When there is special work (projects, etc.) to be undertaken in schools, we turn our minds immediately to the question of who ought to sit on the committee charged with that work. Schools are, at their core, human/social enterprises, so it is only natural that we should consider first the "who" when embarking on special work. Or should we?
I propose that, first and foremost, instead of "who" should be involved, we would benefit from considering "how many." In other words, we ought to focus on establishing a constraint of team size, so as to ensure accountability, enable nimble decision-making, and increase the probability of reaching a solution/working model in a shorter period of time. The notion of imposing a constraint is not to tie our hands; rather, as design-thinking methodology underscores, it forces creativity and innovation to emerge. It forces us to make choices that correspond to the constraint, and keeps everyone focused on attaining the desired outcome.
Consider, for example, Amazon.com, where Jeff Bezos restricts team size, not necessarily by a strict number, but by how many people two pizzas will feed. As Andrew Hill writes in today's edition of the Financial Times, "This focus improves accountability and clarity--in a small group, no one can avoid pulling their weight and no one can claim they don't know what the goal is." An additional benefit to the deployment of small teams is that any advance toward the team's goal resonates and ripples positively throughout the team, thereby energizing the team.
Of course, for that to occur, teams must be given great autonomy, so that they feel a sense of ownership of their work. The notion of ownership will make the work more rewarding, and the sense of rewarding work will drive motivation. Voila, a (small) virtuous cycle.
We don't need to assemble such teams for "grands projets" alone; even the more mundane or pedestrian projects would benefit from this structure. In other words, we need not assemble a small team to "change the world," when what we need the most often is a desire to solve a specific problem.