The President and CEO of Steelcase, James P. Hackett, wowed an executive leadership network group with his ‘simple’ framework for guiding the organization. He said, “It’s a bull’s-eye, and you put ‘now’ in the center, and the outer ring is ‘near’ and the furthest out ring is ‘far’. And you ask yourself…..how much time do you spend in each of those three zones? And what is the right amount that you should spend?”
Hackett’s point is that leaders need to learn how to work in each dimension of the bull’s-eye simultaneously. We naturally lean toward working in the ‘now’ because of the immediacy of required action and meeting expectations. But great leaders, he posits, won’t necessarily be recognized until the long term becomes the present because these leaders looked way down the road, imagined the future, and helped grow the organization in those directions.
For the majority of US history, in education, we have followed a linear path in everything we do….by the book – what comes first, second, third and so on. What we know from current brain/learning research and the impact of information technologies is that our personal and global intersections demand the ability to integrate multiple targets. We’ve also discovered that disciplines for which we carved an undeviating, supposedly developmental, instructional path are anything but linear. Continuing to operate in a sequential manner is counterintuitive in today’s world and for different curricular areas. Being charged with the most important task of preparing young people means we must adapt the educational framework to best meet learners’ abilities to be well prepared today and into the future.
There are many objectives for educators today. One is digitally converting to robust technologies, infrastructures, securities and the professional growth needs that go with those demands. It is very interesting to learn where each state (and district) sits in relationship to this technological readiness. Their status represents the leaders’ track record for having worked the ‘now’, ‘near’, and ‘far’ in guiding their entities. Those working the ‘near’ and ‘far’ wouldn’t have been simply getting ready, let’s say, for the 2014-15 mandated online assessments, but for the world itself outside the walls of schools. The one where multimedia, multitasking, rapidly engaged information are hallmarks of young persons’ experiences when not in school…not to mention the expectations for today’s work place, global and personal interactions. We’ve had years of information telling us that the future would be embedded with technologies of all manner and that schools needed to gear up, plan and get on board. Some did. Most didn’t.
We hear a lot of reasons for why education doesn’t have the required technologies and consistent connectivity for students: lack of funds and/or infrastructure; lack of Board support; lack of research/evidence that technology matters; commitment to ‘school the way I did it’; safety/security concerns. They all point to the need for the kind of leadership required for today’s and tomorrow’s schools.
When you explore sites with robust student technologies, infrastructures, etc., in place, you find leaders like Ann Linson (East Noble Schools, IN), Casey Wardynski (Huntsville Schools, AL), Bill Hamilton/Jim Geisler (Walled Lake Schools, MI); Mark Edwards (Mooresville Graded School District, NC); Terry Jenkins/Dennis Veronese (Auburn City Schools, AL) who also were confronted by the above obstacles. But they defined a shared vision, aligned it with short and long term strategic plans – including funds – and well communicated the need and direction among their stakeholders. For each of them there were no speed bumps for which they lacked the fortitude, research, skills and commitment to move their districts forward. It was hard work that commanded they not only straddle the ‘now’ and ‘near’ but imagine and work toward the ‘far’ at all times.
Chief Executive Officer