How to Upgrade Your Systems


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You're listening to School Leadership Reimagined, episode number 250

Hey builders, before we jump into today's show, I need to know something, are you and I connected on the socials? Because if we're not we need to be so connect with me. I'm on Facebook at Robin Jackson. I am on Twitter at Robin underscore mine steps. I'm on LinkedIn at Robin Jackson. Let's connect and let's keep the conversation going. Now onto the show. You're listening to the school leadership reimagined podcast episode 250. How do builders like us make a dramatic difference in the lives of our students in spite of all the obstacles we face? How do you keep your vision for your school from being held hostage by resistant teachers, uncooperative parents, ridiculous district policies or lack of time, money or resources. If you're facing those challenges right now, here's where you'll find the answers strategies, and actionable tips you need to overcome any obstacle you face. You don't have to wait to make a difference in the lives of the people you serve. You can turn your school into a success story right now with the people and resources you already have. Let's get started.

Hey, builders, welcome to another episode of the school leadership reimagined podcast. 

I'm your host, Robin Jackson. And today we're continuing our series of practical episodes, I want to call this series the boring series because I always say success is boring. And this is some of the boring work that you need to be successful. But that's not great branding. So instead, I'm just going to call it the practical How To series. But I promise you, if you do the things that I'm teaching you to do in this series, if you start implementing these things in your school, you will see amazing success. This is the work this is the work that it takes to get you there. So today we're going to talk about how to upgrade your systems. And over the last few years, people always talking about oh, you need systems, you need systems. Let me just tell you this right now, you already have systems, but your systems may not be good systems. So even when you say we don't have a system, there's a system there, it's just not a good system. So today, we're going to talk about how to take a look at the systems that do exist in your school, and how to upgrade them. So they're actually good systems. And here's why this is so important. We always say and be you that you should never blame the people, you should always blame the process. And when you have bad systems, there are all kinds of leaks in your system, which means that people don't do the right work the right way for the right reasons, because there's no system in place to set them up to be successful. But if you take that system, and you upgrade it and you make it an airtight system, you can help people do the right work the right way for the right reasons, even when you're not looking and trust that the work is getting done. Because you're not relying on people, you're relying on systems. Your system does not care whether you had enough sleep that day, your system doesn't care whether your blood sugar is high or low, your system doesn't care what's going on in your personal life. A good system sets people up for success and helps them to be successful consistently. And so if you are finding that people are not doing what they're supposed to be doing, if you're finding that there are all kinds of things slipping through the gaps, if you're finding that you and your team seem to be miscommunicating, or that everything seems to be in your head, so everybody's always coming to you to ask questions. If you are finding that you have a system that set up, but nobody is sticking to the system, then today's episode is for you. We're going to show you how to fix all of that and build systems that are actually powerful. So the process we're going to use is called the system audit. Now I know there's nothing sexy about that name. But trust me the results from doing this are super sexy. 

Now I have to warn you, this is going to hurt. This is tedious. I don't enjoy it. And I've done it four or five times now. You can talk to my team. I go into every system audit, kicking and screaming. I am not a detail person. I'm a big picture person. I want the new idea. I want to you know, I want to invent and create and sitting down and auditing a system is excruciating for me. Every time that we you know we have time to sit down and do a system audit and it comes to that time. I'm whining and complaining and dragging my feet because it is tough. I mean really to sit down and do this thing to the level of detail that you need to do it. It's tough. Which is why most people won't do it. And it's also why most people won't ever get to 100% the principles that get to 100% do this work. And I can tell you from experience that as tedious as it is, so eye opening, so game changing in your organization, when you do this, right, you have amazing systems in place, you have amazing communication with your team, and you have amazing results. So let's dive in. So the first thing I want you to do is, you need to pick a system. A lot of people think, Oh, I'm going to do a system audit. And I'm just going to audit every system in our school, this work is so painstaking, that you really want to take tackle one system at a time. And you want to make sure that it's an important system. So if you have not listened to Episode 249, and you have not really streamline the work, so that you're only focused on what's important, you need to do that first. Otherwise, you're going to create a system around an area of your school that isn't important that isn't moving you towards your vision. And then you've just done a whole bunch of work for nothing. So make sure that you are choosing the right system. Now for some of you, you're probably wondering what do I mean by system. So when I'm talking about a system, I'm talking about anything that gets the work done in your school, so your system around discipline your system around attendance, your system around teacher evaluation, and observation, a system around master scheduling your systems around how you do your PLCs your systems around how you do and manage and lunch or recess your systems around how teachers plan lessons, your systems around parent engagement, all of those are systems that exist in your school. And a lot of those systems we take for granted, we assume, because they've always been there that the system is working. And in most cases, that is not true. I've not met a system yet that didn't need upgrading. 

