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El Paso County Colorado District 49

Our strategy and culture in District 49

As we complete the first month of 2017, District 49ís Board of Education will meet for the annual planning retreat. A main focus of this yearís retreat will be balancing our emphasis on strategy with renewed commitments to organizational culture.Most of us think about organizational performance in terms of what we will do with a focus on tactics and strategies. Thereís no denying the importance of following an organizational strategy, but itís wise to keep some perspective in mind.President and General Dwight Eisenhower knew something about strategy. As an accomplished and respected military leader, he spent his career developing complex strategic plans. He once said, ìIn preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.î What Eisenhower knew, and we are continuing to learn, is that the discipline of planning for action is critical to performance, but once action begins; the plans themselves are not as valuable as the learning used to develop those plans. Thatís part of the reason that District 49ís mission is to learn, work and lead.We know that early planning is all about learning. A British leader, (attributed to Samuel Johnson or Winston Churchill) said that, ìHowever beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at the results.î That sentiment is also important in District 49. Even though we spend a lot of time planning and projecting, the real measure of our success is the results we see for student learning.One of the major points we have learned by visiting high-performing school districts is the strategic importance of an empowering culture and the cultural importance of a relevant strategy. Over the past few planning cycles, we have strongly emphasized our strategic priorities ó the ìBig Rocks.î Now, we are also emphasizing our district culture by calibrating our cultural compass and checking in with our community to learn about our results.Organizational performance guru Peter Drucker is reported to have said, ìCulture eats strategy for lunch.î While the specific wording of that quote is debatable, the sentiment is not. Drucker and hundreds of high performing organizations recognize that a demoralizing culture can undermine the best strategy. Culture is the part of the organization that shapes our attitudes toward each other and toward our work.A culture of high expectations and low support creates unhealthy stress and frustrated students and workers. A culture of low expectations and high affirmation can send the message that performance is unimportant and improvement is unnecessary. In District 49, we are trying to cultivate a culture of high performance expectations along with high support for every learner, worker and leader. We know that learning, working and leading are our mission ó so how do we enlist our entire community to get the best out of our entire district?That question is a priority for our improvement efforts in 2017. We will continue implementing our strategies for primary literacy and 49 Pathways in secondary education. But we will also be working to recognize and reinforce a culture of continuous improvement that honors the people who fulfill our mission. Other school districts and organizations have cultures that are more vibrant and effective than ours. We are listening and learning from those role models because we want to offer our community the same kind of compelling culture that drives people to perform at their best. We are not there yet, but our commitment to continuous improvement is trending in the right directions; and we are keeping our eyes on the peak.Over the next few weeks and months, we will be asking for more guidance and evaluation from our students, our workforce and our community. With those insights, we will keep building a culture of improvement that complements and empowers our strategic plan. Together, weíre headed toward the peak!

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