Friday, December 28, 2007

John Kotter steps to change

I don't remember the source of this cut and paste. I attended a workshop on this and probably clipped the following from Kotter's site. I think it has some parallel to my draft of steps for change posted earlier.

John Kotter's highly regarded books 'Leading Change' (1995) and the follow-up 'The Heart Of Change' (2002) describe a helpful model for understanding and managing change. Each stage acknowledges a key principle identified by Kotter relating to people's response and approach to change, in which people see, feel and then change (see a more detailed interpretation of the personal change process in John Fisher's model of the process of personal change): Kotter's eight step change model can be summarised as:

  1. Increase urgency - inspire people to move, make objectives real and relevant.
  2. Build the guiding team - get the right people in place with the right emotional commitment, and the right mix of skills and levels.
  3. Get the vision right - get the team to establish a simple vision and strategy, focus on emotional and creative aspects necessary to drive service and efficiency.
  4. Communicate for buy-in - Involve as many people as possible, communicate the essentials, simply, and to appeal and respond to people's needs. De-clutter communications - make technology work for you rather than against.
  5. Empower action - Remove obstacles, enable constructive feedback and lots of support from leaders - reward and recognise progress and achievements.
  6. Create short-term wins - Set aims that are easy to achieve - in bite-size chunks. Manageable numbers of initiatives. Finish current stages before starting new ones.
  7. Don't let up - Foster and encourage determination and persistence - ongoing change - encourage ongoing progress reporting - highlight achieved and future milestones.
  8. Make change stick - Reinforce the value of successful change via recruitment, promotion, new change leaders. Weave change into culture.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Growth Mindset

JG just sent the following to all staff:

More than three decades of scientific research suggests that repeatedly telling children (and teens) that they are especially smart or talented leaves them vulnerable to failure, and fearful of challenges.

Children raised this way develop an implicit belief that intelligence is innate and fixed, making striving to learn seem less important than seeming smart; challenges, mistakes, and effort become threats to their ego rather than opportunities to improve.

However, teaching children to have a "growth mind-set," which encourages effort rather than on intelligence or talent, helps make them into high achievers in school and in life. This results in "mastery-oriented" children who tend to think that intelligence is malleable and can be developed through education and hard work.

This can be done by telling stories about achievements that result from hard work. Talking about math geniuses who were born that way puts students in a fixed mind-set, but descriptions of great mathematicians who developed amazing skills over time creates a growth mind-set.

Sources: Scientific American Growth Mindset Article

I'm sharing it here to remind myself that we committed to doing some work with Strengths Based Approach and I feel it falls by the wayside. The growth mindset work is consistent with that work, but somehow we've never figured out how to translate "a commitment to SBA" to "our work with the staff."

Monday, December 24, 2007

Action Needed

A little knowledge that acts is worth infinitely more than much knowledge that is idle. - Kahlil Gibran

"Talking does not cook rice." - Chinese Proverb

Friday, December 21, 2007

Recommendations based on critique

Now that I laid out my critique, I want to list recommendations that follow from the critique:

Overall: Build a stronger infrastructure of processes and structures that take the burden off having to make as many personal, emotional and ad hoc decisions.


1.Commit to long term strategic thinking and follow the plan (i.e., Good to Great – but doesn't have to be that). Commitment to strategy and discussion should be a weekly event.

2.Identify schoolwide problems and make those issues the heart of leadership team meetings. Use the collective talent to dialogue, argue and problem solve.

3.Adopt the process of running big decisions by the rest of the leadership team (i.e, dismissal of students, approaches to clean up in houses, launching the New Orleans trip, etc.). Final authority remains with one person in the most appropriate department and all remains the final call of head of school should he choose to exercise that call. But, from now on decision makers get to hear the perspectives of others before proceeding.

4.Commit to open and frank conversation about topics and issues. Do not say what we really feel after the meeting is over and some folks have left. Call each other on adhering to this practice.

5.Develop and adhere to agendas for leadership team meetings rather than showing up and reporting out. Maintain and distribute minutes.


6.Once a strategy is adopted (see #1 above), run future decisions through the strategy filter. Should we follow through with Akosha Fdn and New Schools for New Leaders, how do we roll out “Everybody Writes Every Day?” etc. Again, not bound by the strategy but bound by running it through the filter with all leadership team members.


