Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Culture Trumps Strategy

We had our 3-day summer retreat for the leadership team last week.  To get it off to a great start we brought in Dr. Bill Daggett, Founder and CEO of the International Center for Leadership in Education (ICLE).    I had heard him speak before and wanted him to address our principals, directors and supervisors.

One of his key messages is “Culture Trumps Strategy”.    I wrote it down often.

I’ve done a little research to see if he owns this phrase.   As near as I can tell, he does not.  There are some who credit business guru Peter Drucker with saying “culture eats strategy for breakfast” but that appears to be an urban myth.   Still I found that lots of business people have written on the topic.  For them, it suggests that the norms of the work environment – if built on trust, if all are working on the same goal, if creativity and respectful disagreement are encouraged – are more important than the strategy to reach corporate goals. 

During the industrial age the worker fit the company mold.  The bosses in the head shed planned the strategy for increased profit.   Today technology as well as family values  are having a big impact on the work place and businesses are evolving to understand how the worker and the culture in which the worker works, has an impact on the bottom line.

So what does “Culture Trumps Strategy” mean for the schools?

First it means abandoning the industrial age factory model that we all know as school.  Eric Sheninger, a Senior Fellow and Thought Leader at ICLE and author of Uncommon Learning: Creating Schools That Work for Kids, lays out his thoughts on what it takes to personalize the learning experience, make it more relevant to the future.

He calls for using technology in such a way that it is a tool to enhance the culture of learning.  It can provide real world learning experiences that are more in tune with student interests.  It can make the curriculum more real and complement the good work that is already happening in the schools. 

What does that look like in Calvert County Public Schools? 

I think we are well on our way in some aspects of this work.  We have been a BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) district for a number of years.  Our libraries have been converting into maker spaces and 1 hour flex lunches at all of our high schools and most of our middle schools have contributed greatly to a culture of independence, empowerment and personalized learning for our students.

We have supported an entrepreneurial culture allowing several of our schools to experiment with 1:1 laptop initiatives, digital curriculum and support, blended learning and project-based learning.

Calvert County Schools have a reputation for innovation and high achievement, but we cannot sit on past practices and expect to sustain that result.   It is the Principal and the teachers at each and every school that will create its culture.  That culture, if based upon a common vision for our children, will support the best instructional practices and opportunities for success and see that each child leaves with a real world skill-set and a plan for success.