Small System Cycles

In February’s issue, Data-Driven Decision-Making, we shared with you a set of five questions that can help frame how you look at using data to inform decisions in your district or building. Data is used to help clarify district priorities and goals as you determine your focus for a small system cycle. Now, let’s take a look at the use of data through the lens of the IPOF model. We have all heard before, “start with the end in mind,” so let’s start with the output.  As you read through the IPOF model below, reflect on the ways data is used to guide decisions along the way to reach your ultimate outcome. 


Start with the results you want to achieve, in other words, what do you specifically want to improve? Use your current data to determine where things are going well and where there are opportunities for growth. Your data tells a story and will help you narrow your focus and address the most essential areas first. The actual results of the cycle should be compared to the desired result to make adjustments. 


Narrowing your focus helps you determine your input. Within your district or building, what few areas do you want to start with first? What does your data tell you are the areas that provide the most likelihood of impacting routines that will show measurable changes in both teacher practices and student outcomes. Consider the routines you already have in place that are working well and can be strengthened to have greater impact on teaching and learning. 


This is where you map out the who, what, and how of the plan to drive toward your results. Define specific actions for district leaders, building leaders, and teachers that help you reach your desired output. The details outlined in the process make the theoretical concepts of the Blueprint become concrete and actionable. 


For specific leader and teacher actions, identify the data you will collect along the way to ensure the actions are taking place and set a timeline for when you will review this data. Plan for a relatively short timeline, such as the end of the month. What data did you collect to determine how you are moving closer to your desired result? You should plan to collect and analyze the data so that it can be shared at the end of that cycle in order to make decisions about modifications you will make in your process for the next cycle. At that time, you should determine how the decisions, based on the data, and the modifications in process(es) will be communicated to the rest of the staff.

The IPOF model encourages you to start small and be very clear about expectations for district leaders, building leaders, and teachers. During each consecutive cycle, the changes you make are based on the data you collect and analyze which will bring you closer to your intended result. Consider discussing Small System Cycles with another leader in your district. How might you use the IPOF model to map out actions for leaders and teachers that lead to improved results?

“A person and an organization must have goals, take actions to achieve those goals, gather evidence of achievement, study and reflect on the data and from that take actions again.  Thus, they are in a continuous feedback spiral toward continuous improvement. This is what ‘Kaizan’ means.”

~W. Edwards Deming

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