Posts Tagged ‘ strategic imagination ’

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.

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?

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?

Mastering Meaningful Meetings

The start of the school year also means the beginning of that age-old institution, the weekly senior staff meeting. Whether it is a cabinet level or senior directors level, since it is the beginning of a new year, one cannot help but question the need for these sessions of senior level administrative over-think. Jeff Booker, now a deputy at Gaston County Schools in North Carolina, used to caution his staff about the relationship between the money that was sitting around the table and the work being done at the meeting. Peter Bregman makes a similar point in his recent HBR blog, http://blogs.hbr.org/bregman/2013/09/four-areas-where-senior-leader.html Both Booker and Bregman speak to making these meetings more meaningful. The alternative (if there is an unbalanced ratio of money at the table vs. the gravity of the topics) is to cancel the meeting. That’s leadership!

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.

Brand building and transparency

If Seth Godin is right and the success of a brand is proportional to the smoothness of the access, then some school districts will be very popular while others…not so much. Access for millennials in particular and even digital immigrants to some extent means a quick and easy way to e-mail. Many districts conceal this information from the public. With few exceptions (Houston, San Francisco, Portland, Montgomery County MD and Baltimore County MD), it seems the larger the district, the more sophisticated the e-mail cloaking. This is similar to having an unlisted phone number, and complaining that nobody calls!

The internet has changed the way the public expects to contact you. It has also shortened the appropriate response time. If you haven’t already and the volume of your e-mails is extensive, re-organize your staff for timely response to the constant flow of external and internal e-mails. (And, by the way, the robo-reply that says “I see all of my e-mails, but I get so many that I may not respond to yours”, is not sufficient either.) Designate someone on your staff that is trustworthy and authentic to handle your digital correspondence. Delegate that responsibility in whatever manner you choose from complete authority, to trust but verify, to full review prior to release. But above all, don’t hide.

If your contact information (digital and voice) is not readily accessible to the public, you will be criticized for a lack of transparency and your “brand” will suffer as a result. If superintendents as busy as Terry Grier in Houston and Dallas Dance in Baltimore County can respond promptly to all of their e-mails, clearly you can as well.