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Learning Culture

koko_pebble_md_whtLearning Culture

Spectrum Academy’s concept and design embodies the learning organization, constantly growing through leadership, educators, management, and staff that are change agents in themselves. Building a learning organization requires perseverance and persistence among the leadership team as there is normally much unlearning in the initial stages. Wise leadership anticipates the resistance and prepares pathways to shift the paradigm paralysis. Both external and internal forces have created the need for change within the areas of focus addressed by Spectrum’s plan. Facilitating a learning organization such as Spectrum Academy challenges the leadership to create a new model of change for the paradigm paralysis in education and juvenile correctional systems to date, which

Information Gathering – Organizational Capabilities

Education and communication, includes so-called “students-at-risk”, most of whom have severe difficulties learning within a mechanistic reductionistic paradigm, which emphasizes linear, sequential processes. Such has been the process of management in most of the facilities that address at-risk youth. Natural and common sense questions come forth for the gathering of information to facilitate the learning organization. What kinds of programs are working elsewhere, even if they are only pieces of Spectrum’s vision? How are these organizations implementing a structure that recognizes and adapts to what works while learning from and minimizing what does not? What and where are the performance gaps and disconnects? What are these old patterns within the existing systems and how/where would they manifest? What kinds of demonstrable results can be anticipated, documentable and observable? What metrics have been or can be used for documentation? The answers contribute to the factors that facilitate organizational learning, such as scanning imperatives, performance gaps, and concern for measurement.

Additional data is acquired by answering more questions. What are the key features of transformational leadership necessary in this quest for change, within the youths and in the potential residual personal patterns of staff that may inhibit the process? How are they evidenced? What process can be used to share observations and concerns? What are the alternatives that produce a paradigm shift toward patterns that engage transformation through use of behavioral and situational leadership? What organizations are having success with peer-community building? What continuous training will be necessary for leadership, management, staff and teachers? What are the leadership needs for the various business units within Spectrum? In the key areas of operation, who are the key leaders and what skill sets do they need to support operations? The answers to these questions focus on the experimental mindset, climate of openness, continuous education and operational variety within Spectrum Academy.

What kinds of communication channels are necessary to keep open lines of communication between all levels of the organization? Where and who are the apparent advocates and gatekeepers of procedure and process? How is the vision and mission maintained through the leadership team, relative to the educators, staff, youth and community stakeholders? What are the organizational goals and are they clear to the stakeholders? How does the interdependence of the business units, residential treatment center, charter school and community technology center, empower optimization of organizational goals and utilize problems to produce solutions of systemic relationships? These questions focus on the need for multiple advocates, involvement of leadership, and systems perspective of this learning organization as Spectrum Academy.

Learning Organizations

Metanoia, a shift in mind, is the core of a learning organization’s thrust for change. It can be said that a point of perspection dances in the balance of the seer’s vision. It is this ‘dance’ of the mind that seeks balance, order, and structure in the process of change; ultimately a ‘shift’ toward learning. Peter Senge details five key elements of a learning organization: systems thinking, personal mastery, mental models, building shared vision, and team learning.  He describes the team as – “a group of people who functioned together in an extraordinary way –  who trusted one another, who complemented each others’ strengths and compensated for each others’ limitations, who had common goals that were larger than individual goals, and who produced extraordinary results.” (Senge, 1990) According to the text, “A practical interpretation of these ideas results in the following definition. A learning organizationis one that proactively creates, acquires, and transfers knowledge and that changes its behavior on the basis of new knowledge and insights.” (Kreitner, 2001)

Initial Feature Introductions

Tom Peters says that, “The ultimate stage of involvement is the regular, spontaneous taking of initiative.” (Thriving on Chaos, 1987) It is only appropriate that education, from a systemic and systematic standpoint, finds new ways to draw out the unique individuality of an employee, a manager, or a student. Any system is the synergy of its parts, greater than the sum. “Because differentiation is one-half of a complex consciousness, each person must follow his or her own bent, find ways to realize his or her unique individuality.” (Evolving Self, 1993) The ‘systems’ approach here is to identify and nurture the natural skill sets of the individual in order for them to find their natural order and place within the collective,  evidencing and exampling a holistic view.

