I have become a fan of Jim Collins ever since I laid my hands on Good to Great and I have tried implementing some of the concepts in our school district. I must admit though that the success of the implementation is not as good as what I would have liked it to be and that is because of my own weakness in following through and persevering.
In Jim Collins’ helpful book “How the Mighty Fall” he describes the following tell-tale signs of an organization in the first stage of decline from “greatness.”
- “Success, entitlement, arrogance: Success is viewed as ‘deserved,’ rather than fortuitous, fleeting, or even hard-earned in the face of daunting odds; people begin to believe that success will continue almost no matter what the organization decides to do, or not to do.
- Neglect of the primary flywheel: Distracted by extraneous threats, adventures, and opportunities, leaders neglect a primary flywheel, failing to renew it with the same creative intensity that made it great in the first place.
- ‘What’ replaces ‘why’: The rhetoric of success (‘We’re successful because we do these specific things’) replaces understanding and insight (‘We’re successful because we understand why we do these specific things and under what conditions they would no longer work’).
- Decline in learning orientation: Leaders lose the inquisitiveness and learning orientation that mark those truly great individuals who, no matter how successful they become, maintain a learning curve as steep as when they first began their careers.”
Collins makes a few other points I felt were important:
- Any exceptional enterprise depends first and foremost upon having self-managed and self-motivated people – the #1 ingredient for a culture of discipline.
- When bureaucratic rules erode an ethic of freedom and responsibility within a framework of core values and demanding standards, you’ve become infected with the disease of mediocrity.
- While no leader can single-handedly build an enduring great school district, the wrong leader vested with power can almost single-handedly bring a school district down.
- Culture isn’t just one aspect of the game – it is the game.
I consider making a regular and honest assessment of Worthington Schools (and myself) against these markers one of my top priorities. I have no doubt the moment I stop the self-assessment, both I and Worthington Schools, have taken the first step towards decline.