Real Leadership Connectivity in Schools

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Real Leadership Connectivity in Schools

How many great jazz musicians create their masterpieces working alone, meeting with other members of the group once or twice a month to see how their own riffs merge with those of their collaborators? None.

Many of use have been talking and writing about breaking down silos in schools. Modeling this change in how we are structured and operate will have to start at the top. Bo Adams wrote last week about Michael Michalko’s metaphor of the learning cathedral.  We need to paint the same picture, both in theory and practice, for our senior leadership teams. What if we truly organized our leadership teams around a single table rather than in long, disjointed halls of infrequent mental and physical interaction?

Braden Kelley writes about the importance of forming “insight networks” or teams within our organizations to track emerging trends, behaviors, and needs, including changes in demography, competition, new business models, emerging technologies, and more.  He correctly asks: “who in your organization is responsible for doing this?”  The answer in our schools: the head and the senior leadership team, and possible a subcommittee of the board.  The problem is that this responsibility is assigned by default, and these groups meet and truly discuss industry insights for an hour once a year at the annual leadership retreat. This is just not going to work in the volatile and rapidly changing terrain of our knowledge-based industry.

Here is what I suggest: our school leadership teams are natural insight networks, but we don’t extract what we can from the network because they have no time and place to operate.  In a perfect world (or if you are designing a new campus building), our leadership team would spend their days in that cathedral that Michalko talked about.  I would design an administrative building with small offices for senior staff all opening into a single large room, preferably with windows or a high ceiling, and one large round table.  Unless our leaders were on a private phone call or in a meeting that required a closed door, they would spend time around that big table, learning how to do their daily work at the same time they continuously interact with their colleagues.

Senior leadership represents the nexus of the organizational neural network, and the more that network is in connectivity mode, the more insight is shared, and the more dynamic the creation and development of truly innovative practices throughout the organization. If members of that group are distracted from this high-level interaction by the daily grind, they need to distribute those other duties.  The connection, sharing of insight, bringing the outside of the organization unfiltered directly to decision makers; this is key to good leadership. This is key to really good, well-orchestrated, timeless music!

Most of us will not tear down the physical walls and create this shared space; that is too bad.  But we can still operate in this mode.  Leaders have to model vastly more frequent collaboration on issues that we push aside as we tend to the fires of the day.  That is wrong and we have to change.  Whether you are an all-school leader or the leader of a single department, think about how you can create real, frequent time, space, and impact opportunities for an emerging insight network.

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By | 2012-07-02T15:26:45+00:00 July 2nd, 2012|Uncategorized|4 Comments

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  1. boadams1 July 10, 2012 at 3:05 pm - Reply

    I think on this dynamic all the time. I recommend the TED Radio Hour from NPR “Where Ideas Come From.” The cathedral here mixes Susan Cain with Steven Johnson and we hear of the need for quiet space and collaborative space. Unboundary is set up for this in an ideal way, in my opinion. There are private offices and cubicles, but there are numerous central meeting places for planned and spontaneous collective work.

    If we organized leadership networks like this in schools, I hypothesize that we would need far less “regular meetings” as we would be in proximal thinking and doing space. It would be quite an adjustment, but it would be worthy of a concerted experiment, in my opinion.

    • glichtman July 10, 2012 at 3:14 pm - Reply

      We should think about a future session at NAIS or elsewhere on this with someone like Lake Flato architects where we proposed some really out-of-the-box space use options for schools of the future. Or maybe we should just write an article for some pub on this; I know L/F would love to cooperate and add ideas.

  2. Steve Goldberg July 10, 2012 at 3:23 pm - Reply

    In many ways, TLC will be a nice example of this — with a small staff (2 or 3), we will be able to share insights on a regular basis. We will also be reasonably transparent about it as we go. The trick for us won’t be space, but rather time — this post is a reminder that we have to build in reflective times for the faculty. I just blogged about how a typical morning might go at TLC — — but once we establish a culture — say by October or November — that meeting could easily be facilitated by a parent volunteer one morning a week, freeing up the adults to reflect and plan.

  3. glichtman July 10, 2012 at 3:45 pm - Reply

    TLC will be a GREAT example of this and you should find ways to share what you learn with the greater community!

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