Quarterly Planning


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You're listening to School Leadership Reimagined, episode number 251

Hey builders. Before we begin, I have a quick question for you. Are We Connected on social media? The reason I'm asking is because as much as I love giving you the podcast episode every single week, I'd love to take our relationship deeper. So if we're not connected on on social media, let's connect. I'm on LinkedIn at Robyn, underscore mind steps. I'm on Twitter at Robyn underscore mind step someone's on Facebook and Robyn Jackson, please, let's connect so we can keep the conversation going. Now on with the show, you're listening to the school leadership reimagine podcast episode 251. 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, Robyn Jackson. And today we are continuing our series of the boring stuff. I really need a better name for this series. I don't have one. But we've been talking lately about some of the things that builders do to build the infrastructure of their schools to be able to set their schools up to achieve their 100% vision. And today we're going to talk about how builders set goals. Because here's the thing, everybody has big goals. You talk to any educator out there and you say, you know, what are your goals for your school, and they're going to tell you, Oh, our goal is for you know all of our kids to be successful, or they're going to give you their CIP goal, which is 5%, or 10%, which feels big to them, because right now they're declining and they want to improve or whatever it is, everybody has big goals. But the difference is, having big goals is not enough. Just because you want to do great for kids doesn't mean anything. I mean, good for you great, but it doesn't mean anything. What really matters is how you pursue your goals. And so today, I want to break down how builders tackle goal setting, which is very different than the way leaders and bosses do it. And walk you through the steps step by step on how you can set better goals. Now right now on builders ship University, we are in quarterly planning season. So we do what we call a quarterly planning sprint, where we spend two days together, kind of taking a look back at last quarter, analyzing things and then setting our goals and actions for the upcoming quarter.

So right now, we are planning for April, May and June. And like I said, we do two days. And we go through this process. Now we have a whole quarterly planning tool that everybody uses, we have an assessment to help you kind of look back on the previous year, I don't have enough time in the podcast to go through all of that. But I want to talk to you about the major steps that we take so that you can replicate the process on your own. And those of you who are NBU lookout for the quarterly planning, Sprint, email reminder, make sure you come live or check out the recordings for so we can take a look at the quarterly plan. Okay, so the first thing that you that builders do differently is that most people kind of set a goal, they just pull a goal out of the hat, you know, we want to increase by 5%. This this semester and make a 5% and group improvement or our goal this semester is every teacher is going to spend 90 minutes on reading or our goal this semester is we're going to have more student a student talk in classrooms and then you create the walkthrough instrument you go around and you you know you do a little PD on and then you you go around with your checklists and you check off those behaviors and you see and I mean, if you achieve the goal if you don't achieve a goal, what does it matter, but who cares, right because you I don't even know why you're doing it and nobody else knows why you're doing it either.

These builders do things differently. What builders do is instead of kind of just setting some random goal based on what they feel or what their instinct Tell them or what their gut tells them. Builders take a good look at their data builders take a good look at where they want to be, and where they are right now. And their goals are designed to close the gap. Okay, so the first question that builders ask is not what do we want to do? But what problem are we trying to solve? And there are only three problems builders are ever trying to solve. They're only three problems your only you should only be trying to solve and that's this. First of all, are we making sufficient progress towards our vision? Remember, builders set a vision for 100%? Success? So are we making sufficient progress towards our vision? Second, are we doing work that remains on mission? And third? Are we staying in alignment with our core values? Those are the only three problems you have to solve.

So people look at me and they say, Well, what about other things? 

