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Organized Leadership: Who should be around the table?

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November 2011

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When I interviewed for a newly-created position as the district curriculum director, the job description was five pages long. The last item said something to the effect of, “And anything else the superintendent assigns”. Ha! Uh, sure…  The only people who ever saw that description were the ones who were being interviewed, the interviewing committee, and the school board. The interesting part is, after I got the job, those responsibilities were never clearly communicated to the teachers whom I supported. I spent the next year trying to convey those. How were the teachers to know who to go to with professional development questions? Curriculum materials advice? Instructional technology needs? High ability and RtI programming? My job involved all of these aspects of school district management (and anything else the superintendent assigned).  

Now I’m working as an education consultant with school districts around the world.  One of the things I get to do as a consultant is work with leadership teams. This fascinates me as none are the same, as each organization, and each team has its own climate and culture. Often, similar positions have very different titles in varying districts. Chief Academic Officer, Curriculum Director, Director of Instruction…Technology Integrationists, Technology Coaches, Technology Specialists…you get the picture. I’ve worked with districts where the teachers see their Instructional Technologists as break-fix solutions to student hardware issues, when in reality, these employees are there to help teachers integrate technology into their instruction. This brings me back to the job description issue of no one really knowing whose roles include which responsibilities.  

These combined experiences have shown me how many school systems have no written protocol for processes and procedures. Sometimes I get to sit with leadership teams to discuss this very issue. One company I work with calls these meetings “Discovery Sessions.” We typically talk for around three hours, me asking a lot of questions to discover processes that are in place, but not written down anywhere. It’s fairly typical in these meetings to find several people/departments needlessly doing the same work. The reason for this is that there is no clear record of organizational procedures and protocols. After these meetings, I get to take that information, link it to previous background knowledge I had regarding the district, and author a document for them. Job positions, responsibilities, and how they all relate are included in one succinct location. This can take on different looks. Sometimes it’s more of a handbook on asset management. Other times, it’s an implementation plan when a district moves to a 1:1 digital environment. The purpose is the same, but each protocol system is developed based on the organizational needs. Having clear processes in place makes the organization, overall, run more smoothly.

Getting the right people in a circle together is the key component to organizational management. Sometimes nothing is discovered until all of these people are having face-to-face collaboration. Reflective practice, good questions, and a knowledgeable facilitator help keep these discussions on track and moving in the direction of strengthening the organization through clear protocols and procedures.  This process may not sound like the most fun task, but it definitely ranks up there as one of the most important for effective change and sustainable success. Who should be sitting around your table?

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