Seek to be more Agile (Insights for Principals Series)

In all organisations, ‘responsibility’, ‘flexibility’ and ‘simplicity’ will be the hallmarks of future success. Schools have been forced to be all three things throughout the recent restrictions. But now is not the time to be complacent or adopt ‘business as usual’ thinking. In working with a Catholic Boys’ School in New Zealand recently, the word ‘agility’ surfaced frequently. Agility is a prerequisite for resilience and resilience is the key to a school’s sustainability. The following insights are designed to help leaders think more deeply about making the most of lessons learned from the past three months.

  • Identify stakeholders’ changing needs and concerns. Avoid complacency. ‘Ask’, ‘do’, ‘tell’ are the key words at this time. In reviewing your responses to the pandemic, find out what you did right and what you did wrong. Draw on the feedback top improve curriculum delivery and operations. Let staff, parents and stakeholders know what you intend to do (or have done) to address deficiencies or to leverage off the positives.
  • Simplify policies and procedures. Because of the urgency created by the pandemic, decisions were made and actions taken in your school without the usual requirement to vet things up and down the organisational hierarchy. Take a critical look at your policies and protocols. Use what you have learnt from this crisis to simplify overly complicated processes and eliminate unnecessary bureaucracy.
  • Simplify your structure. In an economic downturn people are more accepting of the imperative to ‘take the fat’ out of the management structure. Recast roles and responsibilities where appropriate. Cut out any deadwood from the structure and ensure the organisation, and day-to-day administration of the school, is more flexible and adaptable.
  • Allow for more flexible working conditions. The old assumptions about working from home have now been shattered. Where mutually convenient, provide opportunities for non-teaching staff to work from home with the focus on improving efficiency, job satisfaction and work/life integration (not necessarily balance though).
  • Look to multi skill non-teaching staff. During the pandemic, the catch cry was undoubtedly ‘all hands to the pump’, with people required to take on tasks outside their position descriptions. Provide opportunities for support staff to expand their range of skills to increase efficiency, break down silos, enhance personal growth and increase job satisfaction. This approach can be more useful to a school over the long term than eliminating positions and cutting wages and salaries.
  • Downsize if you must but act decisively. Think twice before laying people off. Take into account the expense and difficulty of hiring people when normality returns and the waste of previous investment in training. However, demonstrate care and empathy if you have to let go of some of your staff. Go the extra mile to support those employees made redundant.

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