Connecting Big Ideas

“I think it’s very important to have a feedback loop, where you’re constantly thinking about what you’ve done and how you could be doing it better.”

~ Elon Musk

A Leadership Institute participant stated, “[Dan Heath] sure left me thinking as a leader. His message at the end of [his keynote focused on] picking one thing and going with it was important as I believe as educators, we want to ‘fix’ things and take on several to never really reach ‘fixing’ because we took on too much.”  His reflection makes me think of ‘less is more’, ‘focus on the focus’, ‘go slow to go fast’ . . . or any other truism that can be connected.  Let’s take his thinking one step further.  To pick one thing means that a needs assessment should be used to determine the one thing.  Once the one thing is determined, it would make complete sense to use an Improvement Cycle IPOF model to identify what input would be used to support the implementation of the one thing; the desired outputs for each iteration of the one thing’s improvement cycle; the processes, by role, that are needed to achieve the desired output; and, for each iteration, the feedback that would be utilized to tweak the input and/or processes.

To achieve success for this improvement cycle, you will want to be intentional in your planning by using the seven questions for upstream thinkers:

  • How will you unite the right people?  As you determine processes, you’ll want to determine ‘the right people’ to accomplish the important tasks.  Might you even need to “cross” grade levels, departments, and/or buildings to assemble your team which ensures diverse perspectives and equitable representation of the demographic served?
  • How will you change the system? As you complete the needs assessment, you’ll want to ensure that you have determined true causation and work towards “changing” the system to ultimately “fix” the cause.  
  • How will you get early warning of the problem?  As you think about the desired outputs for each measurable process, what might be an early-warning indicator that things are going awry?  By using short-term cycles of improvement, you will be able to use formative data to tweak processes or input sooner rather than later.
  • Where can you find a point of leverage?  What might already exist within or outside of your system that can be leveraged to help you achieve your desired outputs?
  • Who will pay for what does not happen?  What incentives might inadvertently be in place that push you to stay in reaction mode?  How might those incentives be reduced or eliminated?
  • How will you avoid doing harm?  In complex systems, whatever you do will have ripple effects.  Those effects might be positive or negative; in either case, you need to pay attention to the bigger picture. 
  • How will you know that you’re succeeding?  This is the crux of an improvement cycle.  How might you use short, iterative cycles to measure progress as you’re working towards success?  How might you break down large goals into interim and short-term targets which can be formatively assessed every few weeks?  This is where feedback is used to inform changes to the input and/or processes.  As Elon Musk’s quote above states, “I think it’s very important to have a feedback loop, where you’re constantly thinking about what you’ve done and how you could be doing it better.”

So, as the Leadership Institute participant stated, ‘find one thing’ . . . Find the one thing and do the one thing well.  Know that you are doing well by using improvement cycles to monitor implementation.

As you can see from the Blueprint Connections section above, several of the Virtual Blueprint Institute sessions will support learning around the continuous improvement process and upstream thinking.  One session, Leveraging the Blueprint Framework to Support MICIP, will specifically support leaders to be data-driven decision-makers by engaging in learning around the interconnectedness of the Blueprint framework and the continuous improvement process.  Participants will have an opportunity to unpack their district- and/or building-level goal(s) into measurable, manageable cycles of improvement.