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Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Critical Path

I think of the lunar exploration flights of the Apollo astronauts when I reflect on our progress at Heatly and monitor our efforts to reach our potential. Imagine lifting off on a round trip of nearly half a million miles! The convergence of danger and desire make for endless possibilities. The threat posed by mistakes was ever-present.

Despite the success of Apollo 11, and the footprints left behind on the moon by Neil Armstrong and Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin, there were many perilous moments along the journey. Consider this excerpt regarding course correction from "Peak Performers," by Charles Garfield, as you plan your path to success:

"For example, on the Apollo flight to the moon the ship was off course 90% of the time but they had the control to correct themselves. It was not a perfect path but a CRITICAL path. Peak performers maintain windows of opportunity to keep sight of a critical path. This is aided by being able to see patterns in an ever-changing environment."

Even the most fastidiously planned strategy must be flexible and adaptive enough to accommodate the need for course corrections along the path. Those alterations rely on the ability of the leader to maintain a commitment to the critical path while vigilantly scanning for the obvious and the subtle cues evident in the environment both inside and outside the organization. This responsibility is best served by a kaleidoscope, not by a telescope or microscope. One must be able to discern trends and patterns from among the clutter of data and perceptions that can otherwise confuse and distract followers.  

Clearly, throughout the state of New York, countless public school superintendents are now analyzing the state aid to education formula that was released yesterday afternoon following the Governor's budget address. These numbers will have to be incorporated into the direction or path for each district. The data will doubtlessly cause course correction techniques, but we must not lose sight of our mission.

It's time to begin applying the aid amounts to the framework each district has developed as they approach the objective of a budget that will meet the needs of learners and also engender confidence in enough voters to attract a positive and affirming vote on the annual operating budget in May.

Here we go. It's time to blast off!


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