Charting a course for change: Is your culture the elephant in the room? (and other mixed metaphors)

Peter Drucker once famously said,  “culture eats strategy for breakfast”.

Culture: the ideas, customs, and social behaviour of a particular people or society

How would you describe your school or organisation’s culture?

Positive, vibrant and exciting?

Demoralised, weary and fearful?

Or somewhere in between?

Leaders are in the process of continuous change, taking people on a journey.  As the leader you may have an inspiring strategic plan, clearly articulated mission and vision statements, and effective systems and processes in place, but unless the culture is assessed and addressed, these grand plans will come to nothing, by “breakfast”.

Your culture is the most powerful factor in change, it determines:

  • speed of change
  • receptivity for change
  • health of your people
  • impact of your vision and mission
  • effectiveness and influence in the long term

What’s floating your boat?

Sydney to HobartOne of my favourite places over summer is Nielsen Park on the harbour in Sydney. It is the vantage point for the annual Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race in December each year and I find it fascinating to watch the boats jostle for position, maintain speed and agility until the siren starts the race.

What does sailing and culture have in common?

Your boat

There is an interconnection between each of these elements but the hull is what makes it a boat, and in the same way, it’s the culture that makes or breaks any organisation. None is culture-free. Without the hull, the other parts become the accessories.

Is this still a boat?

Dr Samuel Chand* identifies the types of cultures that define an organisation and impact the ability to progress.

How would you describe your culture?

Inspiring: Sleek, fast, regatta-winning boat with prevailing winds

Accepting: Potential to do well in the regatta.

Stagnant: Becalmed and not going anywhere

Discouraging: Not a very well-maintained boat

Toxic: The boat may look really good on the outside, but is not seaworthy and actually dangerous

What do you need to do?

If Drucker’s famous statement is true, then a leader cannot ignore the prevailing culture, despite how exciting and innovative the vision and mission may be.

The place to start is under the waterline – building an environment of trust, respect and authenticity.

@anneknock

*Ref: Dr Samual Chand, Cracking Your Church’s Culture Code: Seven Keys to Unleashing Vision and Inspiration

What does it really mean to have a culture of leadership at your school? It’s just like yoghurt.

Culture is the result of the fermentation process that gives yoghurt its unique texture and flavour. We can’t actually identify this elusive element called ‘culture’, it is just  there, otherwise it wouldn’t be yoghurt. The added fruit or flavourings may enhance, but they aren’t what make it yoghurt.

In the same way, a culture of leadership is something that runs through a school or organisation. It is evident in its “texture and flavour”. Leadership can be added like the  fruit, but it is more effective when it forms part of the whole product.

Blanchard quoteIn the last decade the nature of leadership has shifted to being the intrinsic ‘influence’ of potentially all, rather than an elite program for a few. As one of my favourite writers on leadership, Ken Blanchard once said, “The key to successful leadership today is influence, not authority.” This idea paints a picture of relationship, inspiration, collaboration and empowering. It is a far cry from the notion of “the boss”.

Growing up on a diet of American sitcoms and drama, I learnt from TV what it was to be a ‘boss’. They didn’t talk about leadership back then. The boss was male, old, grouchy, shouted, told people what to do, had a big corner office a female secretary and a view. Back in those days there were just workers and bosses, there weren’t teams, people just did what they were told.

The world was different then, ‘culture’ meant you went to the opera and ‘collaboration’ was just another word for cheating. Fear, blame, command and control drove the “boss” culture and power was vested in the few.

In the 21stC leadership can be everywhere. Leaders are in the mix and making things happen. They create the texture and flavour for change to occur. Rather than identifying a few, the opportunity to lead is available to the many, if not all.

Instead of command-and-control, what are the elements necessary for leadership today? In a survey of CEOs around the world by IBM asked about the key traits needed for success today and into the future, the top four were:

  • collaboration

  • communication

  • creativity

  • flexibility

Future Forecast, McCrindle 2014. Source: ABS

Future Forecast, McCrindle 2014. Source: ABS

These areas were identified as essential skills that CEOs actively sought in recruiting new staff. If we then recognise that our students, and our younger teachers will morph and change throughout their careers, how are we providing opportunities for them to develop these skills.

