he is leaving to join a venture capital firm is surprising, it is this comment that I found most thought provoking:

RISD’s in great shape. At the [MIT] Media Lab, one of my mentors was a man named Stephen Benton. He once told me, “John, the role of someone in a job is to make the job more attractive for the next person.” I’ll never forget what he said to me. In that spirit, I have worked to make this job a better job for the next person.

How many of us can say we have done this? How many teachers, principals, superintendents that leave for a promotion, or another career, or another challenge have worked to make their current job better or easier for the next person?

What’s Your Story?

Turnover in the education business is a fact of life. I have been told there are 200 new superintendents in the state of Texas alone every year. In the United States it is unusual to find a superintendent who has been in a district longer than five years. It is even more unusual as the size of the district increases.

We work in education because we want to make a difference in this world. For a superintendent, regardless of your years of tenure, leadership is about making your district better than how you found it. One simple way to do that is to help your district to write their story. Ty Montague talks about writing a company’s narrative when a leader departs. http://blogs.hbr.org/2013/08/if-your-leader-departs-preserve-the-companys-story-first/

To ensure continuity of purpose, doesn’t it make sense for school districts as well?

Plan the Work…and Work the Plan(ner)

Mixed Media from Patricia Steele Raible

Think of the Possibilities Patricia Steele Raible

I am amazed how many organizations large and small do business without a planner. There is a reason that planes aren’t allowed to take off without a flight plan! Yes, we all joke about building it while we are flying it, but you still have to know where you are going. Of course many organizations publish their vision and mission and goal statements. Some even display them on their web sites. Still it comes down to who is measuring progress? The CEO/Superintendent cannot be expected to do it all and keep everyone on course.

If you haven’t already, designate someone to measure your organization’s progress toward your goals. And then call them a chief Planning Officer or Chief Strategy Officer or just a Planner. Send them up to the crow’s nest to see what is on the horizon. You might be surprised at what’s ahead!

Educational Moneyball

  1. Although they require a living wage, teachers unlike baseball players are not motivated by money; if they were, they wouldn’t be in education.
  2. The real measure of a high quality educational organization should be how many of their minor league teachers can they turn into major league all-stars. Hiring effective teachers that someone else has trained is cheating. Buying the Red Sox just before the World Series, doesn’t make you the world champion. 
  3. Most educational organizations put their rookies into the starting lineup from day one. Most baseball organizations carefully cultivate their minor league players make sure they are ready for the big dance.
  4. Even the best professional baseball player doesn’t win the world series every year, and the best teacher doesn’t dramatically improve their students’ test scores every year. In fact some excellent teachers don’t even teach tested subjects!
  5. You can’t predict the winner of a baseball game by knowing which team had the highest income. And yet, academic performance and a students’ family income are very closely correlated. You can even predict ACT and SAT scores based upon this.
  6. Just like in baseball, disruptive innovation in education will not come from the big money organizations.  There are thousands of highly capable general managers (public school superintendents) in this country with low-budget educational teams in small revenue markets just like the Oakland A’s. These educational leaders will be the source of innovation. Not because they are flush with cash from grants, but precisely the opposite. There were no baseball teams using sabermetrics until Billy Beane came to Oakland.
  7. Baseball is now a statistically rich game, education (though surely more important) is statistically anemic – almost all of our performance conclusions are based upon the annual results of three to five standardized tests. This too shall pass.

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.)