Good to Great Simplified: How can your school make the leap?


“The enemy of great is good” Jim Collins.

What is “Good to Great” for schools?

While underperforming schools are a persistent concern for educators, equal attention should be drawn to good performing schools and how they can make the leap from “Good to Great”. With the blast of knowledge economy in the 21st century, good becomes nothing but the enemy of great for the education paradigm. Performance need to be stretched to shift schools to “great” ones. In such schools, learners are made ready to bright future careers; they are cultivated to be influential citizens with core values instilled in them. Standardized tests exist in these schools but they don’t occupy the top of the list. Extending Education’s impact to the whole lifetime of the learners is the ultimate priority for great schools.

Jim Collins, author of the bestseller book “Good To Great : Why Some Companies Make the Leap and Others Don’t” is convinced that “the good-to-great findings apply broadly—not just to CEOs but also to you and me in whatever work we’re engaged in, including the work of our own lives.” The guiding question to transforming schools from good to great should be: What can we do better than we are doing in the status quo? Big data has no big influence if it is not driven up to the top of the DIKW pyramid, where wisdom is the sum up of the school consistent efforts to move forward. Making good schools great challenges educators to take their school performance to a higher level than expected. They are challenged to simulate life for learners not only to prepare them for one.

Good to Great Simplified

Let’s imagine the scenario in the visual above, where a group of people is about to change their status quo from the bottom to the top of a hill. They have resided down the hill for years now, even though their life is good, they know that there is an orchard that will make their lives even better up the hill. However, they will need to travel through a rough path where they’ll have to leave their comfort zones behind and take the risk. They will also have to carry the payload to the top of the hill, and that will help them settle once they reach their destination. Nevertheless, the group will have doubts about the journey; they will all sit together with a strong desire for the journey. They will start discussing the best way to approach it, and decide that no one should be left behind. They will prepare for the leap that will change their lives immensely.

What is change all about?

Change doesn’t come overnight and it is all about people at the heart of the transformation process

Change doesn’t happen by accident and accordingly there is no moment such as the changing moment. On the contrary, change is a vision that is put into practice through genuine and consistent efforts of the school.

People are the core of the change process. When people have ownership in change, their organizations’ achievements will become their own achievements. They endeavor accomplishments as a method to have self-actualization. “When they begin to see tangible results and can feel the flywheel start to build speed—that’s when they line up, throw their shoulders to the wheel, and push” Jim Collins.

Jim Collins in his book, discusses that not only we need to put the right people in the bus, but the wrong people of the bus and the right people in the right seats. People in the context of schools is all of the education stake holders.

Leadership: The Guiding light for change.

People who carry the wooden board will have their dark moments and that is when they seek guidance from insightful leaders. Leaders who want to lead the change will not set aside and watch people lining up and moving forward with the burden on their shoulder, instead they will be holding it with them and guiding them to the right direction of the path. They are humble enough not only to credit others for their achievement but also to take the blame for failures that happen along the way of change. They put their school’s success above their own success, and they believe their ambition will take them up the hill to the group’s destination. Their passion will drive and accelerate their day to day practices and decisions; in addition, they will ensure they stay at the frontline to guide and lead their groups. When conflicts and complexity arise up the hill, leaders will simplify what needs to be done to the group, a simplicity that encompasses  insights and wisdom. According to Collins: The great CEOs “know what their company can do the best, what their economic engine is, and what their passion is all combined into one crystalline concept.” In what he calls the hedgehog concept.

In a school context these would become “know what your school can do the best, what their educational engine is, and what their passion is all combined together.”

Actions that lead to change

In our scenario, once the group starts marching up to the hill, it is important for them to know exactly what they need to do while moving forward and carrying the load; however, this wouldn’t be enough. They should also know what not to do to keep them on the right track. One good example would be that they cannot lean to any of the side lines taking the risk of destabilizing the board and having the load demolished on the floor. A leader would assure that actions made along the ride will still lead to the top, eliminating any distraction. These actions need to be consistent and in the right direction.

Back to the visual and the scenario introduced above, change process is simply making the journey up to the hill to reach the orchard.

Jim Collins Quotes retrieved from:

Copyright 2015 Bashaer M. Al Kilani @bashaierk


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