What about attendance, attendance is a symptom of a deeper problem. So if you have a problem with attendance, and you want to solve attendance, if you just go around and grab strategies, you're not solving attendance, if you really want to solve attendance, you have to ask yourself, is the attendance problem, a result of the fact that the work we're doing is is not moving us towards our vision is the attendance problem, the result of the fact that the work we're doing isn't on mission? Or is it because we are somehow violating our core values, I'll give you a very specific example. Let's say that attendance is down. Kids are not showing up for school, there's a lot of truancy. And parents aren't a whole bunch of help. Well, your vision for your school might be that 100% of students will, will complete algebra one by the time they leave eighth grade, your mission is that we are setting students up to make college an option for every kid. And our core values are keep it simple, stay curious. And I'm making these up. So keep it simple, stay curious and focus on what matters most. Okay, so those are just pulling core values from Bill to various builders who are gonna be just pulling their core values. Okay. So if that's the case, when you look at attendance, then you have to ask yourself the question, okay, so attendance is a problem, certainly, because if kids aren't in school, you can't get them all to be prepared for and complete algebra one, by the time they leave eighth grade, if your mission is you're setting kids up to be successful to make college an option, then you have to figure out if they're not showing up for school, then how is college an option, right. But then let's go a little deeper on that one, because that one, the connection doesn't seem quite obvious until we do dig a little deeper.

If students are going to be successful in college, they have to self regulate, they have to show up, they have to do some of those executive functioning things like getting to class like studying, like keeping up with our homework, that sort of thing. So when we really think about it, the attendance problem hasn't its core, a mission problem that we are, the work we're doing is not setting kids up to make good decisions that they will need for college with though the work we're doing is not creating those executive functioning skills that say, Hey, we got to get kids at school. Now. I hear you, I hear you, I hear those people out there right now and say, but what about attendance, that could be a parent issue? Or what about, you know, the attendance could be that, that there's, you know, some lore of outside of school that kids are falling prey to? I hear you, but don't you think those pressures are going to be the same when kids go to college. And if kids can't learn now to manage those pressures to say no to the lore of stuff outside of school, so that they can get to class, they're not going to be successful in college, if kids can't start taking ownership over their own education, even if their parents don't support it, and middle schools a time when they can be able to do that, how are they going to be successful in college?

So when you really dig down to it, this is an issue not of just how do we solve attendance, let's put more robocalls into action. It's really an issue of this is an area of our work, where we are off mission, this is an area of our work, that if our mission is to truly prepare kids for college, all of college and to make college an option that we have to address. So it starts becoming a tactical issue. And it starts becoming a strategic issue and the issue that really, that gets to the core of what we do. I'll give you another example. We were just talking about this in office hours and view we had a builder who had an issue around kids cheating. You know, with AI kids are, you know, putting their homework in AI and having AI complete their homework and they're getting caught at it. And he was we were talking about strategies for prevention. And I said well, okay, let's stop. up, what problem are we really trying to solve? Right? Are we trying to solve a cheating problem or is cheating the issue is something else. And what we really found is that cheating was an issue of core values, that there are some core values, one of which is that you always prioritize learning that, that this cheating was in violation of, which means that the students weren't really embodying or understanding those core values. Now I can call kids in my office, and I could say, hey, you need to stop cheating, I'm going to, you know, put you in detention, I'm going to make you redo the work whatever. Or teachers can do all kinds of gyrations in order to figure out how to make an assignment. That is cheater proof, that's not a solution, those, those are not solving the problem. Those are not eliminating the problems, those solutions, quote, unquote, solutions are simply mitigating the problem.

And builders don't have time to mitigate problems, because builders are interested in solving problems. 

So rather than taking a look and saying, oh, you know, we've got an issue with cheating or all we've, you know, discipline is a big issue or attendance is an issue. And so we want to make a quarterly plan to, to to address those issues, builders go and say, Okay, what's the deeper issue here? And there are only three things that it could be, is this an issue? Is this a problem around our vision? That we're not? Are we that we're not making the progress we want to make towards our vision? Is it a problem around a mission? We're on a mission? Somehow our work? We're focusing over here, and we really should be focusing over here? Or is this a problem of core values that somehow what we're doing is in misaligned with our core values, those are the only three issues. Everything that happens in your school boils down to one of those three things. And so the first question that builders ask when we're goal setting is, what problem am I trying to solve? Once you have the answer to that, in our example, with the attendance issue, it's going to be mission, then the next step is then okay, what's your hypothesis? Okay.

