Updated: Aug 27, 2019
The three months of April through June are some of the busiest times in the life of an administrator. This is the period when schools are busy planning for the next school year – re-enrolling students, hiring new staff, updating inventories, ordering textbooks, reviewing handbooks, planning facilities improvements, and reviewing curriculum and schedules, just to name a few.
Part of the planning involves a review of existing policies and adopting new ones.
This time can also be stressful for teachers and parents who may get wind of potential changes and how these changes may have a negative impact on them and their families.
Whenever the status quo is messed with, there will always be a few unanswered questions and concerns and those resistant to change.
Two Critical Questions
When policies and procedures are established, there is a critical question to consider, especially as they relate to a school’s stakeholders – student, teachers, and parents. “Why is there a need for a change in policy or procedure?” In other words, what is the rationale behind this decision? The normal approach taken by those who make policy is “This is what we are going to do, and this is why we are doing it.” The best approach is to reverse the communication. Start with WHY (For more information see, Simon Sinek, author of Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action, and the Golden Circle Idea).
Many times, the “why” is often lost because of all the items needing to be accomplished. The pressure is to make a decision and then move on to other items on the “to-do” list. Furthermore, if administrators take the time to explain the “why” behind the policy, it might generate disagreement and postpone implementation of the policy.
For example, consider the decision to move to block scheduling. Before the administrator communicates “What” the school is doing as a decision, implementing the policy would be more successful by starting with “why” this change in scheduling is so important. This is especially true since adopting a new scheduling system is a far-reaching change that requires a shift in traditional routine, pedagogy and even school culture – a change that everyone needs to get excited about, not just teachers, but students and parents.
When you start with “why,” you are more likely to come up with a good strategy that truly meets the needs of the school. You are also more likely to inspire the teaching staff to believe that despite the added work on their part, it's worth it. The same is true of parents and students.
The "why" can be the most important question administrators ask themselves. Why are you making this change?.
Hopefully, the answer relates to the benefit of students and not just to make it easier on the staff or because other schools are doing it.
30 Decision Making Questions
Bob Riehl of the Master Planning Group offers thirty questions to ask before making major decisions. He states, “this series of 30 questions can save you many hours and possibly thousands or millions of dollars.” NOTE: This series of questions is a lifetime tool you can keep handy for review whenever you are in the process of making a major decision.
1. At its essence, in one sentence, what decision are we really facing? What is the bottom-line?
2. Have l given myself 24 hours to let this decision settle in my mind?
3. Am l thinking about this decision with a clear head, or am I fatigued to a point where l shouldn’t be making major decisions?
4. What would happen if we didn't do what we are planning to do?
5. Is this the best timing? If not now, when, where? Why not?
6. What difference will this decision make in 5-10-50-100 years from now?
7. Are we dealing with a cause or symptom? A means or an end?
8. What would the ideal solution be in this situation?
9. Who, what, when, where, why, how, and how much?
10. What are the key assumptions we’re making? What do we assume it will cost? What do we assume will be its real benefits?
11. How will this decision affect our overall master plan? Will it get us "off track"?
12. Is this different direction consistent with our historic values?
13. Is this decision helping maximize our key strengths?
14. Should we seek outside counsel on this decision?'
15. How do we really feel about this decision? (write out your answers)
16. What are one to three alternative options?
17. Should we write a policy about this type of decision in the future?
18. What questions are lingering in our minds that are unresolved? Unsolved? (list these)
19. Do I have "peace of mind" about a yes, or no answer as I pray about it, and look at it from God's eternal perspective?
20. Can the big decision be broken into sub-parts and sub-decisions made at a few "no-go, go" points along the way?
21. Is this what we would do if we had twice the budget? Less the budget? 5 times as much time? 1/10th the time? Twice as many staff?
22. What facts should we have before we can make this decision with total confidence?
23. As we each make a list of our top 3 most respected advisors, what would each probably advise us to consider in making this decision?
24. How do our spouses and families feel about this decision, if they are affected by it?
25. What does the Bible say about this decision?
26. If I had to decide in the next 2 minutes. how would I decide and why?
27. Have we verified what the results have been for others as they have made this decision? Have we checked references? Have we actually interviewed previous users of the product or service?
28. What trends, changes or problems are making this change needed? (list) How long will these trends last’?
29. Are we possibly hunting an elephant with a .22-caliber rifle or a rabbit with an elephant gun?
30. What are the "hidden, agendas," why are we or "they" "pushing" for a change? Where is the emotional "fuel" coming from which is driving this decision?
If I were to add one additional question, it would be, "Do I have confirmation and peace in my spirit that this is the best decision to be made?"