Archive for the ‘ Problem Solving ’ Category

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.

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.

Teaching Failure

How many times have you heard fail fast and fail often to achieve success? Jason Seiken in his HBR blog talks about how he made it more than a slogan at his organization.

He writes, “Business-school literature has long stressed the importance of taking risks and encouraging rapid failure. In the real world of quarterly numbers, though, embracing failure mostly remains a throwaway line in CEO speeches.

At PBS Digital, we went beyond corporate lip service and demanded failure from each and every employee.”

Check it out…http://blogs.hbr.org/2013/09/how-i-got-my-team-to-fail-more/

I firmly believe that growth comes from failure, not success. I know “teaching failure” sounds like an oxymoron, but research shows that students who believe that failure is a temporary condition and are resilient are far more likely to be ultimately successful. Are you providing a safe space to fail in your classroom, in your school, in your district?

Have you made your quota of failures this week?

Education, Innovation, and Leadership

From Julia Kirby’s Harvard Business Review blog August 26 on Steve Balmer’s exit from Microsoft …”So the big lesson other CEOs should take away from this public trial is a cautionary one: this is how you, too, will be judged. We have known for a long time that innovation is the name of the game now. Peter Drucker made the point in HBR’s pages 18 years ago, writing that ‘Core competencies are different for every organization …. But every organization needs one core competence: innovation.'” Read the full article here  http://blogs.hbr.org/hbr/hbreditors/2013/08/steve_ballmers_big_lesson_innovation.html

Educational organizations should no longer be content to sing with the chorus. It’s time to solo. We must innovate both with our business model and with our program delivery.

First Day of School: Planning 101

With the start of school everyone is looking at the demographic planner for enrollment information. A little advice for school leaders before you get to the podium:

  • Use a year-over-year comparison to get a sense of the volatility of the numbers. If your  planner didn’t hit projections at School A until day 10 last year, don’t expect to hit them until day 10 this year.
  • There is a lot of noise in the first day of school enrollment numbers. If the roles from the previous year have not been purged, the numbers will be high. If you just report the actuals, your numbers will be low on the first day. For this reason many states use the 20th day of instruction as the official enrollment, some wait even longer.
  • Enrollment also vary by demographics and grade level. Elementaries will equalize within the first week, middle schools a little later, and high schools may take up to a month to really settle. The enrollment at higher poverty schools will be more variable and more students will enroll during the first week of school.
  • Your planner should be able to guide you regarding the schools that will have big swings in the numbers. Attendance boundary adjustments, a new housing development or a new charter school in the attendance area are just a few of the reasons for volatility in a school’s enrollment numbers.
  • Make sure you know what you are reporting – total enrollment, average daily attendance, or another variation of attendance figures.
  • Always have your planner compare your school by school numbers with each school’s rated capacity (and know how that capacity is calculated). Often rated capacities are an “ideal” condition and schools that exceed that capacity by a small amount can operate that way until a solution is found.
  • The big concerns should be those schools that have exceeded their projections by the staffing ratio and are above classroom capacity. Work with your principals to reach an accommodation – team teaching in one of the larger classrooms, use of a smaller room (office and/or conference room) for a self-contained class that has just a few students, float an elective class, using the library/media center for pull-out classes, etc. Your school leaders should know their buildings and what may or may not be possible. Because of the logistics involved, moving a temporary classroom into place on short notice is usually not a timely answer.
  • A less than two percent variation between total enrollment projection and actual total enrollment is acceptable.
  • Concentrate on figuring out why some schools where you had to adjust the staffing were high or low. Ask your planner for an after-action report after the dust settles. You will want to concentrate on those schools in which the projected enrollment was one staffing ratio above or below the actuals. The goal would be to not repeat that scenario at that school next year.
  • Accurate projections are one of the tools of leadership. If you can’t trust the numbers, change the way they are developed.