Now, this one is a huge departure from the way that most people are taught to do goal setting like everybody does these root cause analysis, you know, so what problem are you trying to solve feels kind of like a root cause analysis. It's not, but it feels that way. But this one is, I don't see this in many problem solving or goal setting activities that I've seen out there. And it's so critical. And for me, it was a game changer, right? So when I used to, even in my own work to say, Okay, here's the problem I'm trying to solve. And then I would say, here's the solution. And then let's make a plan to implement the solution. But there's a step that's missing. And this step has changed everything. For me, it helps me to really focus on solutions that matter. Instead of just jumping to a solution, the first thing you're going to do is you're going to you're going to articulate the hypothesis around the solution. So here's what I mean by that. When you have a problem, you have no idea whether or not the solution that you are thinking about will solve the problem, you're just hoping it's your best guess, quarterly planning is that it's a hypothesis.

So instead of just kind of get, you know, focusing on the solution, and then getting mad when you don't get the results, what you do instead is you say, Okay, this is the problem I'm trying to solve. Kids are not showing up for school, I think that it's an issue that really speaks to the fact that the work we're doing is off mission we are, we've got to, if we're really going to prepare kids for for for so the college is an option, that we have to teach them, the other skills that are involved, the things that kind of make or break kids in college anyway, like showing up to class and taking responsibility to show up even if nobody else around you is supporting it, resisting the urge and the lore that's out there to be able to show up to class. And but like the hard skills about showing up to class setting and alarm, getting yourself up planning to get weak, we have to make sure that kids are doing that because they're not showing up to school because they're making other choices. And we have to show them how to make the right choices, so that they will be able to do this on their own when they go to college. Okay, we know that that's the problem that we're really trying to solve, okay?

Now, our hypothesis is that if we teach these skills explicitly to students, if we reach out to kids who are not in school, and go and work with them, and talk to them and understand why they're not showing up, and then teach them the skill sets that help them show up and help them monitor their skills themselves, and show them how to self monitor, and give them feedback on how they're doing about that. If we treat showing up to school like a skill and go out and teach it to all of our kids, we will see an increase in attendance.

That's my hypothesis. 

Okay. Notice the difference between And oh, we can do this. And I read somewhere that somebody did this for and that their attendance increased, I have a friend and another school who did this and their attendance increase, instead of doing that, builders are sitting down and they're saying, Okay, if this is the real problem we're trying to solve, this is our hypothesis. This is what we believe. If we do this, then this will happen. And the beauty of treating it like a hypothesis is it takes your, your your attention and your your focus off of, Oh, I've got to find the solution. I'm getting desperate, and puts your focus on action. And really designing action that you believe will solve the problem. And because you can't know whether or not it's going to solve the problem, treating it like a hypothesis takes the pressure off. It keeps you from feeling like all you're all desperate that you have to solve this thing right away. You are you are and your team, you are simply saying, this is our best hypothesis, given the information we have right now. And then you treat your quarterly plan, like a giant experiment.

Now, when I say that people get all bent, caught up in a bunch about, oh, you can't be experimenting on kids, what do you think you're doing it anyway, right? Because you don't know. But when you treat it like an experiment, you collect data differently, you approach the problem differently, you focus on actions, you pay more attention to results, you make better adjustments in real time. So if you actually treat it like an experiment, you're doing more to serve your kids, and you are getting better as an organization as a result. So we set the hypothesis, if we take these actions, we will see these results. That's step two. Step three is then to didn't go through and define specifically, what actions you are committing to taking, what actions will you take. And so you're gonna go through, and you're going to lay out those actions step by step. So in our example, with the attendance thing, the first thing we're going to do is we're going to look at the kids who are chronically absent, and we're going to reach out, and we're not going to try to get them to school, we're just going to try to figure out why they're not coming to school, what are what's happening that's keeping them from school, because we need to confirm our suspicion that they're not coming to school, because they find something better to do, or they're not coming to school, because they don't have parental support, or they're not coming to school, because school is boring, I don't know. And the only way I'm going to know is I'm going to talk to those kids. Okay, so that's action number one.

