Saturday, March 15, 2008

Technical decisions provoke adaptive work

From Heifetz: “…with adaptive problems [complex, not solved via some technical fix], authority must look beyond authoritative solutions. [However] authoritative action may usefully provoke debate, rethinking, and other processes of social learning, …then it becomes a tool in a strategy to mobilize adaptive work toward a solution , rather than a direct means to institute one.”

There is an earlier blog post (Feb, 2005) where I describe instituting 4 authoritative fixes at the Bronx Guild: use of learning plans, grids, conferring with students and mentor meetings. The idea at the time was not necessarily that I had the correct solution and that faithful implementation of these measures would bring success. Rather, they were provocations. There was complacency around certain practices like tracking student progress or engaging with mentors. Perhaps these measures would help. However, certainly they would spur reactions. Folks who had a difference of opinion on the matter were now motivated to push back and come up with alternates solutions. New conversations were held that were not being held before. Dialogue, problem solving, creating new knowledge, and action were provoked.

Here at ERS, the authoritative "fix" of instituting a process for curriculum guide revision is of the same nature. Simply presenting the process has surfaced all kinds of feelings amongst staff: some love it, some feel discounted, others have alternative ideas. Could not have asked for better than this. It forces us to have these conversations: how can we include you more, what role will you play in the future of the school, what other ideas do you have? These are the conversations that need to happen.

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