Oklahoma City Public Schools provides one example of a school district applying an Always Behavior, developing and institutionalizing a “soft skill” as an action that must always occur, to improve service. Here’s the OKCPS example:

Changing Culture with The 10’ – 5’ Rule

How did OKCPS get here? The district’s leadership team and employees focused on the results of their Support Services Survey which evaluates school leaders’ level of satisfaction with each district department’s systems and processes for providing requested services to their school. Items are measured across performance metrics of accessibility, accuracy, attitude, operations, and timeliness.


Consider these four “soft skills” and two operational policies to positively influence support service excellence using more than 28,500 responses from principals and assistant principals:

  1. Answer the Telephone (Focus: Accessibility)
  2. Respond to Calls or Emails with an Appropriate Greeting and Information (Focus: Accuracy)
  3. Engage in the 10’ – 5’ Rule (Focus: Attitude)
  4. Return Phone Calls and Emails within 24 Hours always and then Follow-up when Additional Time is Needed (Focus: Timeliness)

Two additional policy items help organizations focus on operations:

  1. Create Detailed Voice Messages for Answering Machine
  2. Transfer Calls Only to a (Real) Person

The key? Focus on only one of these skills or policies to achieve results and create objective measures for the goal/outcome. Consider an article from Public Administration Review (Resh and Pitts, Jan/Feb 2013):

Theories of goal conflict suggest… organizations face a zero-sum trade-off among goals. [This portion of goal conflict theory was used/tested] to explain the implementation and interaction of multiple policy goals in the context of Georgia public high schools… The findings demonstrate the highly contingent nature of… trade-off. [That is,] more robust gains can be made toward a higher-order objective by focusing on one particular lower-order goal rather than an all-inclusive approach to goal attainment.

There is a greater likelihood of (positively) influencing behavior and change when an organization focuses on one goal or objective. Focus on one goal, institutionalize (hardwire) behavior to achieve it — make it your culture, and measure it. And, remember that service excellence begins with one’s leadership and commitment to purpose, worthwhile work, and making a difference (Studer, 2008).



Resh, William G., and Pitts, David W. (January/February 2013). No Solutions, Only Trade-Offs? Evidence about Goal Conflict in Street-Level Bureaucracies” Public Administration Review, 73(1): 132-142. PDF available online here: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1540-6210.2012.02623.x/pdf.

Studer, Q. 2008. Results that Last: Hardwiring Behaviors That will Take Your Company to the Top. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Our mission at Studer Education is to help education systems achieve measurable results that produce positive outcomes in student achievement, employee engagement, support services, and financial efficiencies and productivity. Our goal is to help school systems provide students with a great place to learn, teachers with a great place to teach, and parents with confidence that their children are getting a great education. Follow us on Twitter at @StuderEducation and visit us online at http://studereducation.com. Studer Education is a division of Studer Group, ranked for the seventh straight year on the Best Small and Medium Workplaces by Great Place to Work® and a recipient of the 2010 Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award.

Filed under: How to Lead…, Our Partners Tagged: district services survey, DSS, Education, Hardwiring Behavior, Oklahoma City Public Schools, Results that Last, Service Excellence, Soft Skills, Studer Education

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