Hey, it's Robyn here real quick, I just want to interrupt this episode for just a second. Because if you are enjoying what you're hearing, then would you mind sharing this episode with somebody else. So all you need to do is just go to your phone, if you're listening to on your phone, or your podcast player, and then click the three dots next to this episode. And it'll give you the option to share the episode that if you do that, three things are going to happen first, the person that you shared with is going to think you're a hero, especially if they're struggling with what we're talking about right now. They're gonna love you. Secondly, you're gonna feel good, because you're gonna get the word out about builder ship, and start building this builder, ship nation. And third, you will get my eternal gratitude, because I really want to get this out to the world, and you'd be helping me out, you'd be doing me a huge favor. So please share this episode with someone right now who's who's dealing with this same issue, someone you think would really benefit. And now back to the show.

Step number two is that based on that data.

We're going to look at what skills are implied by that? So if I'm not coming to school, because school is boring, then what skills do I need to to, to acquire, to find ways to take school and make it not so boring for me? Also, I want to dig what do you mean by boring? Are they not being challenged enough, and then we're going to adjust instruction to make sure that, that when we get them to school, that's a place that's engaging for them and it also benefits all the other kids, if they say that they're not quite showing up, because there's a lot of something else out outside, what skills are involved and being able to say no to that and come to school, you can't compete with video games, just by just saying well, let's make school more interesting like a video game. No, you can't. So what what is the skill? We all do it how why do I go to work instead of staying home and and reading cookbooks, which is what I really want to do every single day. Because I know that the I have some skills that show me how to delay gratification to go and do what needs to be done. i There's a skill set involved in that it can be taught it's not something that's inherent in me. It's something that I learned somewhere from my parents or from school. And so if I can understand what that skill is, what are the skills involved in that? And then I can work with those students and help them develop those skills. I don't have to compete with with whatever it is that they're they're preferring. Instead, I'm building their their skill set to show them how to defer and delay that kind of gratification so they can come to school.

So do you see look at when you lay out the actions, and you really think through the actions, you talk to the kids first, then I'm going to think through, okay, what am I going to have? What are the skills? I'm going to teach them to be able to help what for combat? And then how I'm going to how am I going to incentivize them to pursue these skills and monitor that? And then I build a plan that really deals with truancy? And then the next step, okay, so step number one, what problem am I trying to solve? Step two, what is my hypothesis around the solution to that problem? Step three, what are the actions I'm going to take and list them out? And then step four, I'm going to say, How will I know if it's working? Right? So remember, your hypothesis is, if we do this, we will get this result? Well, how do I know I'm getting that result? How do I know it's working? And so and Bill just from university, we talk a lot about we build a scorecard. And we talk about leading indicators and lagging indicators. So leading indicators are things that tell me I'm on the right track, and lagging indicators are the final results. That's like my simplistic definition of it. So what we want to do is, we don't want to wait until the test, we don't want to wait until we pull data at the end of the year. We want to know before the test that whether or not we're going to hit our goal, we want something that's giving us really good feedback throughout the process. So if I do this, I say I'm going to get that how do I know that we're making progress? If I if I teach kids the skills for showing up to school, I believe more kids will show up to school. So my lagging indicator is going to be attendance is increasing, you know, the kids are showing up for school. But what are the leading indicators?

The leading indicators are going to be things like, am I taking the actions that I said I was going to take? So if my if I say that I'm going to reach out to kids, and speak to all the kids who are chronically truant, and find out, why are they chronically truant? Did I do that? Because if I didn't do that, my hypothesis says that doing that's gonna get my results. If I didn't do that, I can't expect to see my results. I said that I was going to develop some sort of, you know, curriculum around some of those executive functioning skills that help kids show up on time do their work on time, all these other things. And so did I do that? There's that's a leading indicator, I said that I was going to sit down and teach these skills to kids. Did I do that? How do I know? How do I know it was being done? What's my, that's another leading indicator. So what I'm doing then is I am tracking whether or not I did the behaviors that I believe will get me to the results. I'm not just tracking the results. This is really important, because a lot of times we set a goal, oh, we're gonna increase by 5%. And then we wait three months, and then we check, did we increase by 5%? No, ah, too bad. Alright, maybe we'll set a goal for 3% next time, and then we wait another three months did we increase by 3%? Now, too bad. And we keep that we keep that pattern going over and over and over again. And we it takes us forever to get anywhere.