7.Adopt standard processes for the following
Decision making within leadership team, decision making with staff involvement.
Making proposals and getting feedback / responses
Conducting whole school conversations (i.e., community meeting)
Student behavior / culture system
Reactive: i.e., restorative justice, fairness committee
Group Counseling
Leadership Development
Character Development
Structures in light of students' poor decision making (i.e, night duty, strong circles, etc.)
Staff supervision
Crisis management
...and more


8.Every initiative / event must have a leadership team “sponsor.” Someone responsible for supervising the success of the initiative or event (i.e., House Focus, Community meetings, etc.)

9.Once agreed upon a process to supervising staff and holding accountable, we must diligently follow through.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

The Emperor Has No Clothes

Rough draft of a critique of our organization

Our school not only loses students and fails to graduate students at an alarmingly poor rate, but over the past seven years we are accelerating our rate of loss. This place looks nice to the outsider and we enjoy a great reputation.

Two metaphors come to mind:
1. The fairy tale of the emperor strutting about and none of the witnesses are willing to tell the truth. The emperor has no clothes.

2. The white city of the great Chicago World's Fair. Shiny and pretty on the surface, gleaming and unparalleled in its grandeur. But, none of the 200 buildings were built to stand. All temporary, no infrastructure, all plaster, no stone. Within a year, the buildings were gone.

What's the nature of our infrastructure?

Leadership of the school is siloed and characterized by cover up (see Chris Argyris for comprehensive descriptions of the nature of "cover up" in organizations)

Leadership team occasionally but rarely engages collectively on school issues. A typical meeting characterizes the way leadership works on issues. We report out as departments – mostly announcements. Rarely does anyone ask his colleagues for insight, expertise and perspective on a problem he is dealing with. When someone does ask for input it invariably ends with head of school saying, okay that's enough of that. So and so (whichever department raised it) will take care of it (and implies we don't need to know anymore).

Members of leadership team occasionally don't agree with each other. Sometimes a member makes his disagreement known usually in an extremely polite way. However, there are many examples where members hold their tongue for various reasons (and usually express it inappropriately after the meeting to others). Those times included when it appears that someone is settled in his idea and will be resistant to feedback, when communication becomes too difficult because someone else doesn't seem to understand, when the issue seems small enough that it's not worth the trouble to pursue understanding, when someone seems defensive. Often someone wants to raise a question but the speaker doesn't request feedback. Too many times we don't speak frankly and honestly with each other.

We spend most of our time in reactive mode. There's little collective commitment to long term strategic thinking. Folks attention are generally on the latest crisis or commitment and strategy is seen as a luxury, not a priority. “pay now or pay later, meineke”

Strategy is nonexistent

We do not sustain sufficient attention at the leadership level on long term strategy. We allow opportunistic, ad hoc thinking to dominate and distract: one week notice about international visitors, major travel and service project without consultation, slogans and announcements of new initiatives at the beginning of the semester with no follow through...etc.

We execute ill advised short term fixes that are not embedded in any strategic thinking: A staff member running the truth and reconciliation group, flooding the school with too many students, etc.

Agreed upon processes are virtually non-existent

We have no standard processes to depend upon to resolve conflicts, make decisions, solve problems or drive our culture. Community meetings are based on loudest voices. There's no consistent level of responsibility for the quality or execution of meetings. No coherent process for student behavior issues, for disciplining staff, sticking to an initiative,

Whatever processes we do have in place are poorly managed

Different staff from time to time undermine directives and processes: Staff member dropping peer council, instructor not having a writing program, weak oversight on house focus.

Hunches, intuition and gut moves dominate: sending some students home, inconsistent decisions with students.

At the rate we're going we will have a 10% graduation rate over the next 7 years. Falling to less than half of what it was the first 7 years. If our funders were really paying attention to the data and understood expected results in high schools around the country, they would not tolerate the return on investment.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Latest draft for moving on any initiative

This is my latest thinking of the sequence of steps needed to move on any initiative. I'm sure it will undergo revisions in the future:

Here's my latest version:

Procedure for launching any initiative

1. Establish unequivocal leadership. Establish strong leadership where the buck stops -- someone ensures it is executed and who protects the initiative in its infancy. Someone stands up and says, this is my initiative. I am responsible and I will take action to ensure execution and protect this initiative.

