It’s that time of year – making those “oh so difficult” budget decisions! In this day of reduced and inadequate dollars to support all of a district’s needs, making decisions around budget reductions in such key areas as staffing or programs can be contentious and exhausting! Many district and school leaders are using collaborative strategies to make these critical decisions – or recommendations – and secure the necessary approval to move forward.
Frequently, however, leaders don’t think beyond the decision. They are not asking key questions such as – “Now that I’ve made this necessary decision, how do I protect it? How can I ensure that the implementation of the decision is not sabotaged? How can I help support the change of staff behavior essential for this implementation to go well?” An ideal decision poorly executed will ultimately look like a poor decision. The success of a decision depends on the success of its implementation.
In a recent visit to the Sewanhaka Central High School District in New York, I observed Dr. Ralph Ferrie, Superintendent, and Executive Staff working on “protecting” an upcoming decision (anticipating board approval) around changing how instructional services will be delivered to a certain population group. This decision was going to create some personnel and program changes in each of the five schools and have serious implications in the school and community if the implementation was not done well. Here’s how district/school leaders framed their discussion:
Four key steps to protect the decision
- What are the potential problems if we move forward with this decision/change for the next school year? Think in terms of the risks to various stakeholders, the schools and district. Of these risks, which are most likely to happen? What’s the level of impact (seriousness) if the risk occurs?
- With the potential problems that appear to be most likely and damaging, what could actually cause the potential problems to become reality? (list several causes for each potential problem)
- What actions can we take to prevent these causes from happening? Who should be involved with these actions and who will take primary responsibility? When should these actions be completed?
- If the potential problem does actually happen, what contingent actions will we need to have ready to put in place to minimize the damage? Ah, yes – “plan B.” Who will be responsible for putting the actions in place?
Spending a little bit of time upfront with planning for prevention of potential problems can eliminate the need for firefighting once the decision is executed. Kudos to Superintendent Ferrie and staff for realizing the need to protect this important decision and thinking through how best to implement it successfully.
How do you ensure that that key decisions are protected?