Posts Tagged ‘ organizational improvement ’

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?

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.

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!

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?