Monday, September 3, 2012

3 Warning Signs of Ineffective School Organizations

It's Labor Day in the US, and with this significant holiday for workers is the dread fact that schools are in full swing again this week. I say "dread" because after a 2 month hiatus for summer vacation, it never fails that the thought of going into another school year can always be another challenge, as well as the relaxed summer days being over for students and faculty members.

In today's blogpost I would ask 21st Century School Leaders to consider that one of the serious challenges you face with a new school year is to be mindful of how to have a positive and effective school district. Recently, the Harvard Business Review held an interesting discussion on the subject of organizational effectiveness on their LinkedIn Blog. Many participants in the discussion mentioned the kinds of things that can contribute to ineffectiveness in the organization but the general sentiments seemed to revolve around three basic themes:

1)     Lack of clarity and purpose

2)     Distrust on management intentions and capability

3)     Micromanagement

When considering these three themes in relation to schools and other educational organizations, it becomes clear they are also the culprits in learning communities, as well. Let's take the first point, "lack of clarity and purpose". In a day and age when many schools across the country are having their agendas being dictated by political hacks school administrators are being driven by another's vision or purpose, not their own. 21st Century School Leaders need to vocalize a vision and purpose created with feedback and participation from their faculty and community members. There must be group ownership of the school's goal, and it must be clear, succinct, and reachable.

"Distrust of management intentions" is a common problem demonstrated by faculty toward their school leaders. In a blogpost I wrote earlier this summer [Creating Animosity Not Accountability, July 17, 2012], often times paranoid or ineffective teachers harbor this fear more than others.  But the reality of this concern centers around the fact that communication, consistency and fairness may be problems for some leaders. The best advice to remedy this point is to "walk the talk" of a fair, objective, and consistent leader. This will reassure the faculty, the students, and the community that you are the person they can count on to do the job, and they will feel you can be trusted.

"Micromanagement" is every school leader's biggest fear. As a superintendent of a suburban school district I was always in fear of the Board of Education micromanaging my job, my decisions, and the school. Fortunately, these were my fears, the Board I worked with never attempted to do this. But, in a real way, micromanaging is something teachers feel concerned with just as much. A solid, trusting leader hires the best people to work in the classroom, and they need to trust that these teachers will do the right job, when it needs to be done. If they don't, then it will always be the leader's responsibility to assist, evaluate, and attempt to advise, or remove them from the job.  This is not micromanagement, but allowing people to do their jobs with feedback.

Organizational ineffectiveness is a disease that can be overcome by focused, and guided work in building connection, communication, and commitment within a school organization.

Have a great, and exceptional school year.