From John Kotter’s article “Accelerate!” in Harvard Business Review, November 2012 –
The existing structures and processes that together form an organization’s operating system need an additional element to address the challenges produced by mounting complexity and rapid change. The solution is a second operating system, devoted to the design and implementation of strategy, that uses an agile, networklike structure and a very different set of processes. The new operating system continually assesses the business, the industry, and the organization, and reacts with greater agility, speed, and creativity than the existing one. It complements rather than overburdens the traditional hierarchy, thus freeing the latter to do what it’s optimized to do. It actually makes enterprises easier to run and accelerates strategic change. This is not an “either or” idea. It’s “both and.” I’m proposing two systems that operate in concert.
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During my fourth year as a middle school principal, in 2006-07, we began to restructure as a professional learning community, implementing the incredible work of Rick and Becky DuFour and Bob Eaker. As we progressed in this restructuring around a different work ethos, we tapped volunteers to co-lead the various departmental learning teams. Together these co-faciliators created the PLC-Facilitators PLC – a kind of meta-team to serve as a guiding coalition for the entire PLC transformation.
We ran two operating systems – an admin team known as the Guidance Committee (hierarchical), as well as the PLC-Facilitators PLC (networked). The Guidance Committee was tremendous at running the logistical operations of the school, just as Kotter describes the strengths of a hierarchical administration. The PLC-Facilitators PLC, and the “solar system” of PLCs throughout the middle school, was tremendous at adeptly navigating – even map making – for the strategic transformations necessary in a learning community being influenced by technology enhancements, brain research, assessment literacies, pedagogical improvements, etc.
Two operating systems may seem counter-intuituve. Yet, it was this practice of running two systems in concert that permitted us to embrace complexity versus trying to manage it.
[HT to Tod Martin for the Kotter article!]