In the highly regulated school environment, with external pressures that often feel like command-and-control this can be a challenge. Nevertheless, we will not serve the rising generation unless we give them opportunities to acquire these essential skills.

We need to provide opportunities to grow leaders who are equipped for:

Purposeful collaboration: Working together as a team to achieve shared goals

Effective communication: Sharing information through whatever means necessary to inspire, encourage and effect change

Creativity in practice: Where a new and valuable idea is developed for aesthetics, for simplicity or to solve problems

Flexibility in execution: Allowing for a range of appropriate responses to a given situation

The way we design schools and then structure the learning activities directly impacts the effectiveness of a leadership culture, through:

  • Openness both in the physical space and to new ideas
  • Freedom of movement and expression
  • Teams collaborating on meaningful projects

It is important that leadership is in the mix with the culture of a school and is available to anybody. Through the opportunities that technology brings and the potential of global connectedness, young people have the ability to lead and influence like never before. Schools then, need to be the place where their leadership has the space to be nurtured and grown.

@anneknock

Innovative leadership in 3 simple steps: Know, Show & Let Go

Is our DNA evident across all we do? 

Along with another colleague on the senior leadership team, I am responsible for ensuring that leadership and innovation are embedded deeply and are part of the DNA of the school. These two elements are essential to our identity.

What is DNA? From a scientific perspective it is deoxyribonucleic acid, the carrier of genetic information. The term is also used metaphorically to describe the distinctive characteristics of an organisation’s culture and identity, yet unlike the body’s DNA that is set, this needs to be regularly communicated, reinforced and supported.

I have found the idea by futurist, Joel Barker a very useful description of what leaders need to do.

 We manage within a paradigm and lead between paradigms.

DNA

What is a paradigm? It’s a pattern, a model or a set of practices that define what we do, both now and into the future.

As leaders we need to simultaneously manage the current paradigm, getting ‘this’ job done, and lead our people toward a new paradigm. Both are essential:

  • Managing in present: organising people and resources within the current context

  • Leading to the future: taking people to a new ‘place’

We are usually very comfortable in the present, we know what needs to be done and how to get it done. Often our people are more than happy to stay where we are right now, it’s known and comfortable. If we are leaders, however, we also know we must be taking them somewhere. Whether it is their personal growth, or organisational progress. We are taking our teams, organisation or even our family to something better.

What is innovation? At the root of the word ‘innovation’ is ‘nova’, which means ‘new’. Innovation may be values, solution or practices that meet new and emerging requirements. To you and your team ‘innovation’ may mean growth, new markets or reinvention, whatever the context – people need good leaders.

So how do we practically lead our teams to this new paradigm of innovation?

Know, Show and Let Go

Know Show Let go

Know (not assume)

  • Your people

  • The job to be done

  • The values that shape us

Show (not just tell)

  • What’s to be done

  • How to do it

  • The attitudes and behaviours we expect

Let go (not control)

  • Release your team to do

  • Observe

  • Assess and plan

This is a cyclical process, once you let go, observe and assess. We soon see what people don’t know or now need to know and then repeat… ad infinitum.

@anneknock

 

We live by different rules. One woman’s attempt at navigating them (um, that would be me)

An interesting Twitter exchange developed. I made an unusual comment, as I don’t normally jump into the political discourse. Our female Prime Minister announced the date of the election, with an unprecedented eight month lead in. I tweeted:

“in the 2010 election the PM wore pearls (credibility) and is wearing glasses (this time I mean business)”

The question came back from a person in my feed, “Do we talk about male politicians and what they are wearing as a mark of business or not?” A valid point, to which I added, “We really live by different rules”

A few others leapt into the discussion about comments made about other politicians (from the other side). I also recalled reading that in the 2012 US election campaign, Mitt Romney always had his shirt sleeves rolled up “ready to get working” was the message it sent.

In 2012 a well-known international feminist commentator and writer on Q&A, said about our PM “What I want her to do is get rid of those bloody jackets.”  If the sisterhood can’t seem to get it right, what hope is there?

My Kitchen Rules is a cooking competition by couples, who may be spouses, family members and friends. They are seeking to outdo one another and impress the judges.

Who knows what the audition process was looking for and then what was actually said across the evening of filming, but the editing guidelines seem to say,

“portray the women, especially the all-female pairs, as critical with a quick and cutting mouth. That will definitely get the viewers.”

