Jim Collins: Data driven stories that move us from good to great

Jim began his presentation with a simple, yet challenging concept, “good is the enemy of great.” The most important idea for schools is to practice the “culture of discipline” that helps us move from good to great. This requires our institutions to make many hard decisions in order to transition into greatness.

Jim is a story teller and his tales are not fiction, but in fact based on data and evidence from his research. I took good notes from his stories, but was so pleased when he summed up the main points in 12 bullets (see below). Check out Jim Collin’s website for free tools you can use to assess where your school is in the ‘good to great’ transition, but first ask yourself the first question in his 12-point summary.

  1. Do we want to build a great school? Are you ready to make painful decisions to make the school great?
  2. Are the right people on the school’s bus and are 95% of the seats filled with right people?
  3. What are the brutal facts?
  4. What can we be the best at in the world and how do we improve our resources?
  5. How can we accelerate the clicks on the wheel by doing a 25 mile march?
  6. What is our BHAG? – Big Hairy Audacious Goal
  7. What core values will we not change for 100 years and what will be missed if we are gone?
  8. How can we better embrace “and” instead of “or”?
  9. What threats does the school face and how much time do we have to act on it?
  10. What is the right 20% to change of our core values and why?
  11. How can we increase our return on luck? What do we do with the luck we get?
  12. What should we stop doing?

When Jim mentioned his passion for data, facts, and evidence it reminded me of the conversation I had last night with a dear friend and fellow colleague in the diversity & equity field. She and I were discussing how much we rely on data and evidence when facilitating diversity related workshops in other schools. My friend shared a story of  when she was challenged by a participant who used his personal experience as a counter weight to the abundant and well-researched data she was sharing. I can’t help but point out the obvious, my friend and I are women of color and it is not surprising that our evidence gets questioned because of aspects of our identity coupled with the fact that we are presenting information that challenges the dominant culture’s sense of the world.

Data driven information can move us from good to great in many arenas of school culture. Jim suggests we know when a core value needs to be open to change and when we need to preserve certain core values and understand what works and why. Basically, what is the right 20% of our institution that needs to change. I would suggest that these same strategies and tools be used towards a school’s diversity initiatives.

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