Starbucks. Southwest Airlines. Facebook. Kahn Academy. All successful brands and companies that produce quality service, products and programs. We assume these companies are good because of their names and what they have done. More times than not, we go to get our coffee at Starbucks or reserve our flights with Southwest simply because we know what we are going to get. We don’t question the how and why we get what we need with great businesses and programs; we just expect to get what we want and need. The expectations that they have molded in each of us are built on the foundation and culture within their organizations.
The same goes for successful educational programs. Many times we take them for granted because each year we know what we are going to get. From the inside of the building or classroom, sometimes our staff and students almost make it look too easy. They make pride, tradition and success look routine. In reality, all of those things are anything but easy to duplicate.
Great educational programs are lot like the successful brands above. They are built on basic principles that stand the test of time. When I think of success, I think of the performing arts at Gahanna Lincoln High School. While all of the programs (theatre, band, choir, orchestra) are successful in their own rights, they all have foundation built on the same principles:
Relationships Are Vital
Everyone in the department and program needs to work together, even if they have different individual styles and personalities. To have a successful program at any level, you need to have a foundation built on relationships. Your department needs to have the same goal in mind: all students, our students. Don’t focus on grade levels, focus on students. Relationships stand the test of time when everyone has the same overall goal to achieve.
Communication Must Include Everyone
To have successful programs you need efficient and effective communication techniques. Everyone within the department needs to know what the rest of the staff is doing. For effective communication you need strong relationships. When you are thinking about your own program, remember to make building strong relationships a priority in order to help the flow of communication. When you care about others in your program, you will communicate better because you want to make sure everyone is informed. You won’t do it because you feel you have to communicate to everyone. You will communicate to make sure the relationships inside your department and program remain strong so everyone can achieve the ultimate goal of helping others.
Structure Can't Take Days Off
Create a structure for the entire program for everyone to follow. Surprisingly, more structure allows for others to be more creative and flexible in their instruction. You would think it would be the opposite, but it isn’t. The formulated structure of a program allows for staff to step outside of the normal routine and try different methods. If they work, the rest of the staff in the program can also use the methods and make improvements on their end. If it doesn’t work, other members of the program can add input and everyone knows the new attempt wasn’t successful and can help make improvements to either use it or not use it. That is only possible when a solid structure exists and all members have a part in creating the structure.
Success Breeds Success
Successful programs have a healthy culture. Many times, a healthy culture has the foundation of a solid structure. Besides culture and structure, successful programs also have talent. But talent alone doesn’t create success. A mixture of culture, talent and structure creates success. Winners win! We know that’s the case. But there is always a foundation to a winner’s success story and it focuses around culture.
When you are thinking about your classroom, your building, your district, or even your business, remember what great organizations or programs represent. Visualize how you can make improvements in your organization or program by focusing on the characteristics discussed above. Use the next couple of months to figure out how you and your team will help transform your programs or classroom to be the best it can be. Build a culture to make success the norm and not the exception.