Future-ready schools, it could be argued, exhibit three characteristics: (1) they know who they are and what they stand for, (2) they are fixated on speed and simplicity, and (3) they are obsessed with scaling up their ability to learn, innovate, and seek good ideas, irrespective of the origin of those ideas. So say co-authors Aaron de Smet, Chris Gagnon, and Elizabeth Mygatt in a recent article on future-ready organizations in Rotman Management. Although the co-authors were talking about companies, the characteristics of traditional hierarchies are to be found in schools inasmuch as they are found in companies, and the aforementioned characteristics could just as easily be in future-ready schools. Ultimately, this is about value: knowing what your families value, and obsessing about delivering that value. A few thoughts below.
- Schools must have purpose: a strongly-held sense of purpose is a school’s affirmation of its identity. For those schools trying to be all things to all people, this relentless pursuit of clear, unambiguous purpose will go a long way in helping families understand who and why you are.
- Resource what you value: if you (the school) value the idea of value proposition and ongoing value creation, how are you resourcing it and assigning ownership, so that it happens?
- Your organizational culture is your secret sauce. How you run faculty meetings to the onboarding of faculty and staff, let alone carrying out behaviors aligned to your school’s stated values…all these items get translated by people in your orbit.
- Distribute your leadership. Easy to say, really hard for some people to do. Seek/adopt the simplest structures possible and reinforce what you desire, with mechanisms that can tell you how people are performing against your desired objectives.
- Treat talent as scarcer than capital. Love this. You must treat talent as your scarcest resource. If you don’t know what you value, however, it will be ridiculously challenging to treat talent as it should be treated — you have no North Star.
- How might you create value through networks? What networks do you have available to you, which you could tap for co-creation of value?
- Promote adaptation and re-invention as a way to support people in meeting ever-developing needs. Schools need to move from “we know it all” to “we want to learn it all.”