Sunday, October 29, 2006

It is the culture that counts!

  Fish, the last to discover water! Posted by Picasa

What cannot be seen often determines all the actions within an organization. As the saying goes fish are the last to discover water!

Schools spend a lot of time developing beautifully crafted strategy plans, involving endless consultations, which end up in a folder that no one really reads or refers to.

It would be more profitable for school leaders to focus on the culture of their schools (or teachers in their classes) because it is culture that drives behaviour for better or worse – determined by the underlying purpose, values and teaching beliefs.

How everyone behaves (or relates to each other) is the basis of a school culture – positive, neutral or toxic! So the alignment between the strategy plan and school culture is a vital one – the best strategy plan ought to develop actions to ensure everyone is focused on achieving the purpose of the school. And the best strategy is for all to be able to make the best decisions, 'on the spot', guided by broader strategic long term intentions.

Without the right culture staff members may even work in conflict with each other and the agreed purpose, or vision, of the school. Conversely when everyone works in ‘synergy’ great things happen almost by chance (things just ‘flow’). If the staff work autonomously within a ‘silo’ mentality a postive culture is impossible to achieve.

Culture, ‘the way we do things around here’, when positive, creates a 'force field of energy' that all involved can almost 'feel'. A positive culture is created as a bi-product of the relationships when staff members ( or students) collaborative with each other to achieve common goals.

This, rather than endless plans, is what creates a successful cohesive creative school or classroom.

Culture as the key driver of a creative school should never be an afterthought or left to chance. A positive culture infuses all work with meaning, passion and purpose; amplifying the energy of all involved.

If not shaped well it can conversely become a liability. Ask the staff what they all think is important, what the purpose of the school is, and what they think are the key teaching beliefs they all hold? If there is no alignment between their thoughts there is every chance the culture is working against the ‘written’ strategy of the school.

Sometimes the school culture is never even given thought – like fish who are to busy swimming to appreciate its importance!

Creating a dynamic culture is the ultimate leadership task, pumping passion, meaning and purpose into every action. A powerful culture creates a ‘behavioral blueprint’, an image held in the imagination of everyone involved, to align all actions and decisions.

What is the ‘water’ like in your school or classroom?

Most visitors can tell in a 'blink'.


Anonymous said...

It is 'heavy water' in some schools I know of! Or 'treading water'!

Anonymous said...

I have had the occasion recently to walk around a secondary school and my impression is that they are still locked into a 1950s culture. Little seems to have changed.

Anonymous said...

Getting secondary teachers to change their minds is like asking the Queen to abolish the monarchy -simply beyond their imagination.

I aways liked the fact the Czar of Russia wrote, on the morning of the revolution (where he lost his lfe) - 'nothing eventful planned for today'.