So I want you to look at everything that you have going on to your school. 

And I want you to think about what is the work that is critical to our achieving our vision. And then what are the systems around that work and choose one system, one system at a time, those of you who are in bu you have the whole countability architecture training that shows you you know, the different systems shows you how to choose which systems to use, and then also has that accountability architecture template. So if you're in BU, you're going to use that. For those of you who are not in bu I'm going to try to talk you through the process so you can understand it and work it on your own. But if you're NBU, you have that training, and you have all the tools inside of that trainee who have got the counter countability architecture template, you've got the training itself, plus look for your emails, because we're going to do a couple of live sessions where we go through and audit specific systems in your school. And we're going to do that together. So you don't have to do it by yourself. So if you're in bu look for that, know that we've got you, we're going to be spending a lot of time this spring, looking at some of the systems, you need to have your one plan completed before you're ready to go do that audit. So if you're working on your one plan, make sure you get that done, we'll send you more information about that. Okay, so now that you've chosen a system, the next step is to pull out those sticky notes. Again, listen, you probably have some leftover from Episode 249. If not, go grab some sticky notes, you're going to need it for this part. Because what I want you to do is take those sticky notes. And I want you to write each step of the system on a separate sticky note. There's a reason why I want you to do this on sticky notes rather than a piece of paper. Because you think you know your system, you think you know the steps to your system, you don't, there's always a step you miss. And once you see it's all kind of laid out, you're gonna be like, oh, wait a minute, we have to do this. And it's harder to kind of insert that step back into your list. 

So I want you to do this on sticky notes so that you can move things around and look at the entire system and see how the entire system works. So you're going to sit down and each step of the system goes on a separate sticky note, put it on a wall or on a table. And this part of the process is going to be eye opening. Because you're going to not realize that there are as many steps as you thought there were you're going to wonder okay, well what needs to happen after this, oh, I didn't realize this step. Oh, we need to step here, you'll already start to see gaps and holes in your system, things that are working things that are not working. Now I want to warn you, I want you to put the steps for the way the system is supposed to work, not the way the system is actually working. Let me give an example. Let's say that we're looking at your discipline system. And what's supposed to happen is that when there's an infraction in the classroom, teachers are supposed to apply tier one behavioral interventions. before they write up the student and send the student to the office, in reality in your school, maybe teachers are skipping that. And just as soon as there's an infraction, they're writing students up and sending them to the office. That is not the way the system was designed, it's the way the system is being used. And that reveals a hole in the system. So I don't want you to talk about how teachers are actually using a system, I want you to talk about what the system is supposed to be, this is so important. Because if you talk about what teachers are actually doing, then you'll look at that and say, Oh, this system is broken, see, and then you'll, you'll take the system that you designed and try to force it on to the system. Well, the system you design already exist. And if people aren't using it, it means it's broken. So just trying to force people to do a system that you've already implemented, isn't going to fix the system, right? So I want you to write down, what are the steps for the way that system is supposed to operate. And then if teachers aren't using it or doing that, that tells you that there's something broken with that part of the system, we'll get to that later. So this case, all you're doing one sticky note for each step in the system, period. That's it. Okay. Now, step three, step one, pick a system. Step two, map it out on those sticky notes. Step three is for each sticky note, I want you to go into granular detail about what happens. 

This is the excruciating part. 

