Valid email addresses are required to post comments. If your comment is not posted, I will send you an email with an explanation.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

In A Fog

"Bert and I" are the comic creations of storytellers Rob Bryan and the late Marshall Dodge, both of Maine. They spun humorous tales associated with the peculiar thoughts and arcane behaviors of the native inhabitants of Down East Maine.

One such story involves two lobstermen who were out plying their trade when a fog as thick as pea soup rolled in and engulfed their small boat. Since the two operated their business on a shoe-string they didn't have the money needed to purchase radar or a fathometer that could safely guide them through the foggy conditions.

Instead, they resorted to Yankee ingenuity as a means of navigating through the thick gray blanket that surrounded the boat. Bert trudged up to the bow of the vessel lugging a heavy sack of potatoes while his work-mate stayed at the helm of the boat manning the controls. Bert reached in and grabbed a couple of spuds, stood steadfast on the bow, peered straight ahead and began throwing potatoes, one at a time, out ahead of the boat as far as he could possible heave. Then, he paused, cupped his hand to an ear and listened carefully. If he heard a splash he directed his partner to maintain the current course. If he didn't hear a splash he quickly yelled to his shipmate to veer the boat sharply to the left or right in hopes of avoiding whatever object, perhaps another boat or a rocky shoreline, that the potato had struck.  

While the method that Bert and his partner used in the fog may have been inexpensive, it was hardly reliable and accurate. The sharp turn to either left or right also depended on a quick "best guess" as to what alternative to pursue when confronted with an unknown obstacle. That's not a particularly effective strategy either.

In terms of organizations, like schools, the mission of the organization serves as the navigational tool that allows the company to continue on their course, make decisions with reference to the course, and prioritize strategies on the basis of alignment with the mission. A mission crafted with clarity enables employees to have an important reference point to guide their behavior and their actions so they don't suffer from the ambiguity and mystery of foggy conditions that prevent them from understanding where they are and where they are going. Too many schools lack an inspiring mission that provides direction for their efforts. As a result, they are reliant upon the leader to show them the way. If the company is in a 'fog' and disoriented they are dependent upon their leader's ability to 'throw potatoes.' That's not a recipe for effectiveness.

I played baseball and enjoyed success as a pitcher, but I wouldn't want a school district to rely solely on my ability and arm strength to toss a potato into the fog to plot our course of action and where we might go as an organization in the future.

I have experienced some instances of patchy fog during my first year as a superintendent here in Green Island. There have been times when it was difficult to see very far ahead, or identify other objects in the area. That is a natural consequence of being new to a system and unfamiliar with practices and policies, especially those that are unwritten and based on replicating traditional rituals. I have felt like I was throwing a potato here and there. But, now that a year has transpired and I have a clearer view of the environment, I feel confident that I can express our mission in terms that will lead to focused action designed to successfully pursue our goals and sustain a course toward meeting our collective potential. That path will promote opportunities for our graduates to be prepared for college, career, and citizenship.

I will unveil the specifics of that strategy to our staff on the final day of school - this Friday, June 24th - and convey it in a Blog entry soon thereafter. I want staff members to have the summer to digest the message and create opportunities to actively contribute toward the mission in new and different ways.

No comments:

Post a Comment