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Any Initiatives Not Working?

P6141528Three times this weekend, friends relayed tales of woe regarding initiatives, strategies or decisions that aren’t working. All in casual conversation.

  • An accountability test for science is given to students with disabilities via computer voice. The computer mispronounces words such as “wind” and “lead” so that question meanings are changed. And students can’t adjust volume once it is set, even though portions are so loud that they pull off their headphones
  • Late in the year, teachers are asked to add a specific read-aloud to their curriculum to prepare for a school-wide event. Not only will it keep some teachers from finishing key curriculum units, but as they preview it, several do not believe it is age-appropriate
  • District-wide cuts in school office staff hours are made without consulting office staff workers. Turns out, several key personnel will not be in the office during the traditionally busiest weeks of the year.

All three of these situations are the result of two common leadership imbalances:

  • “Ready, Fire, Aim”–rushing to action to the neglect of careful planning and analysis of possible problems
  • Top-Down decisions that would have benefited from data or information easily available if Bottom-Up processes had also been used

How might you slow down–or get your leaders to slow down–enough to find relevant data and aim first? Unfortunately, research shows that the kinds of “What if?” and other questioning that prevent “Ready, Fire, Aim” are often viewed as resistance by leaders. Carefully crafting a message, using a balanced model, is key to ever getting a leader’s ear. Check out Handout B.1, one of the free downloads for Creating a Coaching Culture for Professional Learning CommunitiesYou’ll see it walks you through four distinct mental processes for decision making. Without such a model, we tend to spend over half the time available in our favorite process, and barely five percent in our least preferred process.

With “Ready, Fire, Aim” initiatives, you cover the following topics (note that the processes listed refer to personality type)

Sensing

  • As we understand it, the goal of this initiative is ____
  • We have a few concerns, based on the following facts

Intuition

  • We can see the following potential in this initiative
  • If the questions we raised aren’t addressed directly, we believe that the following unintended consequences may result or that outcomes may be less than desired

Thinking

  • What might an objective person add to our perspectives?
  • Let’s weigh the benefits and costs of this initiative, including what it might prevent us from doing or what might be delayed

Feeling

  • Do you have commitment from those most involved in implementation? If not, how might this affect the achievement of your goals?
  • How might the initiative benefit from a shared approach to leadership?

I’ve used this model in countless situations to help leaders–and teams–balance their own perspectives. It may not solve everything but it puts “Aim” back in its rightful place. If it looks cumbersome, compare it to the unwieldiness of initiatives gone bad!

Related Posts

Get Real: The Key to Leadership

Who Are You Leading?

Could You Slow Down for a Bit?

Jane Kise is a consultant and executive coach. The founder of Differentiated Coaching Associates and author of over 20 books, she works with schools and businesses worldwide to help create environments where everyone can flourish.

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