Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Looking for High-Involvement Schools

A recent blog post by Rob Jacobs concerning high-involvement organizations describes such organizations as offering:

  • Challenging and enriched jobs
  • A say in the management of their own tasks
  • A commitment to low turnover and few layoffs
  • A relatively egalitarian workplace, with few class distinctions between managers and workers and relatively small ratios between the salaries of the CEO and the average worker
  • Jobs organized in self-managing teams
  • A strong sense that every employee is a member of a supportive community
  • Extensive, ongoing training and education to all
  • Salaries rather than hourly wages
  • Employee participation in company stock ownership and a high share in company profits (from James O’ Toole’s essay titled “Free To Choose: How American Managers Can Create Globally Competitive Workplaces”  in the book The Organization Of The Future)

The post also includes descriptions of 2 other organization models (low-cost companies and global-competitor companies).  In the end, Jacobs asks whether education has any alternatives to these models and whether educational leaders can support and explore such alternatives.

In my school, high-involvement is not only the norm, but expected.  As an independent school, we rely on the innovative work of all our community members to further our mission and provide the best possible educational experience.  Reflecting on the bullet points above, I find myself finding many of them being supported by our current school structure and culture. 

One glaring difference is with the last point concerning company profits.  Our school is a 503b non-profit institution.  Therefore, stock ownership and company profits are not a piece of our business model.  However, if we consider the results of our labors (college placements, satisfaction levels, test scores, and other measurable outcomes) as our “profits”, I would certainly agree that there is a great deal of employee participation and we take pride in sharing and celebrating our accomplishments among all faculty and staff members.

It is sometime difficult to apply a purely business article to a school setting.  Therefore, maybe we need to define the “high-involvement school” and apply that to our discussion.  Any possible alternatives will likely emerge out of that discussion instead of one that is purely related to the for-profit business world.

Consider this list based on the one above:

High-involvement schools…

  • offer challenging and enriching courses.
  • provide faculty, students, and families a voice in the leadership and management of the school.
  • are committed to low student and faculty attrition.
  • support a culture in which all employees are appreciated.
  • nurture the work of divisional, departmental, and ad hoc teams designed to advance the mission of the school.
  • are committed to genuine professional development.
  • demonstrate individual care and concern for all school members and work to align the individual needs of these people to the overall goals and mission of the school.
  • provide a competitive salary and benefits package designed to attract outstanding professionals and maintain the “leadership density” often gained by employing such professionals.

A link to Mr. Jacob’s blog post is included here:  Education Innovation: High-Involvement Organizations

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