I am so disgusted by the promos, that I won’t watch the program. But millions are.

We live by different rules. Once we can accept that, work with it.

So as a woman who is seeking to make a mark on the world how do I navigate this? A few things to accept:

  • My public comments are (and should be) under scrutiny.
  • The sisterhood won’t necessarily back us up.
  • The media prefer to present women in ways that pit us against one another (while the men passively observe)

We are all wired differently. When my children were small I wasn’t the stay-at-home-mum-type and went back to work fairly quickly and now, in my early 50s I enjoy work and am not looking toward retirement, as I find work to be energizing and engaging.

Again, part of me wants to clarify: there’s nothing wrong with being a stay-at-home-mum nor is there anything wrong with wanting to retire and play golf (or whatever they do). But, I don’t actually need to clarify, because when I talk about what’s good for me, I’m not criticising another.

What are my rules?

  • Be comfortable with who I am, not other people’s expectations of who I should be
  • Equally, be respectful, don’t put my expectations onto others, allow them to be themselves
  • Live to serve and encourage others, especially with my words
  • Know enough about what’s happening in the world, including sport, to communicate and engage with a broad range of people
  • Go with my strengths and identify (and fill) areas where I need help
  • Find creative outlets that fit me
  • Find a clothing style that makes me feel positive about myself
  • Understand the diversity of maleness
  • My opinion is an opinion, not what another person should or must do
  • Listen more and talk less

15 of my 17 years teaching were in boys’ schools and my husband and I have raised two sons. I think that this baptism into the male-world has helped me to navigate it relatively effectively, yet far from perfectly. I quickly learnt that I just need to say something once and then I need to give time to think about it. I have learnt a lot from the young boys I taught, and my husband and sons.

My desire is that I want to see women in places of leadership and influence in the breadth of spheres open to them. But our expectations need to be real. Considering ‘life’s big moments’, our career growth can be both incremental and successful, with the necessary pauses. Most importantly, relationships and especially those closest take priority.

We live by different rules. Work yours out.

@anneknock

What one thing is essential in a great school? Answer: High quality relationships (Just takes a bit of gardening)

Peter Drucker, management guru made a great statement:

Culture eats strategy for breakfast

We can have all the best plans and ideas in the world, but unless the culture of your school is in the right place, nothing is going to work for the long term. So what is at the heart of culture?

People and relationships working together.

As the word ‘culture’ implies, it requires ‘cultivating’, just like a garden, regular and specialised work that is daily, weekly, seasonally, annually. It requires weeding, fertilizing and pruning and sometimes even a complete makeover, then more weeding, fertilizing and pruning. Cultivating a beautiful or purposeful garden never stops and ensuring the right school culture is just the same.

High quality relationships are essential in a great school that supports today’s learning paradigm, one that engages young, passionate learners and at the same time motivates and inspires committed educators.

Over the past few weeks I have co-hosted a study tour of UK and Europe, that takes leaders on a literal and professional journey. We visited creative learning and play spaces, and study innovative pedagogical approaches.

 

 

 

 

From my observation the effectiveness of each element is strengthened or diminished when deliberate attention is paid to the quality of relationships within the school, which includes:

  • Student to adult
  • Adult to adult
  • School to stakeholder
  • Leadership to the entire community

‘All will Succeed’

This is the mission statement of a Essa Academy, new 11-16 school in the Greater Manchester area. Located in a demographic of extreme social need, generational unemployment and a multi-racial community, with 46 different languages.

 

 

 

The school is united by the mission ‘All will succeed’ – the overarching statement that guides practice and culture. This academy is a reinvention of a so-called ‘failing school’, now in a new building, with new leadership, governance and culture.

On arrival the atmosphere of warmth and friendliness pervaded. Relationships matter at this school. In the car park we were met, greeted and welcomed. The reception area leads to an open common space, this is everybody’s space, anytime it’s needed, not just the dinner room.

 

 

 

At the start we were having coffee and a chat in a large communal space. In the same locale a small class gathered around some tables with their teacher, nearby a couple of teachers were planning and a young student was having a serious meeting with a couple of adults. No one felt they needed to hide away for any of these meetings, it was a communal space, for the activities of the community.

