A superintendent new to his district met with each school and department administrator to ask them what one thing he or she would like to see changed in the district. Several of the twenty-some administrators expressed unhappiness with a set-up whereby three principals, on a kind of standing committee, met with the superintendent once a month to represent the system principals and dialogue about a variety of issues. Many principals felt that their particular views might not always be fairly represented and they also felt the wealth of knowledge and talent in the administrative pool was not being drawn upon by this limited selection of individuals.
The new superintendent changed the practice significantly. Each month he announced committees with specific topics. Sometimes there were two or three going on at the same time. One committee might be looking at changes to school boundaries, another discussing the district’s second language program, while a third committee was looking at standardizing report cards across the district. Any principals were free to attach themselves to any of the committees for any part of that committee’s work. People interested in the philosophical issues around assessment came in the beginning but dropped away when the group began to discuss the practical details of the reporting schedules and format. All administrative staff felt they could contribute in any way they wished and the discussions and decisions were rich and judicious.
Chuck Hamilton of IBM enthuses about what he refers to as endeavor-based work. Endeavor-based work means that “you do not perform a single, specialized task. Individuals contribute certain kinds of talents or even dispositions as needed to a project and stay on that team or project as long as they contribute to its success.” He characterizes hierarchy in these situations as lax and shifting. This is a free-flowing and energized web of relationships in which leadership passes from one individual to another based on knowledge, interest and ability with different phases of a project.
MyBudgetFile’s team has included employees, contract workers, colleagues, clients and even students. These individuals (representing an age-span of almost 50 years) group and regroup in formal and informal combinations as projects are undertaken and the software becomes increasingly responsive to diverse needs of districts across several states and provinces. The more districts we work in, the more angles and approaches we see to meeting educational challenges in creative ways. It’s true of us all that the more connected we are the smarter we are… and as David Weinberger says, the smartest person in the room is the room itself.
Too Big to Know by David Weinberger
“…is a stunning and profound book on how our concept of knowledge is changing in the age of the net.” John Seely Brown