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}