I'm a fan of Andrew Hill's "On Management" weekly column in the Financial Times. This morning, I was delighted to come across his piece on "the hardest innovation."
Q: What is the hardest innovation?
A: Killing off projects.
As anyone in schools knows, it is tremendoulsy challenging to sunset projects that really ought to fade away. Hill states that the struggle involved in persuading any company [school] to stop doing certain things is downright painful. We tend to use nice terms, such as "concentrate our focus" to refer to the notion of stopping a project. His point, quite simply, is that we cannot become more strategic by focusing more on something; an increased focus in one area means cleaning up another area and moving it off the radar screen entirely. Focus demands it.
I like one paragraph immensely:
"Why is it so hard for companies to kill off projects? Many leaders think it is more courageous to advance, expand and aquire than to retreat, shrink and divest. At a recent strategy meeting I attended, executives' warm enthusiasm for new ventures was inversely proportional to the chill and doublespeak that filled the room when they were challenged to take the axe to longstanding initiatives. [...] Yet when organizations stop to scrutinize themselves, the accretion of unheeded strategy visions they find hanging around them is extraordinary." [emphasis mine]
Strategy is very much about choice, in other words.
Does your school avoid the hard work of choice?