Upstream Thinking . . . Uniting the Right People

“If we want to fix a big problem, we need to overhaul the system”

~Dan Heath

When thinking about surrounding the problem with the right people and using data for learning as opposed to using data for inspection, what Blueprint connections come to mind?  Early Blueprint adopters might think about the district and building networks as well as the performance management and problem-solving drivers, high-quality walkthroughs, and competency data.  Most recently, Blueprint-installing districts are focusing on Improvement Cycles (formerly referred to as small-system cycles) and the System Flow (Input Process Output Feedback [IPOF]) model where multiple people at multiple levels and roles work well together to achieve desired outcomes.  

How might the IPOF model connect to MDE’s Michigan Integrated Continuous Improvement Process (MICIP)?  MICIP defines systems as a series of interdependent and aligned processes and people working together toward a common goal to bring desired results.  When putting the IPOF model, systems thinking, and the MICIP pieces together, there is a continuous improvement process that utilizes systems, routines, and people where data is used for learning, guiding, and improving. 

Let’s bring this thinking full circle.  When thinking about Heath’s quote, “If we want to fix a big problem, we need to overhaul the system”, how did Chicago Public Schools use continuous improvement, system thinking, uniting the right people, and using data to guide their actions to increase their graduation rates from 52.4% to 78%?  Shifting to upstream thinking, eliminating problem blindness, taking ownership of the problem, and putting systems in place, by 2018, CPS’ graduation rate increased.

Heath, D. (2020). Upstream: The quest to solve problems before they happen. New York: Avid Reader Press.
Heath, D. Interview by Vicki Davis. “4 Ways to Go Upstream to Solve Problems.” 5 Mar. 2020.