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Saturday, February 25, 2012

Predicting Rain or Building Arks

This is an excerpt from a manuscript on school improvement that I have completed, but not yet submitted for consideration by any publishing house.


Predicting Rain vs. Building an Ark

     Louis Gerstner, former CEO of IBM expressed his view on reforming public education as follows, “To turn our public schools around we need to adopt that legendary Noah principle: No more prizes for predicting rain. Prizes only for building arks.”(Gerstner, ) Educators have been consumed with wrestling with everything that can be measured in an effort to “predict rain.” It’s time to invest in building arks. The authors of Built to Last put it this way, “… visionary companies tend to be clock builders, not time tellers.”(Collins and Poras, 23)

On a Journey in Search of the Right Data

     Thus far we have talked about vision and mission. Now we begin the process of how we expect to get to our desired state. It’s not unlike the safe way to plan a vacation. Such a time for enjoyment should not be left to chance.

     First, when planning your vacation, determine what your mission is. Do you want to relax, visit family and friends, attempt a challenge, learn something,…? Now, create a vision and imagine where you can best experience this activity. Reaffirm where you want to go and why you wish to go there. This is especially important if others are accompanying you. Next, schedule the trip at a time that will maximize your experience. Then, assemble your data and make sure your resources will support the trip as a viable excursion.

    Collecting data assists in our journey. Napoleon once said, “Imagination rules the world.”(Maxims) That may be true, but without a careful plan you can experience a disappointing trip that borders on the agony Napoleon encountered on his ill fated expedition to Russia that met a chilly end during the infamous Russian winter.

     Appropriate data serves the same purpose as mile markers along the highway of a lengthy trip. It gives you a frame of reference regarding progress toward your goal. These benchmarks are reinforcing reminders of where we are, how far we’ve gone and how much longer we have to go.

     We often appear to exhaust our energy analyzing facts and figures in a journey that parallels the quest for the Holy Grail. Someone once described the misdirected optimist as a person who continues to dig through a large mound of horse manure in search of the pony that must be around somewhere. This pilgrimage to piles of paper serves to placate public skepticism or satiate the appetite of state education officials but may not lead to exposing patterns that will impact our business.

     Roy Rowan, author of The Intuitive Manager, claims that “Research is more of a confirmation tool than a discovery tool.”(Rowan, 97) Peter Drucker echoes this point in Managing the Non Profit Organization when he states, “Most of our current reporting systems don’t reveal opportunities, they report problems.”(Drucker, 13)

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