In Part 1 of this post we took five quotes from the first half of Good to Great by Jim Collins and examined how they can relate to education. For this post, Part 2, we are doing the same with five quotes from the second half of the book.
“Leading from good to great does not mean coming up with the answers and then motivating everyone to follow your messianic vision. It means having the humility to grasp the fact that you do not yet understand enough to have the answers and then to ask the questions that will lead to the best possible insights.”
Any type of administrative or faculty meeting is an opportunity to effectively collaborate through the same techniques that we’d want to see used by teachers in the classroom. Leaders should ask questions that promote collaboration and inquiry (much like essential or guiding questions), which ultimately produce better results than if someone steps into the room with a predetermined solution and just gives everyone orders as to what to do. If you’re a “leader,” and you constantly approach meetings as if your primary goal is to get your way, you’re doing it wrong. To quote Peter DeWitt, “If we believe that faculty meetings should be a one-sided venue for principals to talk at teachers, then we must also believe the classroom should be a one-sided venue for teachers to talk at students.”
“The key, then, lies not in better information, but in turning information into information that cannot be ignored.”
When it comes to information that cannot be ignored, I think of common formative assessments (CFAs), which Doug Reeve’s refers to as the “gold standard” in educational accountability. In Learning by Doing, Richard Dufour, Rebecca Dufour, Robert Eaker, and Thomas Many explain, “Common assessments represent a powerful strategy for determining whether the guaranteed curriculum is being taught and, more importantly, learned” (p. 79). While we might be able to come up with excuse after excuse as to why certain data is invalid, as a classroom teacher it would be almost impossible to not want to take action if my students were collectively scoring lower than another class on a CFA. While an overwhelming amount of information (in companies, schools, and districts) might make us feel “data rich, information poor,” it is important to search our results for the numbers that are truly indicative of where we are and can therefore guide us in making the right decisions to get to where we need to be.
“Adhere with great consistency to the Hedgehog Concept, exercising an almost religious focus on the intersection of the three circles. Equally important, create a ‘stop doing list’ and systematically unplug anything extraneous.”
Concerning professional development, districts should not always be so quick to jump at the next big thing. Furthermore, a less is more approach needs to be taken, one in which the instruction of complex shifts and topics are not simply “covered” in only one or two sessions. In Transforming Professional Development into Student Results, Doug Reeves quotes Linda Darling-Hammond and Nikole Richardson, “The largest effects [of professional development on student learning] were found for programs offering between 30 and 100 hours spread out over 6-12 months” (p. 67). I have found that mile-wide, inch deep professional development can be counterproductive as participants often revert back to their “old ways” due to frustration and lack of administrative support.
“Nucor [a steel company] responded by organizing a series of forums to address the point that your status and authority in Nucor come from your leadership capabilities, not your position.”
According to Ed Catmull in Creativity, Inc., “When it comes to creative inspiration, job titles and hierarchy are meaningless.” In one of my articles for Edutopia I wrote about the importance of flattening the hierarchy, “One person’s idea is no better than another’s simply because he or she has a ‘higher-up’ job title, and certain responsibilities should not belong entirely to specific workers just because they happen to be in a department that has traditionally taken care of such tasks.” Also, Eric Sheninger (former High School Principal) recently wrote an inspiring blog post, “A Title Doesn’t Make You a Leader.”
“When used right, technology becomes an accelerator of momentum, not a creator of it. The good-to-great companies never began their transitions with pioneering technology, for the simple reason that you cannot make good use of technology until you know which technologies are relevant.”
According to Michael Fullan’s thoughts on transformational change, “Pedagogy is the driver, technology is the accelerator.” Also, as I often say, “You can be traditional with the latest technology, or you can be innovative with nothing at all.” Effective pedagogy must absolutely come first, as no amount of technology can mask ineffective teaching. In accordance with the SAMR Model, technology should be blended with solid instruction in order to redefine the learning experiences for all those involved. Furthermore, companies, schools, and districts must selectively utilize technologies that fit within the context of their vision, and not just use technology for the sake of technology.
How can you connect any of these quotes to education? How have you been inspired by a specific business book?
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