Thursday, February 20, 2014

Is It Time for your School to Change Gears?

My jeep is my therapy. The minute I take the tops off, I anticipate the wind blowing through my receding hair line. (The benefits of growing old ;-)). But without putting the jeep in gear, nothing happens. No progress is made. No journey can occur. No wind can blow through my failing hair. 
Isn't school improvement the same?  Every school can put the bus in gear, but some fail to take it out of park.  Others keep it in reverse and then others get stuck in powerlessness of neutral. So what gear is you organization in?

Park is the preservation gear of the status quo. Nothing changes because no movement can occur. Park is a good gear if you want to stop and analyze your current reality, but you really don't want to stay there for long. Organizations stuck in park rely on "the way we've always done it" and the fear of abandoning the comfort familiarity. 

Reverse is the best gear to revert back to your old ways of thinking. If you have actions that are moving people in the wrong direction, reverse is necessary. However, this gear is very common for organizations who use fear tactics to make progress. The problem is that this kind of movement causes retreating instead of proceeding. In a matter of minutes, organizations stuck in reverse kill beliefs and actions that took years to create.  Organizations stuck in reverse take action with no rhyme or reason typically because the action is dictated by the boss. Little is accomplished and that which is accomplished has little effect on the bottom line, kids. 

Neutral frees up organizations to move forward or backward but without the vehicle's power. This gear represents organizations that go with the flow. They rev up the engine of actionless rhetoric but roll whichever way the gravity of least resistance takes them. Sadly, they end up in places that rarely improves the lives of students. Organizations stuck in neutral roll with the initiative or buzz word of the day. They make decisions aligned to the path of least resistance, and little is accomplished because they fail to commit to any initiative long enough to see it through. 

Drive is the gear that gets you to your destination, excellence. Organizations in drive are full of people who are driven by their quest to guarantee success for every child. Being in drive requires all members to engage the transmission of aligned action. Drive is action. It is purposeful progress, and it demands painstaking persistence.   Organizations stuck in drive align all actions to the betterment for all kids. They carefully select a few powerful initiatives and commit to actions that first are doable and second are aligned to their weaknesses. Driven organizations understand that all actions must be sustained by every individual. Collective capacity is the horsepower of organizations in drive. 

What gear is your school in?

No matter what gear you're in, anyone can change gears at anytime.  You shouldn't be stuck in one gear all the time, but you must understand that drive is the only gear that gets you to your destination.  The decision on which gear to put your organization in shouldn't be based on what gear you're currently in, but on where you want your organization to go. Once you guide followers to decide on and commit to kids first and themselves second, everyone will know what gear the school must be in, DRIVE


  1. Great analysis, John. And by using the accelerator and brake properly, schools will continue to move forward together.

  2. Great analogy, John! Each gear has its place, but it's important to remember to change gears when we're stuck! I think, too, we forget that neutral is a gear for organizations. I love your reminder and description!
    Thanks for sharing!