William Sprankles @wsprankles
Failing flat out sucks. It is tough to digest, frustrating and can create tension throughout an entire organization. Princeton High School has experienced many successes during the last three years. Conversely, we have also failed frequently – and in many different areas. Yet, it is learning from these successes, and failures specifically, and extracting the core ingredients – that I have recently learned the essentials of Transformational Change: Product, Cultural Values and Process.
These three key variables have a very symbiotic relationship – and cannot exists without one another, except in the replacement of luck – which is no true way to lead or sustain change within your organization.
Three years ago we earned our school’s first ever Excellent Rating. The following year, we repeated our success. We were on cloud nine, and it seemed we had figured out a formula for success. This year however, we fell short and earned the next lower rating, Effective. I attribute much of this outcome, to not ensuring all three variables were present during the past school year. As the leader, I spent a lot of time focusing on the product. I was preaching about “Earning the rating for a third year in a row,” and “Upholding Excellence.” And as the year passed by, I did not dedicate my time and energy to the various processes required to ensure we earned our desired goal. I failed to facilitate a process for teachers to engage in. I got sidetracked by other endeavors, emergencies and putting out fires. And while we focused on the end product and discussed our cultural values, we did not have a process. All three variables failed to be present…and we failed to meet our goal.
Below are a few key points to understanding each of the three variables.
Product: This is the leader’s ability to articulate a particular vision, or communicate a desired goal or benchmark. Often times, organizations work backwards from a certain vision, or frequently measure themselves against how well their products are perceived, marketed, traded or sold. The greatest mistake leaders make (as I know from experience) is having some huge, fancy powerpoint in which you discuss “The Product,” but never infusing your cultural values or facilitating a process to achieve your vision.
Cultural Values: You must spend time developing, communicating and infusing the cultural values of your organization into your processes. A process without cultural values is just that…..a wasted process. Often times leaders communicate a desired outcome, and then they provide time, money, training and other resources into a process – and ultimately, the end product will be something completely different because your cultural values were not actively present along the way.
Process: You must delve into your processes. As a leader, you must stay fully committed and dedicated to the components of a true, authentic process. This includes communication, giving people a voice, time for analyzing and reflecting. A true process may include having committees, extra meetings and long memos – it is the nuts-n-bolts of the daily grind. It requires attention to detail. It’s extremely hard work. And the process must be infused with the cultural values. As the leader, you must ensure folks are not drifting or straying from the values.
And while all three of these things may seem simple……it is the toughest part about leading an organization. It is easy to get sidetracked and consumed with emergencies and other agendas. Leaders can get caught up in putting out fires and other immediate needs. It takes extreme focus to constantly come back to the main three ingredients. Product: Begin with the end in mind. Cultural Values: Allow your values to breathe life into the daily behaviors of the people within your organization. Process: You must embrace the journey, and trust the process.
by William T. Sprankles III
Principal, Princeton High School