Resistance to Change

Humans often resist anything new. Crafting an approach to the resistance of the concept and application of holistic education offers opportunity to discover solutions to fix the flaws and close the gaps in the current approach. What we propose is a much better fit to the current situation and needs of the evolving student. An integrated system naturally addresses inherent conflict and provides tools to ascend from it, using the conflict to engage creative thinking rather than rote action, which the latter is accessing much lower levels of brain activity such as the fight or flight syndrome. “The survival of our ego is at stake. Our vision begins to be stated in things we don’t want- ‘I don’t want to fail,’ ‘I don’t want to be unhealthy,’ or ‘I don’t want to want to be poor.” (Magic of Conflict, 1987)

What fits here is the need to move toward collaboration rather than resistance. Our current educational environment often contributes to ‘moving away from’ rather than moving toward a goal or a vision, even though it is often stated otherwise. The fear of failure often precludes the joy of success. Trust means letting go of fear, even when you are vulnerable. Change creates vulnerability. Often the affect is not the desired outcome. A holistic approach includes the development and nurturing of the creative nature within the human being; what is supposed to be at the core of our person. This ‘fit’ has obvious benefit for both participants and staff at all levels.

Changes in Organizational Culture

The function of holistic education within the community exemplifies the systems approach in business, education, and community. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s research identifies some interesting details that not only acknowledge the obvious; they reveal potential structure for creating environments that illicit personal and professional growth, which is so necessary for the future of students and their success in life.

“As our studies have suggested, the phenomenology of enjoyment has eight major components. … The combination of all these elements causes a sense of deep enjoyment that is so rewarding people feel that expending a great deal of energy is worthwhile simply to be able to feel it.” (Flow, 1990)

Adults- educators, employees, leaders, managers, and professionals- throughout the structure will also notice an elevated feeling of accomplishment, which reflects in a stronger desire for change and results in promoting the new paradigm within the structure of the organization in carrying out the vision and mission.

Employee-Manager Relationships

Creation of win/win scenarios in the development stages of Spectrum Academy includes improvement in the manager/employee relationships. The strategic plan calls for the negotiation of resources (hard to soft), processes, and the inclusion of production and/or distribution of the products to be achieved through collaborative research and development projects, effectively partnering for profit.  Our customers are our students, their parents and/or guardians, the community, and other educational institutions that are shifting paradigm approaches toward education through purchasing the school’s products.

Prioritization of goals requires the business administration and operations of Spectrum Academy’s scorecard to be a primary concern. Developing partnerships empowers everyone to contribute their best efforts toward the success of Spectrum Academy. Looking at the specific example of old paradigm adversarial labor relations, partnerships between managers and employees bring a fresh approach to problem solving. The following example of interest-based negotiation comes from a working model in Michigan.

“What is the Interest-Based Process?
It is the non-adversarial approach to labor issues that can be used for negotiations, problem-solving, communications and relationships and improving school climate.

Why it Works
The interest-based process is based on objective reasoning rather than power or coercion. Because it is analytic and creative, it helps people employ these strengths as partners in problem-solving and decision-making. Unlike traditional negotiations where there are winners and losers, all parties in the interest-based process own the solution. There is mutual commitment to the process and its results.” (MECA, 1999)

The speed at which youth learn and adapt often intimidates adults that have forgotten the voracious appetites of young learners. Even young adults are far more adaptable to changing environments than in the past, even the previous generation. This can also affect staff performance. The creation of manager/employee partnerships can effectively smooth out the bumps in the process.

Embracing the Leadership of Change

The world thrives on the continuing development of technology. Leadership technology applied in psychospiritual, scientific, and organizational arenas facilitates a learning organization toward optimal performance. Both hard and soft technologies are critical in the ever-expanding insatiable curiosity of humans. Oftentimes we ‘do not know what cannot be done’ because there has never been much of the new technology focused in this particular direction.

We are learning to construct new models of reality with technology, inclusive of the educational and treatment arenas. The personal leadership of the writer embraces the optimal tenets of behavioral, charismatic, situational, transactional, and transformational styles. All of the past learning and development of personal style seems to fit perfectly into this environment. Anticipation of acceleration into recognized mastery among the employees, management, youth, and stakeholders outside the facility is appropriate consideration it would seem.