As we heard from Abdul Chohan (@abdulchohan), one of the school’s directors and then talked with teachers and students, the pervading culture shouted out loud:

High quality relationships are a significant value at this school.

 
Our tour group finished the morning with a one-on-one with students, freedom to ask about the school and learning, their hopes and dreams. I took this opportunity to take a couple of photos, then started talking to Sandy, the teacher accompanying them. As we talked about the students and the school, the amazing culture, and as I watched these well-presented students articulately and confidently communicate with members of our group, Sandy said to me,

“I just love these kids, I love them to bits.”

How do we develop the culture that supports strategy? Put people first:

  • Articulate an inclusive and bold purpose – ‘All will succeed’
  • Technology used creatively supports the learning and working – Not the other way around
  • Share spaces – remove the barriers that support a ‘territorialist’ mindset
  • Enable ‘planned coincidences’ – places where people can connect

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Just like gardening, developing this culture takes time and work, it is modeled and reinforced from the leadership:

  • Daily – observing, admiring and appreciating: attention to formal and informal interactions and use of the spaces
  • Weekly – weeding: following through on structures that reinforce the vision and mission
  • Seasonally – pruning and fertilising: watching for shifts and making adjustments
  • Annually – assessing and observing the landscape: taking a health check, restating the vision and mission of the school

@anneknock

Essa Academy in the media:

The school where every teacher has an ipad and every student an ipod

Eton Masters visit Manchester for lesson in teaching by ipod

Libraries for today and tomorrow: How is yours RELATIONAL, AUTHENTIC, FUTURE-FOCUSED, PERSONALISED, CREATIVE?

How does a school ensure that it is significantly resourced to provide for the learning and research needs of students, yet maintaining the relevance of the library? Learning communities need to have:

The ‘place’ that fulfils the need for communal work, learning, connection and play

Accessibility to resources

Personnel to manage the collection

A realistic view of books

Rather than arbitrarily dismantling the library and tossing out the books, how do you determine the future of the library? What we value is reflected in our decisions. Here five words, we use to filter for 21stC thinking in education:

RELATIONAL | AUTHENTIC | FUTURE-FOCUSED | PERSONALISED | CREATIVE

Recently, I was with a group of educational and architectural professionals on a site tour of a shiny new senior high school within a developing satellite urban centre. The school is located in the heart of the retail/business area, sharing facilities with the community. In the library I watched as an older gentlemen replenished his fiction supply for the coming week, and considered the timeless value of fiction and other narratives. Then I noticed a book on display. What made someone think An Introduction to Email was an inspiring book to display on the library shelf?

Written in 2000, it had helpful chapters like “How to send an attachment”. A children’s book about email? It was a stark reminder of how we need to think deeply about books, what’s valuable and how we access them, and what’s unnecessary.

In my travels over the last few years I have visited a number libraries. In particular:

  • DOK, Delft
  • TU Delft
  • The Idea Store, Whitechapel (London)
  • Vittra School, Stockholm

These libraries each displayed certain characteristics, clear about their values. DOK is a community library in Delft in the Netherlands who say “we do locally what Google does globally”. In the same city, TU Delft is a strikingly designed university library, that has created different types of spaces and places to work and learn. The Idea Store is in Whitechapel in London and, like DOK, is creating a place for the community. The people were working together, working alone on their computers and hanging out in the cafe on the top floor with a great view of the city.

View from the cafe on the top floor

When we visited Vittra School in Stockholm, the city ‘required’ that the school had a library – they came up with a space for the small book collection in the school.

In our communities we need places where people can meet, work, learn, read, be comfortable and belong. Being surrounded by books can create the aesthetic ambience we like. Fiction and biographies maintain popularity as paper-based books. A great fiction collection is essential but there are many non-fiction books that seem to be only shelf-fillers.

DOK is a central place in the community.

As I watched the older gentleman borrow his books I imagined him spending his time engrossed in the adventures contained within.

The wall of books.

Are there creative solutions for storing books, but opening up spaces for people? In the TU Delft library the book stack creates an entire wall, four levels up, accessed by stairs – it’s visually striking and useful. The books are available and easily accessible, and the space is freed up for the people.

As SCIL we have distilled today’s context for learning to five concepts: Relational, Authentic, Future-focused, Personalised and Creative. These are the filter for learning, They can equally apply to libraries.

