Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Who has the answers?

Leaders in all organizations - schools and others - ask questions about how things can be done better.  We wonder about how we can get better results or achieve our goals when it seems we face decreasing resources.  Sometimes the decreasing resources are financial.  Sometimes they are material.  And sometimes these resources are human - right through to our strength of will and endurance.  As with all leaders, there is a tendency to look outside the organization for answers - or for a silver bullet.  Well, there are no silver bullets......but there are answers......and the answers are already in the building.  As we begin to see our staff, our leaders - indeed, each other - as human resources who hold knowledge, experience, and wisdom - we will discover that the answers to our most challenging questions are available to us if we allow our shared wisdom to guide us.  It doesn't mean that the journey will be easy, fast, or that it will work well the first time or even second time....but the answers are there.  We just need to trust that they are and believe in each other.  Forget the silver bullets!

1 comment:

  1. This post makes me think of the clip in the movie Apollo 13, when the main character, Gene Kranz, tells all of his colleagues that “the answer is in the room.” I think that it is the same scene when he tells them that “failure is not an option.” The idea is that there is no one else with the same set of skills as well as knowledge of the current situation.
    The author Alan Blankstein has now used this idea in his book The Answer is in the Room. The OISE school reform guru, Andy Hargreaves, wrote about this book. He said:
    "The answer is not always in the room. Sometimes it's in the room next door. But help is often much closer than you think.... Alan Blankstein demonstrates that throwing random reforms into the room through the door, or shouting at people in the room from up on the roof, are not ways that make positive change happen.... This brilliant little book not only shows what works, it dignifies the overly criticized professionals who make it all happen."
    The central concept in Blankstein’s book is that as school systems, we need to focus on ‘oceans of success’ rather than ‘islands of excellence’ – in every school there are teachers who are successful, teachers carrying out excellent practices. The goal of leadership is to work within a learning community to identify those practices that are successful, not the teachers demonstrating those practices, and work to generalize those successful practices.
    My only reservation about these ideas, is that sometimes the answers are not in the room – sometimes, we don’t have all of the answers – sometimes, we need the support and accumulated experience and skill of outsiders. Not to provide the Silver Bullet – but, maybe, to shine a flashlight in one direction, or another to guide our path. This may particularly be true in smaller schools and learning communities. For example, there may not be anyone on staff with significant experience working with a child with a particular exceptionality or learning need. Although the answer may often be in the room, expecting that it always will be, may serve to perpetuate ignorance or less than ideal practices.