Monitoring the Process – Utilizing a Balanced Scorecard

The goals for the scorecard of administration and operations include customer, financial, innovation/learning and internal business perspectives. Our customers are our students, their parents and/or guardians, the community, and other educational/treatment institutions that are shifting paradigms. Prioritization of goals requires the business administration and operations of Spectrum Academy’s scorecard to be a primary concern. It currently looks like this:

Customer Perspective

    1. Our customers are consistently satisfied with the products and services provided by Spectrum Academy business administration and stakeholders.
    2. Our stakeholders recognize the value of our contribution to the Spectrum Academy mission:
      • Quality and efficiency of operations
      • Ethical exercise of fiduciary responsibility
      • Holistic approach to education/treatment
      • Creation of collaborative alliances

Financial Perspective

  1. We ensure Spectrum Academy financial integrity and demonstrate fiduciary responsibility for capital and financial assets throughout the system.
  2. We deliver our services in an efficient, cost-effective manner. The value we create exceeds the cost of creating it.
  3. We ensure delivery of quality services and products in support of the Spectrum Academy mission by facilitating the generation of revenue.

Innovation/Learning Perspective

  1. We create a workplace that fosters teamwork, integrity, professionalism, pride, and trust.
  2. We attract, retain and enable a highly skilled, diverse workforce capable of successfully delivering Spectrum Academy business administration and operations products and services to our customers.
  3. We achieve high degree of innovation, efficiency, effectiveness and quality of service in every area of our business through the utilization of information technology.
  4. We encourage and reward enterprising behaviors and actions throughout the Spectrum Academy system.
  5. We improve continuously.

Internal Business Perspective

  1. We develop and implement demonstrably clear policies, simple procedures and efficient work processes.
  2. We anticipate the future and we design and improve our programs and services in ways that ensure future success.
  3. Accountability underlies everything we do.
  4. We leverage our skills and resources, both collectively and individually, directly supporting the academic mission of Spectrum Academy.

“The balanced scorecard tracks the elements of an organization’s strategy – from serving its constituencies to developing partnerships, ensuring financial stewardship, building skills, fostering teamwork and continuously improving the effectiveness of internal work processes. No single measure can provide insight into an organization’s performance into relation to specific goals. The balanced scorecard allows the organization to view its performance through multiple lenses.” (U.of C., 2003)

Conclusion

Spectrum Academy is built on the foundation of best practices in management philosophy, inclusive of customer involvement, supply chain management, and labor relations. By adhering to the goals of the balanced scorecard approach, the school will engage cross-functional teams at every level in its operations. The discoveries of these teams and the analysis of their findings will set the prioritization for elements within each division and department.

Systems-thinking requires that all elements have importance and relevance in the mix. Spectrum Academy’s creation of interdependent business and community relationships will demonstrate the value of the vision and mission of the school. In today’s ever-changing environment, Spectrum Academy will have the administrational and operational foundations to manage that change with skill and precision. Combining, even synergizing, the traditional framework of business, school, and community so that it is addressed as a whole system only makes sense in the growing demands of operating in the world in an integrated fashion. The infrastructure of progressive institutions allows and even encourages new discoveries and their incorporation into the institutional mix. The Academy seeks to apply cutting-edge integrative technologies, both scientific and psychospiritual, across the spectrum to meet the emerging demands of the 21st Century student and community.

 

References

Crum, Thomas (1987). The Magic of Conflict – Turning a Life of Work into a Work of Art, New York, NY: Touchstone Books

Csikszentmihalyi, Mihaly (1993). The Evolving Self – A Psychology for the Third Millennium, New York, NY: HarperCollins Publishing.

Csikszentmihalyi, Mihaly (1990). Flow – The Psychology of Optimal Experience, New York, NY: Harper and Row Publishing.

Kreitner, Robert, et al. (2001) Organizational Leadership and Change Management. New York City: McGraw-Hill Publishing.

Michigan Educational Collaborative Alliance, (1999) Michigan Association of School Boards, [WWW document]. URL: http://www.masb.org/page.cfm/667/

Peters, Tom (1987). Thriving on Chaos – Handbook for a Management Revolution, New York, NY: Knopf Publishing.

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