Relational: It’s a place where people connect, create the atmosphere. People first.

Authentic: If books are out of date and no longer used, make the big decision.

Future-focused: Think about Borders. Concurrently assess the current user needs and while simultaneously looking ahead to the future trends

Personalised: Does the community feel like this is a place where they belong? Consider the DOK mantra: “we do locally, what Google does globally”?

Creative: Is there a buzz? People work in different ways and spaces can create the vibe for create and meaningful work

In the early 80’s I commenced my career in education as a teacher-librarian in a primary school. Libraries still have a place, it’s just different now.

@anneknock

Great teams and great team leaders increase profit, however you might define it.

The language and terminology used in for-profit companies and not-for-profits organisations is often quite different. We don’t usually think about the term ‘profit’, yet there is a ‘gain’ in the non-profit sector, but it is measured against different criteria.

Using the concept of the service-profit chain, this post translates the ideas so that excellent leadership, satisfied employees and great teams create loyal customers, that leads to ‘profit’. For you this may mean things like changed lives, improved educational outcomes, increased funding and growth.

1. What is profit?
profit: The positive gain from an investment or business operation after subtracting for all expenses. Opposite of loss.

It’s an equation that looks like this:

Business operation - expenses = profit

There is always a cost to doing business – including paying employees, goods/products and taxes and administrative fees. If the income is less than the these costs, the business runs at a loss. if higher, there is a profit – that is the purpose of doing business

2. What is ‘profit’ for non-profit organisations?
In business the concept of profit is straightforward, but in the non-profit sector it’s not so clear. Organisations such as schools, aid agencies and churches provide a service to the community that is evident in improved outcomes for those served.

Schools: Young people receive a great education that provides a foundation for the future

Aid organisations: Funds are raised that are translated into programs that improve life outcomes

Churches: Lives are positively transformed and relationships strengthened which leads to growth and increased participation.

3. How does the service-profit chain work in non-profits?
In business, the service-profit chain establishes the link between profitability and the day-to-day operation of the business.

Great LEADERSHIP results in
Satisfied EMPLOYEES, who
Become LOYAL TEAMS that
Increases PRODUCTIVITY and
Provide a VALUE-ADD so the
Customers are SATISFIED and they
Become LOYAL CUSTOMERS which results in
Increasing PROFITS

There is a link between the way the leaders relate to their teams, and the way teams relate to the ‘customers’. When leaders focus on their teams and create a culture that values loyalty, productivity and satisfaction, then this culture becomes translated to their teams.

4. Leaders make the difference at every level
There is an interesting link between loyal team members and loyal customers – when a leader focuses on the team they will mirror the same culture, positively or negatively to the customers. There is a direct correlation between how a leader engages with their team and how the team engages with the customer, or the people they serve.

Think about these questions:
1. What is profit in your work?
2. Who are your ‘customers’ and what makes them ‘loyal’?
3. What can you practically do to improve their satisfaction?
4. In providing service how do you add value?
5. What will increase the productivity of your team?
6. How do you recognise and reward employee loyalty?
7. As a leader what do you need to focus on to have satisfied employees?

Culture is contagious. Make sure yours is worth catching.

Is collaboration part of your working and learning DNA? Get people working together. See the culture change

Who would have thought this would work…

I’m going to segment Star Wars into 15 sec parts
Ask the world to recreate the scenes with their own creative flair.
Then put it back together as a movie.

That is what Casey Pugh did in 2009 because he wanted to use the internet as a tool for crowdsourcing content. (Watch it here.)

Collaboration is one of the essential skills that young people need to succeed in life.

“Collaboration in business today is more of a survival trait than a buzzword”

There was a tipping point in the mid-2000s when the internet made the leap from ‘push’  to ‘push’ with increasingly more ‘pull’.  In generation one we accessed information that was pushed out by those who had the specific knowledge and technological means to create content.

A shift happened. There weren’t any significant changes in the actual technology, but in how we engaged with it. Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the internet had always intended the web to be:

“a collaborative medium, a place where we [could] all meet and read and write”

The internet now enables us all to contribute in meaningful, helpful, purposeful, fun and frivolous ways.

