After writing a book, I am finding myself reading the books of others and wishing I would have caught some of their quotes to add to mine, to strengthen my argument. In a really great book by Chris Lehmann and Zac Chase, titled “Building School 2.0: How to Create the Schools We Need“, this quote on “vision” really resonated:
When you have a vision for what a school can be, it has to permeate every pore of the school. Every process, every interaction, every system needs to be held to that process. And although there are pieces of the school that may be only tangential to the mission, it is important to go through the process of examining how the core vision of the school affects each part of the school.
This quote reminded me of a conversation that I was having the other day about “missions and visions” in schools. How often do you see that the school district has one “mission”, with each school having their own vision, and even teams such as the “curriculum department”, “tech team”, etc., having a unique “vision” for the work that they do? If we are to have so many separate visions, it is not only not probable that it will “permeate every pore of the school”; it is impossible.
In “The Innovator’s Mindset”, I talk about how this “visioning” process was so important in bringing our community together:
In 2011, the leaders at Parkland School Division, a district of twenty-two schools located west of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, recognized the need for a shift in their thinking. Part of that shift began with involving the entire community in the process of developing a new vision and mission for learning. In addition to staff and students, the leaders consulted with parents and business leaders to not only engage them in the process but also empower them. Not everyone could attend the meetings, of course. With a school community of 10,000 students, it is hard to bring everyone together face-to-face, but technology ensured that everyone had the opportunity to share their thoughts. Individuals and groups offered input on what they saw as necessary for students—both for the present and for their future. Words like creativity, innovation, and exploration came up repeatedly; the word compliance did not.
Empowerment does not happen without ownership. As we adopted one “vision” for all, this did not mean that everyone did the same thing. It meant that there were different pathways to get to the same ultimate vision, but it also meant that the conversations were different. Instead of asking, “What should our vision be?”, schools and departments would ask, “What does this vision mean to us and how do we make it come to life?” For this vision to “permeate every pore of the school”, we needed to not only create, but we needed to also break it down, struggle with it, challenge ideas, and ultimately bring it to life while constantly revisiting it, and think about it terms of every person of our organization. This helps people to see that no matter where they are, their contributions are serving the purpose of the entire organization, not just in the areas that they directly work.
Only then will you see this vision embodied in all places, not just some places.