Jan 9, 2015

Schools of Consequence – Characteristic #2

We continue our series on Schools of Consequence.  A School of Consequence is a school or college that has a transformational quality on the context of their environment. From our experience, they are a small segment of independent schools and colleges that seem to thrive in doing meaningful work within the context of their environment.  Over the next several weeks, we have and will be outlining the core characteristics of Schools of Consequence. Today, we identify the second characteristic of these schools.  Two weeks ago, we wrote that Schools of Consequence are externally-oriented as the first characteristic.

Characteristic #2 – They Know Why They Do What They Do

There is an extreme difference between vision, mission and values.  Many schools and colleges get them confused and have the wrong perception about the differences between these terms.  For purposes of our series, let’s define them.

  • Mission – What You Do
  • Vision – Why You Do It
  • Core Values – Enduring Ideas or Truths You Live By 

Most schools and colleges know what they do.  That know their mission, their purpose, their foundation as an organization, and they spend great time defining this in lofty language and lengthy mission statements.  And, most schools and colleges know how they do what they do.  This is often defined by how they teach, their educational philosophy, and the methodology by which they deliver education to the consumer.  But, like management guru Simon Sinek shares, few organizations know why they do what they do.  Answering the question of why is perhaps the most important strategic question of any school or college.  

The right answer to the question of why is never about the school or college.  It is about the external environment, culture, or society.  We in the non-profit world are not selling widgets or gadgets.  No, by definition we are supposed to be transforming lives through education.  Understanding why your school or college exists is more about measuring the impact of the organization against the landscape of the culture around you.

A couple of years ago I wrote an article called the George Bailey Test.  It is a featured white paper in our iBook. The basic premise is simple:  George Bailey, in the movie “It’s a Wonderful Life”, got a glimpse – through a nightmare – of what the world would look like without him in it.  After that dream, he realized that while he had been trying to leave Bedford Falls his whole life, he was the only person uniquely qualified to save the city again the evil Mr. Potter.  He found his why

Schools of Consequence know why they do what they do.  They have passed the George Bailey Test with flying colors and measure their true success by identifying their overall impact on society and people’s lives.  They use the answer to the question of why to drive their strategic decision making. 

We have defined two characteristics of Schools of Consequence so far.  These organizations…

  1. Are externally oriented, reading the tea leaves of culture and are adept at understanding their context;
  2. Know why they do what they do, have passed the George Bailey Test, and organize around their priorities around their broader impact on society.

Next week, we will offer the third installment of the series.  Feel free to share this post on social media or make a comment below.  We love to hear from you.

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