Wednesday, October 22, 2008

If you say three things, you don't say anything

Post inspired by Made to Stick by Chip and Dan Heath
Chapter 2: Simple

No plan survives contact with the enemy” Colonel Tom Kolditz.

I spent hours planning last week's licensure meeting. I wanted the group to generate performance-based assessments (PBAs) that might measure achievement of our power standard. Prior to the meeting, I collected a list of learning targets off course proposals and previous exercises. I scoured texts on PBAs to find examples. I created a 12-page handout with examples from New York State Performance Consortium, Eagle Rock course proposals and a couple of books. I designed a mini-lesson intended to get people focused on developing PBAs and using the learning target list to inform their judgment. I then put the class into three groups of three to brainstorm.

Two interesting things happened. First, two groups each came back with only one PBA suggestion despite it being a brainstorming session. Second, the feedback about the process consistently urged me to simplify: don't provide learning targets, reduce the 12 page handout to a single page, say less during the mini lesson.

I believe critiques are correct given the consensus of a group of intelligent people. However, at my core, I don't get it. Why is it better to scale everything back so that folks are working with the least amount of information. I hear that folks don't want to engage in the material at some deeper level. Throughout my career I hungered for understanding the fundamentals. What was the literature or research on this topic? Why do some suggest we do things this way? What is the larger process or bigger picture here? If a staff development meeting only had me run through an activity I felt like a technician rather than a thinker. My presence was not that important. I need my mind to be engaged.

But, I admit I find more evidence that I overcomplicate things and others prefer to hear things in a simpler version. I also understand there's a flaw in imposing my view of myself as a learner on others.

I must become more disciplined about simplifying my message.

From the Heath book:
“...plans are useful, in [that] they are proof that planning has taken place...[which] forces people to think through the right issues. But the plans themselves don't work on the battlefield.”

Commanders Intent: crisp, plain-talk statement specifying the plan's goal, the desired end-state of an operation.

“If you say three things, you don't say anything.”

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

When to take action

I laugh when folks say, "We should have done this a long time ago," and then that insight somehow justifies not taking action now.

"The best time to plant a tree...was twenty years ago. The second best time, is today."

Chinese saying

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Creating a Sense of Urgency

As I work on pushing forward on our curriculum revision project, I ran across these words by John Kotter in Leading Change:
"...transformations usually go nowhere because few people are even interested in working on the change problem. No matter how hard we push...if others don't feel the same sense of urgency, the momentum for change will probably die short of the finish line. People will find a thousand ingenious ways to withhold cooperation from a process that they sincerely think is unnecessary..."

We have a great staff, great culture, but I still worry that we haven't laid the groundwork for establishing a sense of urgency. I need to draft some of my own thoughts about why this could be so useful to the staff, the school and the students.