30 May 2015

Big Week - New Phase

My thinking was challenged on so many different levels this week after several sessions/ discussions with Julia Aitken, the leadership team and the teaching team. It was one of those weeks that was absolutely draining due the depth of thought and emotional energy spent. I found it completely worthwhile and the week generated many 'new thinks' for me - each of which I will need to blog about separately.

Pixabay by John Hain
The first is another perhaps deeper reflection about collaboration. This has been an on-going area of discussion and thought for me. I have found that while we all value the concept of collaboration and believe it is a skill that our children need to develop; we don't necessarily have a collective understanding of collaboration.  

Effective collaboration requires dialogue about previously unforeseen opportunity and possibilities. High quality collaboration requires teaming which in turn requires a psychologically safe environment to speak up. That means that to move from a group to a team we need to ensure that the environment is one of high trust. The people have a shared responsibility to achieve such an environment. Each of us need to be reflective and totally prepared to absorb others’ ideas and build on them. Which of course means that people need to be open and share their ideas and always prepared to have their ideas morphed and re-shaped by others. It is this kind of collaborative environment that will lead to innovative practice.

Pixabay by HebiPics 
All of this can only be achieved with a clear, collective vision. Julia suggested that schools are abominable at visioning! They constantly seem to come up with a statement and then park it or paint it on the wall at the very most. This resonated for me. It is all too easy to lose sight of the big picture vision when our days can be dominated by the micro administrative stuff.  

"Without vision, there’s paralysis" (my favourite quote from Julia). "The challenge is to build a common shared vision and that is only done through conversations." 

It is about ownership and alignment. 

The vision answers the ‘Why’ question. This will lead to shared understandings and a collective agreement. Julia suggested that schools have a lot to learn from businesses when it comes to developing a vision statement. She shared great examples in her own words such as Nike (to make everyone an athlete), Pepsi (to beat Coca Cola) and Disneyland. - (to make people happy).

To ensure our vision statement/ purpose is effective, we need to perhaps consider the following:
  • is it cognitively portable? Can all stakeholders recall it easily? 
  • does it challenge and inspire the team to strive to reach a high but achievable goal?
  • is it fixed? The principles and practices may change over time but the purpose of what we do on a daily basis remains the same.