Wide ranging crowdsourcing and collaboration on a smaller scale, draws on the skills, expertise and knowledge of a range of contributors and can provide richer and more creative solutions to problems, and even highly entertaining outcomes like Star Wars Uncut. Wikipedia, where I found the Tim Berner-Lee quote, is a helpful example of crowdsourcing. Considering that it is a free online resource with information populated by ‘us’, it is considered fairly reliable.

Collaboration matters because the world’s problems are now more complex than they have ever been before.

Why provide opportunities to collaborate?

  • Enable strategic focus on the elements of the creative process
  • Bring fresh eyes
  • Draw upon a broad knowledge base
  • Facilitate a culture that encourages communication sharing and exchanging thoughts and ideas
  • Build connection around a common cause

“The world of the future will not be served by the organisation of the past.”

The soft skills, including collaboration, are essential for future success. Ideally collaboration becomes the culture and a way of working, it isn’t just another outcome of the curriculum.

We can’t expect educators to change the way they teach unless we change the way they learn.

To make this happen we need rethink professional development experiences so that educators embrace new ways – through modelling and providing regular opportunities for ‘doing’.  Make the projects:

Relational – There is connection and respect for one another. Groups that have worked through the processes of forming, storming, norming and performing.

Authentic – There is meaning to the activity. People are passionate about solving real problems.

Future-focused – The purpose and outcomes make a difference. They provide unique opportunities for creativity and innovation.

Personalised – we each bring our unique contribution and there are opportunities for different personalities and learning styles to have expression

Creative – Tap into the unique contribution that each person brings to the process.

Look at the professional learning you, or your staff are experiencing. Are they learning in new ways that will impact their practice and make a difference to their students?

 

Quote sources:

“Collaboration in business today is more of a survival trait than a buzzword”

“The world of the future will not be served by the organisation of the past.”

Innovative workplaces influencing learning spaces, or is it the other way around? #chickenoregg

What does this make you think of:

It’s about choice

Get better engagement

Freedom of how to work, where to work and when to work

Empowering

Recognises the spectrum of work styles

Different activities requiring varying levels of concentration or collaboration

Technology is crucial

Improves team collaboration and reduces individual competitiveness

All of these phrases can be used to describe 21stC learning environment. One where we value choice, freedom of movement, collaboration, yet each of these comments came from the world of business, describing innovative working environments that structure people and outputs in an approach called ‘activity based work’.

Veldhoen & Co developed the idea, used in the Netherlands about 15 years ago.

“It’s about choice. We’re trying to break down barriers within companies – if we can break down those barriers and give people the freedom of how to work, where to work and when to work, it will absolutely empower them to deliver the utmost that they can.”

My favourite ‘tweet of the week’ came from @gcouros:

“we are preparing kids for that jobs don’t exist.” Are we sometimes preparing kids for jobs that will no longer exist

As we seek to retain Gen Y into the teaching profession, the school as a workplace needs to think about these elements and reinvent. One of the reasons why activity-based work has taken hold in the corporate sector, is that this generation are motivated differently and command and control culture is no longer achieving results. Gen Y employees will leave if they aren’t sufficiently engaged and they will take their talent and build their own start-up.

What are the key elements of activity-based work that can, and are, relevant in school education – for staff, as well as students?

  • No assigned workstations and no private offices
  • Sections of the workplace allocated for particular work activities
  • Technology, cloud computing and mobile devices
  • Improving team collaboration and reduces individual competitiveness
  • Removing hierarchical structures as much as possible
  • Providing freedom as to how, when and where they work
  • Focus on quality results an outputs, rather than observed effort and time on task

Of course, surrounding all these elements, it is important for leaders to reinforce the desired culture and support the community in working in new ways. It changes the culture of “if I can’t see them, they probably aren’t working” – to one where outcomes matter. The command-and-control approach to work and learning reinforces the need to be seen working hard to get reinforcement/motivation, whereas, in this case, it’s the results that matter and how I have used my time to do this, that’s my responsibility.

For those in transition from command-and-control approaches there can be a perceived loss of status, especially for those who view success as having their own office. Where to work is dependent on the type of work a task requires. There needs to be places, of course, for individual work and confidential conversations, but these spaces are available, rather than owned.

“When you give up a permanent seat, you give up a nest,”

Activity-based work creates a new working landscape, and has direct applications to the school as a place of work and learning, to retain the younger teachers who have different motivations and aspirations and for these students, who will reinvent the world.