2. Establish the working team. It's more important that these be the “right people” instead of some democratic ideal of seeking representation. The latter is only necessary to the point that representation will ensure execution. The right people means “mission appropriate,” loyal to the organization, doers.
A team of interested staff and students - small, workable, interested team with energy for this sort of thing / You pull together a committed group to work on this issue and meet as frequently as necessary.

Alert: I think this group needs to determine what process it will use to resolve conflicts, make decisions and solve problems. The problem is that either or both (1) folks just want to get to work and trust they'll work through things so this stage is perceived as a waste of time and/or (2) folks don't want to preemptively commit themselves to a process “in theory.” The time may come when they feel so strongly about a decision that they don't care what the process generates. I don't think it matters what the process is as long as there is a rational, agreed upon process. Doesn't matter if it's voting, consensus, using matrices, etc.

3. Invite controlled community involvement. Following meetings; share proposals and invite feedback via email. Hearing proposals at a staff meeting for the first time (as we did with the chore proposals) does not provide sufficient time to process the issues. Also, frequent communication reduces the possibility that you are doing something in conflict with another group {Again, the chore proposal had an action that directly conflicted with the house focus proposal regarding house clean}.

4. Focus on the smallest unit possible that will still be a contribution. Start small with your proposals. Start with one table in the lodge that is a no cursing table (that's an could probably start with meal time and kitchen work as the small unit to begin with). Have success with that before expanding the work. / a clear but small scope of behavior to take on at first and a singleminded focus to only deal within this scope until it has traction in this community

5. Overdetermine success by looking at every aspect of needed support. a system for supporting the success of this initiative: incentives/disincentives, peer support, assistance, removal of barriers, training, etc. / Once you have settled on a proposal; think of all the ways you would have to follow through to ensure that expectations are met. I have a model (6 cell model of human behavior) that I use to try to cover all angles on follow through. / Figure out how you will
(a) follow up with new events - celebrations, recognitions...some plan to keep it in the community's consciousness
(b) strategically build out the approach (expand from the smallest unit or expand in terms of overdetermining success)

Alert: How to address issues of execution? How to talk about it while implementing? Can the team actually carry out the play? Possibility: Need to do step 5 (overdetermine success) with the working core team itself.

6. Have a mechanism for review. a feedback mechanism for reflection and improvement

Keep doing steps 3 through 6.

Principles to follow:
1. Any action that is to be taken needs to be written out and explained in actionable language.

i.e., No foul language used in the kitchen (we have students working in the kitchen) NOT Everyone shows each other respect during KP {that's not actionable}

2. Any action for which someone must take responsibility must have a name and time attached to it.

i.e., Mike will explain the foul language rule to every student over weeks 1 and 2 NOT We'll make sure we tell the students not to use foul language {who will do it, when? Likely will fall through the cracks}

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

6 months later - still about assets

In the six months since we came up with a PDC Hedgehog of Assets Based Community Development (ABCD), I have only experienced more and more convergence towards this idea. This year we're looking at the Strengths Based Movement popularized by Marcus Buckingham. Jenifer Fox has written a book on applying strengths in a school setting and she referred me to the Taos Institute. She wants us all to work together on launching an international Strengths Based Conference.

Solution-Focused Counseling has been part of our counseling training. And, I've been looking into literature on Assets Based Thinking (ABT).

This is what I want the PDC to be known for. I would like to develop some term that encompasses ABT, ABCD, Strengths Movement, positive deviance, solution-focused counseling and appreciative inquiry. I want to put it together into some package we offer.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Hedgehog Implications

Does an ABCD Hedgehog mean we are going to spread our findings and produce resources – look at Northwestern ABCD Institute.

Mission of Assets Based Community Development Institute at Northwestern:

"Spread our findings on capacity-building community development in two ways: (1) through extensive and substantial interactions with community builders, and (2) by producing practical resources and tools for community builders to identify, nurture, and mobilize neighborhood assets."

I framed my work with Skyview through an ABCD lens. My strength was to script classes and then organize my notes in terms of what they wanted to work on: how to teach inquiry in an extended block of time (about 90 min). From my script I would find those elements of the block instruction that were strong. Everyone of my reports ends with Assets: What we can learn from this teacher. Over time, I will have observed every teacher and we will have mapped assets in terms of instruction. Then we would design PD -- probably a protocol -- based on the strengths analysis that would support their tapping into their local
knowledge and talent.