For each sticky note, if the sticky note says the teacher sends the student to the office, what does what does the teacher have to write the student a pass? Is there does the teacher have to call the office and get an escort? Where what phone does the teacher use to call the office if they have to call the office? What pass does a teacher use? Is it just a regular hall pass? Or a special one? Does the teacher include the referral in the past? and hand it to the students who bring to the office? Does the teacher email the referral ahead of this? Do you see what I mean? It has to be that granular? If there's a form people have to fill out, where is the form? Where do they find it? What format should they submit the form in? Is it electronic is it in paper, if there is a particular procedure, every single step of the procedure, if the if you have to use a piece of software for the procedure, every single step in the procedure, I want you to go to the most excruciating detail so that somebody who doesn't know the system has never used the system before could read each of those individual steps and follow them and do it. The reason you're doing this is twofold. First, you're going to realize that there's just a lot of things you haven't really thought about, you just assume people know, you can't assume people know. So you're going to realize that you've made some assumptions that people just know what to do. And that's the reason why people aren't following your system the way that it's designed, then you'll realize that you're going to need some more explicit detail, you're also going to find some holes, you're going to make some assumptions and and and then you're going to realize that no, there needs to be another step here, there's a hole and people are filling in that hole with whatever they think should happen. And that's why your system is broken. 

So this part of the process is going to reveal all of what we call the accountability leaks in your system. These are these are spaces that we have made assumptions about that are bent the create holes and leaks that people can slip through. And it's why your system isn't working. The other thing that you're going to discover is that there are some steps that are unnecessarily tedious. There are steps that were there, when you first design the system that you now realize you don't need but you never went back and took took out the trash and realize that those things are no longer needed anymore. So you're gonna find a whole bunch of unnecessary stuff. So you're gonna find holes, and you're gonna find superfluous pieces of your system. Both have to be addressed. And both have a reason while your system is not working as well as you want it to work. So this is so important. But I gotta warn you, if you don't do this, with a real eye for every single detail, you're wasting time, this isn't going to work. The reason this audit works is because you're looking at every single part of the process. If there's a decision that needs to be made, how do people know how to make the right decision? If there are a list of steps that they should follow? How can you ensure that those steps get followed? All of that needs to be written down. Hey, Robin here, and I just want to break in real quick to ask you a huge favor. You see, I want to get the word out to me everybody about builder ship, and I could use your help. If you're really enjoying this episode, would you mind just going to your podcast platform and leaving a quick review? You see the reviews get the word out, they tell other people, this is a great show other people who have never heard of school leadership reimagined before, can you hear about it, and you'd be sharing the word about builder chips. So would you mind just leaving a quick review, it would mean the world to me. Okay, now back to the show. And this is the part that takes a long time. 

So I don't want you to think you're going to accomplish this in a 45 minute team meeting, I know you're going to need it several hours, I had to actually stay home from the office, lock myself into a room in my house, put my chair in the corner and just put my head down and work for two and three hours at a time to really go through these systems the first time now we go through it a little bit faster, because we've got the structure in place, we've got the accountability, architecture, you know, kind of form built out. So we're just going through that, but the first time, it took hours, so I'm warning you about that now. But those hours are so well spent. Because when I finished I was like, Huh, that's why this isn't working, or that's why so and so isn't doing what they need to do, or oh my goodness, we're not serving our clients. So I it was so eye opening, you're going to find out so much by doing this. And I would venture that most of your systems have never ever been gone through with this fine tooth comb. And so you have all kinds of accountability leaks, you have all kinds of superfluous steps in the system that are making things harder on your teachers or your kids or your families. And you just never have had the time or taking the time to fix it. So this is so important, so powerful to do this part. So take your time and do that. Okay, so you've identified the system, you've laid out the big steps, you've gone through and looked at each step in detail. Here's my favorite part. By the time we've done that you've learned so much. But here's where this gets super this, this pours gasoline on the fire, that that that is your, your system audit. The next step is you're going to analyze each step from two perspectives. First, you're going to say is this step serving our kids? We're going to look at this step and say, what does it do that directly moves our students towards the vision, the mission and the core values? Okay, so each individual step, here's what you're gonna find. 

There's some steps that are great for kids. 

And there are other steps. Don't do a thing for kids, you're not serving them at all. So why are you doing it? Then, and this is the sweet spot, the next thing you're going to do is you're going to now go back over each step. And you're going to say, Does this step serve the school, the adults, the impact that the school is trying to make us this step in alignment with who we say we are as a school is the step, helping the adults be their best selves. Now, in most cases, you might see something that serves kids, but it doesn't serve adults. And I don't get this. I don't understand why it is or who was the first person to say that we have to in order to serve kids, we have to sacrifice our sanity, our sleep, our nights and weekends, our time with our family, our hobbies, if we don't if we're not sacrificing those things, and we're not serving kids, that's not true. You Why is it that we have pit the kids welfare against our own needs? Why can't it be both? Why can't we serve kids and serve the adults in our school? It's an important question. And we don't spend enough time examining it. When you do the system audit, you're going to look at each step in the system. And you're going to be asking yourself, does it serve kids? You knew that, but then does it serve us? Does it serve the adults? Because here's what happens. If it serves kids, and it doesn't serve the adults, the adults will burn out and your system is not sustainable. If it only serves the adults and it doesn't serve the kids, your system is not impactful? It has to serve both. So when you look at your system, you're looking to see does each step serve the students? And does it serve the adults? If it doesn't do both, that's a leak in your system, you're going to have to fix it because your system is not either going to be sustainable or impactful if you don't. So I love this step. Because this step here helps you to really build a system that that that actually moves you towards your vision. It helps you to build a system that that will continue long after you buy because it's serving both, we can serve both. 

So you're gonna look at your system, you're gonna first look through each step. Is it serving kids? Again, you're gonna look through is it serving adults, those Ubu, though, that's the color coding two columns on your accountability, architecture. And looking through that, if it serves kids, but not adults, that's a step that needs to be revised, because it's gotta serve both. If it serves adult, but you can't see how it serves kids, you got to revise that step on your system, that's a hole in your system that needs closing in order for your system to be truly powerful and effective. Okay. So once you've done that, the last step is to now go over everything and say, what's missing? What do we need, and usually, you're going to need a couple of things, you're going to need more clarity around a particular step. And that usually comes in the form of a checklist or some sort of decision tree to help people make the decisions around that step and the decision, the critical decision that's in your system. 

So you're looking at what are the critical decisions people need to make, and how can I support them and making the right decision every time so you're going to create some sort of decision tree to be able to help them do that. Or if there are a set of steps and procedures that must be followed every single time, you're going to create a checklist to support that. And once you're done, now you've taken a look at your system, you know where your holes are, you know what, where your accountability leaks are, you know where your unnecessary steps are, once you have that in front of you, then the work is laid out for you. You just then start closing the holes, closing those accountability leaks. And you also start removing the parts of the system that don't work, and revising the parts that serve your kids, but not the adults. So the adults were not the kids. When you're done with that process, you have an air tight system, one that you can rely on. And here's where you truly reap the value. Because doing the system audit isn't sexy, but you know what is sexy. When you finish, you have clarity about the systems that make your schoolwork, you know what you need to do in order to improve you don't waste time chasing a new system or, or or, or building systems that aren't sustainable, you now have the blueprint for what it's going to take to make your school more efficient. And the moment you fix that system, everything else gets better. Things start working smoothly, you can begin to trust people in your building, because they have a system that you can rely on. When people step out out of outside of that system. 

The conversation is very simple. 

Did you use the system? If the answer is no, well, then let's talk about accountability. If the answer is yes, I did use this system, then you're saying hey, there's something we didn't consider. There's some part of the system that didn't work, let's fix that the moment you fix that, the person is now set up to be successful again. So having a good system sets everybody up for success, and makes the process clear, transparent, so everybody can be successful. The second thing that happens and I wasn't expecting this, when you have clarity around your system, people feel a sense of relief. I didn't realize how often people were playing the guests what's on Robins mind game. And I would argue that it's true for you and your school to that there are things that are in your head, but they're not. They're not apparent, they're not clear. They're there ways that you want things done. But because you haven't created clarity around your systems, people will always running around trying to guess how to make you happy. And that's a lot of work. If instead you have clarity around the system, they don't have to guess it's there. It's written out. 