The last thing that forward-thinking educators want to do is reinforce a learning environment that is preparing young people for a world that no longer exists.

 

Further reading and ideas:

Some cool pictures of working environments: http://www.fastcompany.com/pics/how-well-work-2025

Activity-based work:

http://au.news.yahoo.com/thewest/business/a/-/news/10205518/activity-based-work-the-new-must-haveForceRecrawl/

http://www.cio.com.au/article/401530/commonwealth_bank_shifts_activity-based_work_culture_swanky_new_head_office/#closeme

http://www.itnews.com.au/News/290577,yarra-valley-water-eyes-activity-based-working.aspx

http://www.workplaceinfo.com.au/human-resources-management/performance-management/activity-based-work-hot-desking-without-the-desk

Would you still want to be a leader if you didn’t have a title?

Browsing my Twitter feed the other day this question leaped out:

What if leadership wasn’t a promotion

Leadership happens everyday in every sector, with and without designated roles and titles. As we sail headlong into the 21st century it is timely to reconsider the requirements for leadership today, in a work context characterised by projects, rather than job functions, and roles instead of titles.

Many forward-thinking organisations are steadily moving away from rigid hierarchical structures and are seeking to become more agile. Roles are specialised and people are working in cross-disciplinary teams. The quality of a team’s output is a result of its breadth of talent, evident in the specialised contribution of each team-member and effective leadership harnesses these elements to achieve the desired outcomes. Teams are formed, dismantled and rearranged, depending on the project and need.

The reality is that many organisations are eliminating hierarchies. They have cross-disciplinary teams, with multiple relationships and reporting points. As a result, leadership is a role like many others in an organisation, with its own particular set of skills, contributing to the vision. When leadership is released from hierarchy, people are better able to lead in situations that can leverage strengths, and leaders are freed from being the constant go-to/decision-broker and they become the facilitator of team success.

Can a school dismantle a leadership hierarchy?

The responsibility of the school leader today is to prepare young people for the dynamic world they will enter. The concept of a ‘job for life’ and role-based skill-set is now less relevant. This generation will have a succession of career changes. In this process young people will need to develop a suite of skills and expertise that will help them to make a unique and positive contribution to this world.

Historically, education has responded to the needs of society. The industrial era was a time of unprecedented population growth, with a shift toward machine-based manufacturing. In the post-war period the growing population was experiencing increasing personal income, resulting in increasing consumerism.

At the time people were colloquially referred to as cogs in the machine. They worked hard for a day’s pay. There was little opportunity to contribute ideas or collaborate in the process. People may have worked side-by-side, but each were specifically attending to their own duties. They started work at the whistle, they clocked on and then ended work with the whistle, they clocked off. The industrial era needed a compliant workforce.

School responded by preparing students to work in this culture. Learning was segmented, teachers focussed on their discipline and students were grouped according to their age. In this setting, students needed to be passive recipients of the teaching. Leadership meant authority and hierarchy. Schools valued compliant students.

Fast forward to 2012 when the world of work is constantly changing and leadership is an essential quality within reach of many. The leader is not the one who knows the most, knowledge is accessible. The leader today is an enabler.

Leadership must be both taught and caught. This means developing a deliberate strategy to grow leaders, as well as providing a context where effective leadership is authentically role-modelled.

How can you facilitate a culture of leadership?

  • Develop leadership the potential of staff, as well as students
  • Help everyone to understand that they are a leader
  • Teach leadership
  • Role model positive leadership
  • Recruit for the capacity and potential, not just expertise and reputation
  • Break down silos. Find ways to develop cross-disciplinary teams
  • Ensure teams have purpose.
  • Dismantle teams once purpose fulfilled, reassemble new teams
  • Place value on horizontal movement, not just vertical
  • Provide opportunities for those leading teams to also participate as team members
  • Reward and exemplify team effort ahead of individual effort
  • Consider redefining your school’s leadership structure

What happens when leadership isn’t just seen as a promotion?

  • Anyone recognises their leadership potential and people step up when there is need or opportunity.
  • Students experience positive role-models
  • A culture of leadership becomes part of the school’s DNA
  • The capacity of leaders will keep growing

Most significantly, schools will reflect the prevailing workplace culture of the 21st century and students will be better placed to succeed.