Advertisement

How Would You Rather Spend Your Time?

Over the last year, I have been using a model to help schools solve complex educational issues utilizing the existing capacities and resources that they already have at their disposal in their buildings.  The premise behind the model is simple “We have no more time, and there is no more money coming, but we have tons of unused capacity, so let’s get on with it!”. It has been an interesting and iterative process, and through the help of critical friends, I have slowly been able to tweak the model so that it guides problem-solving in a repeatable and sustainable fashion. As a result, we are starting to see a higher frequency of unique solutions to problems that we have in schools, and perhaps more importantly, I am seeing a broader development of capacity at all levels of our organization to co-design solutions.

The LCD process is one that requires thoughtful planning on the front end, a commitment to truly understanding the needs of the learner and co-creating with them throughout, and a thirst for feedback and willingness to tinker on the back end, regardless of how we feel the solution was received. In other words, it takes effort, and it takes time. And in my experience, the moment that you tell someone that a process such as this is going to take effort and time, they often tend to lose interest.

As a school principal, there were so many parts of my job that I liked, such as working with students, parents and teachers, solving challenging problems, collaborating with colleagues, learning new things and trying different ideas.  (These were the ‘brain candy’ activities that I described in a previous post.).  There were also parts of being a principal that were less enjoyable: dealing with complaints from students, teachers and parents, disappointing people with decisions that I had made, and having to work through issues that happened in the school that I might not have directly triggered, but certainly became my responsibility as the principal of the school.  The activities that I enjoyed were mostly ‘proactive’, and the ones that I enjoyed less were often ‘reactive’.

When I deconstruct the types of situations that led me to be reactive, there were some common pieces that tended to surface:

  1. There were often issues around communication.  Often there was little or no communication about the issue, or the communication came at a time when it was too late to be usable or make a difference.
  2. There was an assumption or series of assumptions made.
  3. A decision was made independently of those who the decision would impact, often at the organizational level.
  4. There was little or no follow-up or attempt to proactively collect feedback to determine whether the solution was satisfactory–the “no-news is good news” philosophy.
As a result of one or a combination of all of these factors, the time that I spent on the back end of these sorts of issues in ‘reaction mode’ was not only unpleasant, it often protracted over days, or even weeks or months!   
When we create assumption-based solutions independently of those who the solution will impact, and then fail to collect feedback on how the solution worked, we have become “organization-centered”.   For example, if after a sparsely attended Parent-Teacher conference night, we spend some front-end time (FET) considering the issue, choose to change the times of the interviews from evenings to mornings because we assume that parents would rather come to meet with teachers before work, we have taken an organization-centered (OC) approach to this problem.  This might be represented like this, with each block representing the amount of time we spend

FET
Organization-Centric Solution

This can often be called “solution-itis”, the affliction that we as educators contract when we move rapidly from problem to solution without involving the people in our school community in the process.  And while this approach takes much less time, and we might get lucky and hit a home-run by taking this sort of tack, the odds of creating a positive experience for people who are never involved in the solution are low, and the odds that we have developed any capacity for our community to help us solve future problems is zero.  And in terms of that ‘reactive’ time on the back end…well, get ready.  This situation could be represented this way.


FET
Organization-Centric Solution
Back-end (Reactive) Time
In 2013, the Alberta Teachers’ Association and the Canadian Association of Principals conducted 40 focus groups with 500 principals from across Canada over the span of two years, and created a document called the “Future of the Principalship in Canada”.  This document listed five ‘ways forward’ to overcome the challenges that take place in schools.  One of these ‘ways forward’ was “to collaborate and build professional capacities in school staff.”  A second was to “build family and community relationships” through “finding new ways to connect with parents and communities”.
So what if we took an LCD approach, where we truly appreciate where our learner (student, parent, educator) is at, co-create a vision of what it is that we want, ideate together to great possible solutions, iterate when we test these ideas with those who will live with the solution, and then proliferate the idea to other situations once we determine what makes the best experience for our learner?  “We would like to…but who has time?”, we hear.  Well, if we represent the LCD process with blocks of time, it could be represented this way.

FET
LCD/Solution/
Feedback

which truthfully is much more time and effort than the organization-centric method.
FET
Organization-Centric Solution

until you factor in the reactive piece….

FET
Organization-Centric Solution
Back-end (Reactive) Time

But let’s say that even with the back end time factored in, the LCD approach took longer, and even had some reactive time associated with it

FET
Learner-Centered Design/Solution/Feedback
Back-end (Reactive) Time


the question is, where would you rather spend your time?  For me, as I said above, the parts of my job that I enjoyed less were dealing with complaints from students, teachers and parents, disappointing people with decisions that I had made, and having to work through issues that happened in the school that I might not have directly triggered, but certainly became my responsibility as the principal of the school. Having these types of experiences are more probable if I choose to solve a significant school issue solely from the perspective of the organization, or with the needs of the organization placed before the needs of the learner.  The parts most enjoyed as a Principal were working with students, parents and teachers, solving challenging problems, collaborating with colleagues, learning new things and trying different ideas. These sound a lot more like the pieces that would occur when we take an approach of appreciate, co-create, ideate, iterate, and proliferate like that in the Learner-Centered Design process.  Not only are the odds much higher that the collective school community will come up with a better solution, by involving our community in the co-design process, we will have developed our collective capacity in a way that connects all of us to our school.


I am pretty sure I know how I want to spend my time.

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *