What Can Paul Masson Wines Teach Us About School Systems?
by Hank Bohanon
During the 1970s and 1980s, Paul Masson’s winery had some of the most interesting television commercials out there. A contributing factor, their company hired the famous director Orson Wells to star in them! In one such ad, Mr. Wells is listing to a Beethoven Symphony while looking at a glass of wine and he talks about how long it took for Beethoven to write the music. By the end of the commercial, Mr. Wells connects the idea of patience to his wine, saying, “Paul Masson will sell no wine before its time.” The primary purpose of their commercial was to emphasize this idea that good things were worth waiting for and doing right.
I am not saying that the secret to effective schools is that people should drink more wine! However, I do think that schools and districts should not “serve” practices until they have the systems to support them, or the data to evaluate them.
Interventions fail for a variety of reasons. One of those reasons, according to the Harvard researcher John Kotter, is that the approach did not include the systems they required to be successful. In the infographic below, we highlight some of the systems that may help your schools and districts implement interventions successfully. While there are other vital systems components, we are focusing on the following three:
Obtaining Administrative Support
Administrative support includes actions for both the leadership team and the overall implementation process. For the team, the administrator can provide financial resources and time for an “internal coach” to lead the overall initiative. Administrators also provide support in the initial stages of developing readiness. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne, authors of Blue Ocean Shift, recommend using a “fair process” for program selection. These steps for using a fair process include:
- Engage the community early
- Explain their thinking behind the initiative
- Be clear on their expectations for the staff’s role
Finally, administrators can vote with their feet and demonstrate that an initiative is important by attending leadership team meetings and ongoing professional development with their staff.
Having a Clear Mission and Vision
Having a clear mission and vision for your implementation teams can prevent teams from drifting from their intended purpose. Your mission and vision can help your team understand what they are doing, and why it is so important. There are typically three areas to think about when developing your team’s strategic orientation:
- Mission: What are we doing and why is important?
- Vision: What are our team’s intended outcomes?
- Strategy: What are doing to do, and not do, to reach our goals?
One of my favorite videos that can help teams save time in the development of their mission statements is called How to Write a Mission Statement That Doesn’t Suck, by Chip and Dan Heath. This video will both make you laugh and prevent common errors teams make when developing their goals.
Developing a Leadership Team
Every great story typically has three characters. For example, if you have read or watched the Lord of the Rings, you know Gandalf, Frodo, and the other members of the fellowship of the ring. It is with this in mind, that every successful team has these three types of members, and for good reason. These team members include the:
- External Coach – Like Gandalf, the coach may not be present at every meeting, but they have a roadmap for where your team is going. They also provide coaching to help you problem-solve issues that arise during the implementation of your interventions.
- Internal Coach – Like Frodo, this person is charged with leading the overall initiative. They may not complete every task for the intervention (and they should not), but they do provide guidance for the team to help them stay on track for your approach. These individuals need released time that helps them focus on your interventions, rather than simply adding work to their plates.
- Team Members – Like the fellowship of the ring, team members have specific duties they carry out to support the work for your intervention. Team members have tasks delegated to them based on skill sets, rather than just their titles alone. For example, you might have a coach in your school who is very good at teaching non-academic skills. You could have them be in charge of developing lesson plans (with the support of other team members) to directly teach expected behaviors in your setting.
The following infographic provides a brief overview of some of these system’s features outlined above.
Additional systems components you will want to consider relying on include:
- Obtaining buy-in from your community
- Auditing what interventions you currently have in place
- Completing a self-assessment on your intervention
- Creating data systems to track your interventions
- Developing a plan of action
If you are interested, you can find out more information about these systems in our new book Implementing Systematic Interventions: A Guide for Secondary School Teams that just released in July of 2020.
I would love to know your thoughts about the systems we discussed in the infographic above. Are there any ideas that we missed or that resonated with you? Please leave your thoughts in the comments section below or connect with me on the SSWN site.
Thanks to Choobe Maambo at the Loyola University of Chicago for their support in developing this infographic.