Sometimes Skyview and others have a need and ask us for direct answers on how to solve the problem. For example, they ask how to do POLs. With an ABCD lens, I'm less inclined to provide an answer "as expert" to address a deficit. Margrette did suggest ways we could still help with POLs from an assets based approach.


Friday, May 04, 2007

Themes Emerging for a Hedgehog

These are some themes that folks are noticing as we use ABCD or ABT (assets based thinking). These come from different conversations.

General focus on positiveness
Focus on specific assets people hold within the community.
ABCD seems to be about leveraging the specific assets within the community.
Generally interpreting it as a strengths based approach.

I wondered how an assets based approach can exist while we still address poor performance. My latest thinking is this: Yes, I acknowledge your strengths and I’ll help you leverage those strengths to meet all your performance expectations. But, there are no excuses to not meet performance expectations.


Sunday, April 22, 2007

Using PB Wiki for our Values Discussion

I created a wiki that has a separate page for each value, theme and commitment at our school.

You can create your own wiki at

Friday, April 13, 2007

Hedgehog Concept: Reflection with Council

Hedgehog Council:

I cc'd or bcc'd you on the results of my meeting with Skyview because
it reflects my understanding of how our work might proceed with others
if we took an exclusive ABCD view.

I think if Eldon had asked that we come down and teach their teachers
how to do POLs, for example, I would have said no.

I said we could conduct observations of what they do and try to
capture the strengths and high points relative to their goal (block
instruction). Then we would develop some asset map: where can they
find the strengths within their own community.

Then we would design PD -- probably a protocol -- based on the
strengths analysis that would support their tapping into their local
knowledge and talent.


I'm wondering if this makes sense to you. I'm also wondering if you
have had any insights regarding using ABCD as our hedgehog concept?

Skyview Work Plan: Applying the Hedgehog

Summary of our discussion today:

Skyview has identified "effective use of block instruction" as one of
your primary goals for next school year. Using an assets based
approach, Eagle Rock will spend 2 to 3 days at Skyview between now and
May 18th conducting observations and producing a strengths analysis.
With Skyview, we will codesign a PD session that is built upon the
strength analysis to be held on May 29th or May 30th. We will
schedule a follow up session to reflect upon the strengths analysis
and the PD session to plan for next steps for the 2007 school year.

You will confirm whether Apr. 24, May 4 and May 8 will work for
conducting the observations. We will try to coordinate the work with
Annie from PEBC.

You also mentioned wanting to visit Eagle Rock School over the summer
vacation. You can coordinate with Dan regarding whether or not there
are dates open for visits.

PDC Council creating a Hedgehog Concept

Our hedgehog was "We are the best at applying the lens of ABCD at Eagle Rock School." We agreed we would use this concept to reflect on our major activities until the end of Week 3 next trimester. We would consider what activities we might have eliminated, continued and new activities to begin but we were not obligated to take these actions....just journal and reflect. We are also paying attention to what it's like to live according to a hedgehog concept. What are the difficulties? the opportunities?

As I went through the day after our meeting, I journaled about 12 separate tasks I was involved in. I am finding myself asking the following question:

Are we focusing on how we can demonstrate to the world that we use an assets-based approach OR are we focusing on how we do use an assets-based approach for our own experience? OR both OR is it an overlap?

For example, one task was to meet with Margrette and carve out days for when I will do the FLS during ER42.

(1) If it's about me using ABCD, then I can say I like planning ahead...this is a strength...I like planning with Margrette....check...I'm using my assets.

(2) If it's what the PDC can be best at, then I can say I am scheduling FLSs so I can get to work on developing an ABCD influenced set of workshop for the fellows because this is what the PDC is best at.

Do you think my focus should be more 1 or 2? A mix? Something else entirely? How would you have reflected on this activity through an ABCD lens?

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Good to Great

Now in a new leadership position as Director of Professional Development at Eagle Rock School and Professional Development Center.

We have all read Good to Great by Jim Collins and we are committed to working through the framework.

I think I'll use the blog again to discuss leadership development issues. Different situation, similar questions.