Thursday, June 24, 2010

Zero in on the Hedgehog (# 20)

More from the summary by Kim Marshall of an article about leadership:

Marshall Memo 338, May 31, 2010 ( 
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? 

Identify the most important performance deficit. Leadership needs to zero in on a key problem that is getting in the way of achieving the mission. It might be in the area of people, strategies, materials, or fuzziness on the overall direction. “Every organization – no matter whether public or private, no matter how well it is performing – has multiple performance deficits,” says Behn. “It has a variety of things that, if it did them better, would enhance its output, and thus the outcomes to which it contributes. Someone has to choose. This is a leadership requirement.” ...

“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

Sounds like an important precursor to the hedgehog that Jim Collins describes in Good to Great. The hedgehog analogy is that once we decide what our goal is, we have to be relentless in reaching for the goal much like a hedgehog rolls into a ball and doesn't stop rolling until it is safely out of harm's way. The Behn article would argue that the main goal (the hedgehog's destination) needs to address one "a key problem that is getting in the way of achieving the mission."
My job is to figure out how to zero in on the hedgehog...decide what is the top roadblock in the way of our goal and then be relentless in trying to overcome it.

Day 20 of my month of blog-a-day (Spilling Ink 10 remaining.