Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Articulate the Mission (# 19)

I recently read a summary by Kim Marshall of an article about leadership:

Marshall Memo 338, May 31, 2010 (http://www.marshallmemo.com) 
A Weekly Round-up of Important Ideas and Research in K-12 Education 

In this helpful IBM Center for the Business of Government monograph, Harvard Kennedy School lecturer Robert Behn presents a set of “better practices”, which apply seamlessly to K-12 school leadership. The practices answer three questions:

What would it mean to do a better job? 

• Articulate the mission. The danger is that the mission statement is “a long, awkward sentence that demonstrates management’s inability to think clearly” (Scott Adams) – or is not known and acted on by the troops. This is why the leadership team needs to proclaim, clearly and frequently, what the organization is trying to accomplish so that everyone understands the big picture.  ...

“Performance Leadership: 11 Better Practices That Can Ratchet Up Performance” (Second Edition) by Robert Behn in the Managing for Performance and Results Series, IBM Center for the Business of Government, 2006, no e-link available; Behn can be reached atredsox@ksg.harvard.edu.

Clearly, this is a great way to start thinking about leadership. I first learned about this when Ralph Watson, then principal at Andrews Middle School, led our teaching teams through a team building process outlined in the Turning Points 2000 support materials. My four-teacher team spent an hour creating a statement of purpose. Purpose and mission are really the exact same thing. While we started off skeptically, we gradually warmed to the idea. Over the next two years, my teammates and I frequently pulled out our purpose statement during debates.

As I have formed groups in my current role as principal, I have used the purpose setting activity to get things going. Like most worthwhile activities, the small investment of time upfront pays dividends throughout the life of the group.

So, articulate the mission. I think I will write my own mission statement one of these days.

Day 19 of my month of blog-a-day (Spilling Ink http://tinyurl.com/nc7gg3). 11 remaining.