Reflection, Reminder: On the Importance of Value

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Reflection, Reminder: On the Importance of Value

I have a few minutes this morning before I go over to the Pomfret School for the day, and am taking time to reflect back on my four weeks of visits.  I was impressed last week by Mark Davis at St. Luke’s, who, along with his board chair, went back, dug through the mounds of input from a strategic planning process, and found the nugget of leadership there.  I am similarly sorting through mounds of input during this trip, and I want to remind all of us of something that keeps popping up, but is seemingly also buried by our current work and pace.

Most of our schools are guided by strategy.  This is not bad; it is much better than being driven by whim, tradition, myth, or the loudest voice at the Board table.  I love strategy; I have taught, written about, led, and practiced it for decades.  Over the last perhaps half-century, most independent schools have been free to use it as their primary tool of community cohesion.  Times have been generally good and pressures have been difficult but not existential.

We are now in a different time.  The world and relationships that impact the creation, transfer, use, and management of knowledge, which is what education is, are changing faster than traditional strategic planning can accommodate.  We know we must change, but we must remember that change is only positive in this kind of environment if it provides value.

I am urging leaders to engage their communities in a discussion of value, not just of strategy.  It is a conversation that engages the whole community on an ongoing basis, not once in five years, after which the implementation of strategy is largely left to leadership. When a school truly understands its value proposition, each member of the community can answer the question, “what am I doing today that contributes to our value?”

It is fall in New England.  Over the weekend I stayed with Win Healey, ex-Upper School Head at Punahou, and a very smart man when it comes to things like faculty assessment, managing change, and the use of time in schools.  I also got a long walk in the fall color where I indeed saw two roads that diverged in a yellow wood, ate pancakes with real maple syrup, and walked nine holes on a very old back-country golf course.  Batteries recharged.  Thanks again for following along on this journey with me.

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