Working smarter.

On the side of the image is a laptop, cup of coffee and a plant suggesting that work is happening. Title text: Working Smarter by Dr. Tim Grivois, Executive Director, Website:

by Timothy (Tim) Grivois, Ed.D.  

Successful initiatives begin with a shared understanding of what the team is doing, who the work is for, and what’s supposed to happen when we get it right. Sometimes, leaders assume that everyone understands what’s going on. The best, however, take no chances. Recently, Fatih Karatas, Chief Executive Officer at Sonoran Schools, sat down with me and his leadership team to list all initiatives and then identify the audience, responsibility, and outcome for each.

First, we brainstormed initiatives. We defined “initiatives” as anything Sonoran Schools was doing that was not yet a part of their automatic, unprompted, and systematic practice. Taking attendance in their school information system, for example, would not be an initiative, because everyone knows how to take attendance and does so every day. However, the team identified several initiatives that were important to the organization, but were not yet part of routine, daily practice:

Next, we identified who was responsible for each initiative. When I lead this process, the person ‘responsible’ is the person who is paid to ensure the initiative is done well. Whether the project is 1% or 100% of a position, without leadership, initiatives fail. Often, teams note that responsibilities are shared or duplicated, leading to fruitful discussions about how best to allocate limited leadership time.

After we agreed on who was principally in charge of each initiative, we identified each project’s audience. The audience for an initiative is the group whose practice or behavior must change. For example, while the Director of Student Conduct and Safety is responsible for PBIS, the district-level audience for the work are the principals and deans who must implement PBIS systems and practices.

Finally, we outlined outcomes for each initiative. We know our outcomes are correct when they describe what happens when we get it right. For PBIS, we decided the outcome would be that every site has implemented effective systems, practices, and data strategies to support positive behavioral outcomes for students. 

While aligning initiatives this way clearly supported the team, what matters most is what happens next. Now that each initiative has a clear leader, audience, and outcome, Sonoran Schools is going to develop outcomes and key results to guide daily practice. I’ll share more here when we’re done!

Note: Other versions of the Working Smarter Matrix are available all over the internet. The one that I use is below.

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