Friday, May 03, 2013

How Many Does it Take to Screw in a Light Bulb?

When we put a new practice in, we must let it replace something else. "One in—one out." In the world of the tech-savvy leader, it's more like "one in—one dozen out." In the world of those who are barely hanging on, it's "one in—one more in—here's another—and another." When we don't fully understand the new, we hang on to the old. We do double-duty.

As a starter, here are three quick practices which make changing the light bulb a one-person job:

1. Take teachers out of the receipt-writing business

As an elementary principal, our school stopped issuing receipt books to teachers. Any student with money brought it in a sealed envelope with his name, homeroom, amount of money, and purpose written on the outside. Students went to one designated place in the school and turned their envelopes in to two designated people. These two staff members received the money. When the tardy bell rang, they  would count the money, enter the information into a database, print receipts, and print a record of the transactions which was submitted to the office with the money.

The practice worked like a charm. Teachers had more time at the start of the day to teach, rather than practice their accounting skills. With a new procedure planned, I began making the needed changes in the faculty handbook. I was amazed at how much we had been asking of teachers in order to satisfy auditors.Entire pages came out of the handbook as we took this burden and its regulations off the back of our teachers. What went into the handbook instead was a simple paragraph explaining where to send students who have money and what information each student was to have on his/her envelope.

The procedure meant freeing up two people to handle the load of receipting money for the entire school. The larger the school, the more time required. However, the larger the school, the more time is already spent on receipting money. The light bulb is simply being turned by 100 people instead of 20. Since that time, the software to handle the job has gotten better. Let's take teachers out of the receipt-writing business.

2. Never ask a teacher to produce a report from the computer when one person can run the same report for the entire school.

Progress reports and report cards should be printed by one person in the front office, not by every teacher in the school. Ditto for award certificates. On my website is an all-purpose certificate and companion spreadsheet. When it comes time to print certificates for perfect attendance, honor roll, or membership in any school organization, the entire job can be printed in one huge batch. Let's get away from the antiquated model of dividing work amongst an entire faculty. Instead, let's use our technology efficiently.

3. Data data everywhere, but that doesn't mean we have to hand-copy.

Every year, the "high-stakes test" results arrive. Every year, in all-too-many schools, principals pass out computer-generated reports and ask teachers to copy figures from those printouts to paper grids. They call it "analyzing data." I call it copying numbers. The tech-savvy leader figures a way to deliver those figures in their final form to the teacher. The teacher's time is then spent making meaning of the data, not mechanically copying it.

How many of your co-workers does it take to screw in a light bulb?  What can you do to end the madness?
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