Martin tells a story about a budget revelation that came to him in his days as a district curriculum consultant. There were three consultants, all of whom had specific responsibilities for curriculum supervision and professional development in their respective areas. Every year at budget time each of them would be scheduled to meet privately with the director to present their funding requests for the coming year. Although they were not privy to the actual figure, they knew that there was a finite amount of money for the department’s operation and that they were in competition with one another for those dollars. (The consultants also knew that they would never get what they asked for so they always padded the projection of funds they would require for the projects and resources they had planned.) The three were secretive about their plans and shared them only after the funds had been allocated.
In the year of the lesson, the director had a heart attack and was scheduled to be away for several weeks. The trio was called in by the superintendent and told that they were to meet together to decide how to divide up the money the director had designated for their joint activities in the year ahead. “We weren’t very comfortable when we gathered around the table,” Martin confessed. “We saw immediately that the sum designated was not going to support all the projects we had planned, nor purchase all the resources we wanted. Speaking face-to-face rather than behind the backs of the others, we spoke with more regard for one another’s projects and needs.”
The consultants immediately recognized that they would need to work together to achieve their combined agendas. Soon they were inventing ways to share certain resources and to modify their plans. One participant admitted that she could actually put off buying certain resources until the next budget cycle since implementation of the new curriculum in her area wasn’t mandatory until the following year. Two others decided that they could both present half-day workshops on the same days and thus save money on a facility where the cost was the same whether it was booked for a full or partial day. Each consultant talked about resources he or she possessed that the others could borrow rather than doubling up on the expense of buying additional books and equipment.
Martin learned that the behaviors exhibited by people who have responsibility for the decision-making… people who are empowered to meet the group’s needs through collaboration and problem-solving… are more mature and respectful than the behaviors of people competing for resources. The resources are utilized more responsibly, with greater efficiencies and less waste when people collaborate than when they compete. Martin became a school principal and he used this insight to save money in the supplies expenditures. That is a post for another day!