Turns are permitted

I have been to North Korea nine times since my first trip there in 2005.I learn new things every time I visit.Moreover, the additional perspective provided by multiple visits deepens my capacity to understand and interpret the changes I witness.

It’s the same with the performance reviews I undertake of boards, principals , senior and middle managers.Although a single performance review provides really valuable insights that highlight potential areas for improvement, repeated reviews over a period of time provide truly profound insights into the improvements underway and the possibilities for true excellence.

One of the appealing “constants” for me when I visit Pyongyang, North Korea’s capital city, is the ubiquitous presence of traffic police at major intersections.I know Pyongyang has a reputation for having wide deserted streets with no traffic, but the stereotype is untrue – the city may not suffer from the extreme traffic congestion of many other cities, but there is sufficient traffic to warrant some control mechanism.

I took this photo on one of my visits to Pyongyang.It shows a policewoman at the intersection of Victory Street and Somun Street near Kim Il Sung Square in the heart of the city.The baton held out horizontally indicates that a turn through the intersection is permitted.

Maybe it is stretching the analogy somewhat, but I think this is a great metaphor for school boards and leaders to consider when they are developing or implementing a strategic plan.

As many boards and school leaders found during the Covid pandemic, and even earlier during the Global Financial Crisis of 2008, ‘strategic planning’ is an oxymoronic term.If you have a fixed plan, it is no longer ‘strategic’.

“Strategy” derives from the Greek word στρατηγία (strategia), which means “army moving” or “generalship”.Like military strategy, effective school board strategy means placing resources where they are needed and being flexible to move them if circumstances change.

In today’s educational environment, flexibility and adaptability are essential.That is why I prefer to focus on an agile ‘strategicvision’ that is nourished by – and flows directly from – the school’s distinctive mission.

If a school is to be strategic (which requires being agile and responsive to changing circumstances), turns are not only permitted – they are necessary.

-Dr Stephen Codrington

You can find more information on our board performance reviews HERE and our appraisals for Principals and Senior/Middle Managers HERE.

More information about developing strategic visions is provided in workshops such as OSG-S5 - Mission, Vision and Strategic Direction as well as in the book "Optimal School Governance", which can be ordered directly through Pronins.

You may also be interested in previous articles which are archived at https://optimalschool.com/articles.html.