One of the reasons why builders get stuff done so fast and see results so quickly, is because they aren't waiting until the end for results. 

They are tracking not just the results, but they're tracking Are we doing the things that we said we were going to do to get the results? I want to go on a tangent here for a little bit. Just a slight one. I need to do a little bit of a rant. Okay, so rant warning coming up. People tell me all the time, I believe in every kid every day, I believe all means all. I believe that every kid has potential. And they tell me that they believe in every kid. And I say no, you don't. You know, I know not not I don't I don't doubt their sincerity. I don't doubt that they say that. But they're not taking action. When I look at their CIP plans. They don't believe in every kid because their CIP plan says we're only going to increase achievement by 5%. If you believed in every kid, your CIP plan wouldn't say we're gonna grow 5% This semester, you're not gonna get to every kid by growing 5% a semester. There's some kids, you're just gonna miss. Okay? They say to me, all means all. But then they put systems in place that that don't do anything. When the kids fail. They don't have any system in place to catch kids who fail or prevent failure from happening in the first place. They say to me, Oh, we really really want to make this a safe place for all kids. And then they do the same school that everybody else offices doing they don't make specific they don't take specific action to do that, oh, we believe in restorative practices. Great. But are those restorative practices actually preventing kids from misbehaving again in the future? Or do you just throw a couple of things into your existing discipline program and call it restorative practices? Are you tracking that? Are you adjusting the work that you're doing to make sure that every child is able to go back into the classroom, and never ever make a bad choice again, or make bad choices or bad choices that they made again? You see, people tell me all the time, oh, I believe in this.

But when I look at the way that they set their goals, when I look at the goals themselves, when I look at the systems in their school, they tell a different story. If you really believe in 100% success, do your systems reflect that? Are your system set up so that 100% of your kids are successful? If you really believe in 100%? Success? Are you setting goals that get you there? Or are you doing the same little sorry, incremental goals that you were taught to do that everybody else is doing? So rant over now. But when you are doing your goal setting, if you set a goal, and you don't have a process for tracking behaviors, to make sure that you are adjusting your behavior to achieve that goal, then your goal is nothing but a wish. It's not a goal. If you really, really want to see different in your school, you can't just randomly pick new behaviors, because somewhat those new behaviors are creating more work, more stress for teachers, and filters, find that the more you do this work, and the more you streamline your systems, and the more you get dialed in to solving the right problems, the less work you're doing that more. There's a lot of stuff you're getting rid of not just adding some more into people's plates. So the first step and let me just summarize and recap how builders set goals.

The first step is what problem are you solving. If you don't understand what problem you're solving, and you're just setting random goals. You're just wasting everybody's time, your goal should be designed to solve a problem. Can I go on another rant here real quick. I said I was gonna summarize. I'll do that in a second. But I gotta go on another rant. Because a lot of times, people say, oh, you know, I'm solving this problem. And they're not solving the problem. They're mitigating it. When builders say we are solving a problem, what we're doing is eliminating it so that it no longer exist. That's a totally different mindset. People say all the time, you know, we, you know, we dealt with attendance last year, and it's cropping up again, then you didn't solve it.

What builders do is they say, this is something that's getting in the way of our vision, mission or core values. 

