How can we help you
SCHOOLS ARE NOT BUSINESSES
Our schools are inundated with ideas and practices that are borrowed from business in the name of education reform. These business practices have questionable applicability to schools, and in some cases are just a really poor fit.
After all, you don’t want any reject parts if you are a school, you can’t only take the top achievers and standardized tests aren’t as reliable a measure of achievement, as money is a measure of financial success.
So it is a pleasure to meet a business leader from whom schools can learn something. That man is Frank Blake, who is about to retire from running Home Depot.
TOP DOWN DOESN’T WORK
Home Depot had hired one of the losers of the competition to succeed Jack Welch at GE, a man named Bob Nardelli (one of the founders of Home Depot was on GE’s board). Nardelli, despite his pedigree from the company that had the reputation as the best managed company in America, was just terrible. He alienated everyone with his abrasive style. Home Depot lost ground to Lowes, profits shrank and the company, even with 89 Billion in revenue, was a mess. The board eased out Nardelli, paying him 210 Million to leave (that’s not a typo, promise) and promoted Frank Blake, Nardelli’s #2 whom Nardelli had brought with him from GE.
What Blake did that made a difference is a lesson in how to turn around a troubled institution.
HOW CAN I HELP YOU
The first thing he did was reinstitute what’s called the inverted pyramid organization chart. This is a fancy way of saying that instead of having the CEO at the top of the chart, he put the employees at the top and himself at the bottom. The reasoning is pretty simple: it’s the employees who actually do the work with the customers. Blake said, one week into being CEO, “My job here is to clear away the things that get in your way.”
That is akin to a principal saying to her teachers that her job is to handle everything that interferes with their being effective teachers. If you have that kind of principal, (and that’s the kind we seek to train in our Admin program), you are lucky.
WALKING THE FLOOR
Then he started to “walk the floor” which meant 1-2 days a week of spending time inside the stores. Most of that time was spent listening to the employees tell him their problems and their reactions to what the company was doing. Home Depot’s founders had done this, but Nardelli had not.
This is akin to a principal who walks the halls, talks to teachers in the break room and basically asks what can do I do help you, what kind of problems do you have, what kids are coming to school hungry and not ready to learn, what kids can’t succeed with the math program we are using etc.
WHAT’S STOPPING PRINCIPALS
We frequently hear that principals often have a difficult time doing this, in part because of the demands placed upon them by the central office for lots and lots of reports. This is a classic case of the central office NOT clearing away the things that get in the way of the principals doing their jobs. Another article in the same issue of Fortune has a quote from the head of a really large business called SAP. He says “I want managers who make news, not report the news.” A principal’s ability to train teachers, help solve student problems etc etc is limited if she is stuck in her office doing paperwork.
This emphasis on the customers and the employees has meant a culture change at Home Depot. Home Depot’s customer service under Nardelli was terrible, as I can attest from personal experience. There were never enough people to help you find things, and they were often surly. I remember overhearing conversations full of complaints about both customers and the company. Now it’s totally different.
CULTURE TRUMPS STATS
This has obvious parallels to schools. Are the teachers busy complaining about students and administration? That’s a bad culture. Are the teachers happily engaged in helping students learn and feel good about their administration and their students? That’s a productive culture.
Home Depot’s gains in the past five years haven’t been the results of a change in what they say they are attempting to do. Their strategy, in business speak, hasn’t changed very much. What’s changed is their culture, how they go about their daily work. And, as Peter Drucker, a famous management guru, used to say “culture eats strategy for breakfast.”
So, how can we help you?
CITE is the Center for Integrated Training and Education . For over 25 years, CITE has and continues to train TEACHERS (Early Childhood, Literacy, Special Ed, Grad Courses, DASA); COUNSELORS (School, Mental Health Masters, Advanced Certificate); and ADMINISTRATORS (SBL, SDL, Public Admin, Online PhD) in all five boroughs of NYC, Yonkers, and Long Island.
What question can we answer for you? 877-922-2483