A Few Words

Does Your School Organizational Chart Prevent Success Transitioning to Digital?
David Kafitz

The success or failure of an organization can depend on its leadership. How persons who hold these roles interact give rise or fall to the ultimate success of the group they lead. Apple, Google and Microsoft have all demonstrated for us that for organizations to remain creative, competitive and responsive, redrawing the lines of responsibility in a company is vital. Aligning the pool of human capital to better capture innovation and creativity for current and future market need produces better products and services that allow companies to continue to grow and thrive.

So is it time for our school systems to realign and reorganize to meet the current and future needs of our students?

The question is being asked due to the ever present encroachment of technology into the teaching and learning process. Some form of technology is used by students and teachers in the average school on a daily basis, even if it is just for a short amount of time. However, a review of a typical school district organizational chart will show that the curriculum and technology branches are not typically positioned to facilitate collaboration and cooperation between the two entities. Because these groups typically have different leadership and missions as groups, the need to work together is not necessary inherent in their daily work routine because the structure separates the two.

Take for example the roles in a school district of the “curriculum specialist” and the “instructional technology specialist/facilitator.” Based solely on the respective titles of the positions, impacting student instruction would seem to be an outcome of their work. Persons in both roles likely started their careers as classroom teachers. However, interest and university degree programs that separate the two roles cause the path choice. Unfortunately, these roles typically are not aligned in proximity in the organizational structure. The result are two distinct groups of educated specialist working towards the same ends but without any coordinated effort.

In the rush to embrace technology in the teaching and learning process, the select group of school systems that can be pointed to for sustained success have made a strategic shift. What shift is this? The reorganization of school district lines of responsibility so that those with skills to positively impact instruction in the classroom collaborate and cooperate in all related areas. Curriculum and Instruction should bring together all personnel who impact the quality of what happens in the classroom.

The second place a shift in organizational lines also needs to occur lies between the superintendent and the person responsible for the technical operations of technology in the school district. Superintendents have started to recognize that their relationship with their top technology leader (the Chief Information Officer, Chief Technology Officer, or Director of Technology) must be one that is direct. When encumbered by a structure that gives an Assistant Superintendent oversight of that role, the capacity for contribution to the success of the school district can get lost. When the Superintendent brings the lead technology role to the executive table, good things start happening. The technical capacity of the district starts being shared with the key leadership roles which leads to greater understanding of technology’s contribution to the instructional process.

So what is stopping our school system leadership from boldly redrawing the lines to produce better services for our students?

It could be the limits of their exposure to organizational theory.

It could be the limits of their exposure to technology.

It could be a lot of things, including clinging to the “way it has always been done.”

There are superintendents embracing technology for what it can do for the classroom and charting new organizational strategies that promotes student learning as the central goal using technology. The rise of the new “Chief Innovation Officer” is one bold move that combines the technology innovation with teaching and learning. Other policy moves that require weekly or bi-weekly meetings, can be successful. Assigning a programs with objectives to cross-division teams could also work. Open invitations from Superintendent to all staff to submit ideas is also a good idea. A re-organization with new and clearly written goals could be the very best.

Actual inspection of daily work, including the staff devices used to bring order to their work such as systems, spreadsheets, documents and the like – looking, not just listening, can reap fantastic rewards as to how to re-order duties. Many times old reports are still being created when they are no longer used, taking up staff time that could be better spent collaborating. This is the old style “management by walking around”and seeing how the lines of interaction work, and more importantly, where there are non-existent communication lines strung between the posted staff, or stranded posts without real interaction -- leading to non-function, mistakes and perhaps redundancy.

Spending some time looking instead of listening only has the added benefit to Superintendents of removing any negativity and getting to the heart of the matter of staff organization.

A simple thing – looking. It doesn’t mean “with intent to find fault.” It just means looking without preconceived notions and only a mind to see the positive energy of collaboration flowing along, zipping from here to there and getting things done, in time with the greater environment the organization serves.

There are many great leaders among us who are out there looking.

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