And we got to get it out the way so that we can reach our vision for our students, we can live out our mission, and we can stay in align with our core values. So you have a problem with cell phones. Well, you don't just mitigate it, you solve it. Scott, I love his story. You know, Scott had a problem with issue with cell phones a year ago with his students. And it was a big problem that was getting in the way of stuff. They spent, they made that their quarterly plan, they built a 90 day plan around that. And a 90 days, cellphones were not an issue. You talk to Scott a year later, he's just like, it's just not an issue anymore. I don't even think about it anymore. Because it's not an issue. You there are other builders who have issues with with things like discipline, they're getting too many referrals in the office, and they spent their quarter 90 days developing a plan to eliminate that disciplinary issue. It's just not an issue anymore. So that when you sit down and you quarterly plan, if you don't, if your plan isn't designed to eliminate an issue so that it is no longer an issue, so you don't have to think about it anymore. Your plans not doing anything. Okay. Second rant over, I think I'm done. I'm out of rants for today's episode. Let's go back and recap. This is how builders create goals. This is how builders do goal setting. First thing, what problem are you solving? And there are only three problems you can that you need to be solving in your school right now. Is this something that is a threat to our vision? Is this something that is keeping us from achieving our vision? Is this something that is taking our work off mission and we need to get back on mission? Or is this something that is violating our core values? If the if the problem if you can't understand the problem in the context of your vision, mission and core values, it's not really a problem. You don't need to do dealing with it. So what problem are you solving?

The other stuff, discipline, attendance, all that stuff? Those are symptoms, what problem are you solving and it's always going to be about vision, mission and core values. Second step, what's your hypothesis around how that problem can be solved? And when you're developing that hypothesis, I don't want a hypothesis that's going to mitigate the problem. Builders are saying, What's my hypothesis? How can I make this problem go away? So I never have to deal with it again. Okay, that's step two, step three, what are the what are the actions that I need to take? So my hypothesis is, if I do x, I will get Y. So what is x? If I do X, what are the specific actions that I need to take? Okay, and then you list every single action out, that's your quarterly plan. And then number step number four, if I do X, I get y. So how will I know I'm getting Y? What are the leading and the lagging indicators that let me know I'm on the right track, I'm making progress. And I'm eliminating that problem once and for all.

Here's the benefit of thinking about quarterly planning this way. When you go through quarterly planning this way, you have so much focus, you stop wasting time doing a whole bunch of stuff that you look up halfway through the quarter, you realize it doesn't even matter. And then you abandon it. You don't get distracted when you have a quarterly plan this way, because you're still there. So you're you're dealing with real problems, real challenges, and you are eliminating them. So there's a built in motivation and incentive quarter when you quarterly plan this way you focus on actions, not results. So you are you don't feel it's just an experiment, you are doing your best to figure it out. And as you go through as you start to see, as the data starts telling you, your your leading indicators start telling you hey, listen, these actions aren't getting the results you want your taught you have opportunity to change in real time, so that at the end of the quarter, you actually have some results, because you've been taking the right actions. So you're building discipline, you're you're making your school better, because you're focusing on taking the right actions, not just getting the right results. And so when you plan this way, your goals are more than just wishes, your goals are actually things that you can look back and say you've accomplished they are problems that you've eliminated. And every time you do that you get closer and closer and closer to your vision, mission and core values, you get closer and closer and closer to building the school that your students deserve and that you and your staff deserve as well. Because instead of just randomly pulling some gold out of a hat, or putting a haphazard plan together that you abandon halfway through this semester, or creating an elaborate plan about something that doesn't even matter, you are focused and planning to eliminate your biggest challenge, like a builder. 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 university.com and get started writing your school success story today. Hey, it's Robyn here. And I want to thank you for listening to today's episode. And if you have a question about today's episode, you just want to keep the conversation going. Did you know that we had a school leadership reimagine Facebook group, all you need to do is go to Facebook, join the school leadership reimagined Facebook group. Now there are going to be a couple of questions that we asked at the beginning because we want to protect this group and make sure that we don't have any trolls come in and that it really is for people who are principals, assistant principals, district administrators, so make sure you answer those questions so you won't get in but then we can keep the conversation going. Plus we do a lot of great bonus content. I'm in there every single weekday so if you have a question or comment about the episode, let's continue the conversation.

Join us at the school leadership reimagined Facebook group and they'll talk to you next time.

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