Everybody understands it. Everybody agrees with it. And so now people feel empowered to do the right work, because you have a system in place that supports them in doing that. And I did not expect how big of a game changer that was going to be people who, for years, I'd want it to take on more ownership and more leadership and was very frustrated that they weren't doing it once we had clarity around the system. They were like, oh, okay, and they immediately took ownership of the system because they had that clarity. And they immediately began to take on more leadership and organization because again, they had clarity. They knew what the work was they they had it all spelled out for them, and they could take it and run with it. The same thing is going to happen in your school. When you have clarity around the systems. Your APS can, can can can now take on one ownership over the work your team leaders don't always need to see see you on emails and ask your permission for everything anymore because they understand how the system works. They just take it and take ownership. So it empowers the people in your building to take on more leadership, well, we don't use the word leadership to become builders. That's what it is, it empowers the people in your building to become builders in their own right, everybody from the teacher, your main office secretaries, your, your your attendance secretary, your business manager, your custodian, every year, your parents, everybody wants a system is clear, they can begin to take ownership of that system, and they become builders in their own right. The third thing that happened and again, this I did not expect, but I was so excited to see it happen was that the organization, just it moved ahead by leaps and bounds. Because now the system is running. And the system is designed to make people successful. People start experiencing success, the more we work the system, the more successful and efficient organization became an I actually started to feel like whoa, this is this is real, this is happening that, you know, the you could just sit there and look and see the system working. And that great feeling to feel like all of the work we've put into something has has made a difference. And now things are running smoothly and efficiently. And people start to experience more results. Because you designed it that way because your system set them up to experience those results. This, I'm telling you, it is tedious, it is tough, most people will never do it, they'll make all kinds of excuses, I'm too busy, I'm too overwhelmed, you know why you're busy and overwhelmed, because you don't have good systems. 

So take the time away from doing the being busy and overwhelmed. Step aside, create better systems and you're not so busy or not so overwhelmed anymore. There are a lot of people who won't do it, because they'll just get too bored or too frustrated before they finish the process. And they will give up before they get to the promised land. The if you stick with this, I promise you, you will see results. But you've got to stick with it. You've got to do the work. Some people will never do this because they say I already have these systems. And to them, I just want to say yeah, but if you I agree you do have systems. But are those systems serving the kids and the adults in the building? Are those systems getting you the results that you say you want? And if the answer's no, you need to upgrade your systems. Listen, I do this at least once a year. And every time I do it, I think oh, you know what we this is going to take no time because that system is great. And every time I do it, I find a new way to upgrade the systems, you just keep getting better and better and better. And so I don't care if you already have systems, if they're not getting you the results that you want, you need to upgrade your systems, I always say that the results you're getting are the results that your organization was designed to get. If you want different results, you've got to redesign your organization. So if you're unhappy with the results, or if you're worried that you are striving to become satisfied with the status quo, or your team is becoming satisfied with the status quo, if you feel like you could be more efficient, or if you feel like you are the bottleneck in your school, and everybody's running to you and and asking you for your opinion and, and nobody's taken on ownership of the work themselves. If you feel like you are wearing yourself out on behalf of kids, for noble reasons, but you don't know how long you can keep it up. If you are frustrated because you have a quote unquote system in place, but nobody's following it, then you need to upgrade your systems. 

So let me go through the steps one more time. 

Number one, you got to find the right systems upgrade only systems that are directly going to impact your vision, mission and core value. need this kind of introspection and work? Anything else? No. Focus on the right systems? Choose one? Don't try to do them all. Number two, what are the big steps in the system? map it out? Number three for each step? What is the exact process that has to be in place? What software needs to be used? What format does it take, go into excruciating detail. Leave no stone unturned? Because that's where you're going to find your accountability leaks. Number four, analyze each step. Is it serving kids and the adults in the building? And then number five, what are the what? Look at the overall analysis, what's missing? Where are your gaps, what's superfluous, or has to become superfluous? And then begin to work using that audit as a roadmap to refine your systems so that you build better so stems and set people up for success like a belter. I'll talk to you next time.

Hey, if you're ready to get started being a builder right away, then I want to invite you to join us at builder ship University. It's our exclusive online community for builders just like you, where you'll be able to get the exact training that you need to turn your school into a success story right now with the people and resources you already have. Inside, you'll find our best online courses, live trainings with me tons of resources, templates and exemplars and monthly live office hours with me where you can ask me anything and get my help on whatever challenge you're facing right now. If you're tired of hitting obstacle after obstacle, and you're sick of tiny little incremental gains each year, if you're ready to make a dramatic difference in your school right now, then you need to join bill to ship University. Just go to build a ship and get started writing your school success story today. Hey, real quick before you go. If you enjoyed today's episode, and you know someone who would really benefit from what you heard here today, maybe they're struggling with a thing that we talked about in today's episode. Would you take a moment and share this episode with them? You see, not only will it help us get the word about build your ship out to more people, but you're gonna look like a rockstar because you're gonna give people something they can really use to help them get unstuck and be better at building their schools. Plus, it would mean the world to me.

Thanks so much, and I'll see you next time.

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