Sunday, May 25, 2014

Freedom and Responsibility

Dr Shabbi Luthra, Director of R&D and Technology at ASB, sent out a link today to a presentation from Netflix (below) to members of the IT and R&D departments.  This presentation has already been viewed over 5 million times online.  As I read it I couldn't help but think about how these slides apply to ASB and to previous schools where I've worked, how in many ways the keys to an excellent culture in those schools has been the concepts of freedom and responsibility.

A few reflections:
Nice sounding mission statements and values that nobody at the school appears to model, yep, I've worked in places like that that bandied such words in their mission statements and yet in the day to day treatment of teachers in the school these sorts of values were just not in evidence. As pointed out, the actual values of an organization are shown by who is rewarded, promoted or let go.   Here are some of the things that Netflix values and rewards (I've worked in schools that value these too, as well as one school that did not value one of the items on the following list):
  • Communication - treating people with respect independent of their status or whether they agree with you
  • Curiosity - learning rapidly and eagerly
  • Innovation - challenging prevailing assumptions and suggesting better approaches
  • Courage - saying what you think even when it is controversial, questioning actions that are inconsistent with values
  • Passion - inspiring others with a thirst for excellence
  • Honesty - candor and directness, only saying things about people that you will say to their face. For me honesty is such an important value - I've been horribly disappointed when working in a place where people did dishonest and unethical things and routinely lied to you and lied about you - especially when those were people who had been promoted/rewarded and were part of the admin.  

Here's another interesting thought:  imagine if everyone you work with is someone you respect and learn from.   There's a great section on the difference between mediocrity and excellence in the slideshow:  in procedural work the best are 2x better than the average, in creative work the best are 10x better than the average.  Really, that's something to think about!

The section on freedom and responsibility really speaks to me - I think it does to most excellent teachers who put in hours and hours of time in evenings, weekends and holidays.  "Responsible people thrive on freedom and are worthy of freedom ... with the right people instead of a culture of process adherence we have a culture of creativity and self-discipline, freedom and responsibility."  The vacation policy is an interesting one and supports some of what we've been talking about in our PD 3.0 task force about people wanting different contracts.  Not everybody needs to work every day - we are exploring alternatives (when the report is published I'll provide a link to some of our ideas).

Another section is about context -v- control.  I agree:  you get great outcomes by setting appropriate context, not by trying to control everyone.  I find this a very interesting section and may well write a whole blog post about just these few slides once I've thought through a few things.  

Many of the ideas towards the end of the slideshow align with what I've been reading recently in Accelerate by John P Kotter about a dual operating system of a network and a hierarchy.  I very much like the description on slide 93 of highly aligned but loosely coupled teamwork depending on high performing people in a good context.

Enjoy the slideshow below.  I know it's based on the corporate world, but I can really see how it resonates with the education world too.  Share and discuss it with your colleagues and feel free to leave me comments.  It's always good to reflect on the organization you work for, and whether it values the same things that you do.  Today I'm feeling grateful that I'm in a place that does.

Original artwork by an ASB student

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