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Saturday, March 23, 2019


I recently read Leading for Learning: How to Transform Schools into Learning Organizations by Phil Shlechty (2009).

This book, one of Schlechty's last works before death, provides an excellent discussion of the meaning of school and the ways schools can and should continue to have meaning in the future.  

Some of my biggest takeaways:
> Transformation means altering the culture to match the aspirations; reform is about implementing innovations that fit the current structure and culture of the organization.
> Transformation requires doing things you’ve never done before, not just doing the things you’ve always done, but better.
> In the digital environment, the learner is increasingly in charge of both content and process.
> Influence is a function of who we are and what we do, not title or position.
> Continuous learning is required to live a full life, AND to avoid being overwhelmed by the future.
> LEARNING – it’s the core business of schools.
> Wise leaders learn to live on the cutting edge of ignorance, rather than the cutting edge of knowledge.
> Trust has no role in the bureaucratic ethos.

A few of my favorite quotes:
“Schools are about the future and posterity more than they are about the present and prosperity.”

“Organizations that are change adept—that is, organizations that can learn as well as encourage learning—will survive and thrive in this new world.  Organizations that require stability, tranquility, and predictability will perish.”  

“Bureaucracies are designed to organize and manage certainty and ensure predictability. Learning organizations are designed to create the type of leadership structures needed to deal with uncertainty in disciplined, productive, and creative ways—to transform problems into possibilities and perplexities into insight.” 

“In a democracy, a customized educational experience should be the birthright of every child.” 

 “Learning organizations are driven by shared beliefs, values, and commitments. Bureaucracies are driven by rules.” 

“Standardized testing requires standardized teaching and standardized content. When standardization replaces standards, it is not enough to say that students will read historical fiction; one must specify the fiction to be read.” 

“Two of the gut-level values that Americans hold are the value of local control of education and the idea that schools should be central places in the life of the community. Both of these values are threatened by efforts to improve schools through the increasing use of standards promulgated by bureaucrats external to the local community—and through the transformation of schools from community institutions to government agencies.” 

You can probably see why I’m a Schlechty fan…

Saturday, March 16, 2019


With over 40 years (and still counting) of work life, I've encountered a fair number of bosses.  They ran the gamut from crew chiefs on teams of laborers (yep, I've done that stuff) all the way to executives in very large organizations (with thousands of employees).

The best ones did most of these things:

  • They took the time to know us personally, and by name and something about our interests and a little about our family and ...
  • They were perfectly willing and able to laugh at themselves.
  • They regularly engaged with us "on the work floor" (whether it was where the concrete was being poured or in the classroom where we were teaching), seeing firsthand the conditions and challenges of the tasks we were grappling with.
  • They would often share mealtime with us.
  • They LISTENED quite a lot to the banter between/among us worker bees, and smiled and laughed with us in that process (being very careful NOT to dominate the conversation).
  • They always greeted us pleasantly and treated us courteously (even if there was some sort of tension in the air).
  • They made sure we took pauses to celebrate our successes, from the most menial to the monumental.

Interestingly, I was the most productive under those leaders. 

Interestingly, I also worked the hardest to please those leaders.

They made a habit of making our Work Light, rather than burdensome.  Exemplars, I think.

Friday, March 1, 2019


Our family has one.  Our community has one.  Our house of faith has one.  So do our social clubs, our schools, our work places, our ..........

Culture, organizational culture, is the collective ways of thinking, the ways of behaving, the worldviews that our "groups" live by.  

The healthiest organizational cultures possess these traits:

  • Transparency prevails - NO secrets.
  • Incentives, both tangible and intangible, promote ethical and selfless behavior.
  • Kindness toward others is encouraged and expected.
  • Problems are addressed openly and promptly.
  • Every member has a voice, they know it, and they feel safe using it.
  • Decisions are made with the WHOLE and the 7th forthcoming generation in mind.
Now a word about climate.  Climate is the look, feel, and smell of the organization.  Climate is the outward manifestation of the culture, the visible enactments of those underlying beliefs.

Cultures are verbs, not nouns.  They are fluid, dynamic, and ever changing.  

Culture shaping is a job that never gets finished.  As members of organizations we have a moral obligation to improve the culture in as many ways as we can.  

How?  That bulleted list above is a good start.