Leadership and vulnerability aren’t often words that we associate closely in our minds. When you picture a leader, do you tend to picture a calm and focused person with a seemingly impenetrable confidence? This perception of who we must be as leaders can get in the way of progress and improvement. To truly lead our teams through positive change, we have to be vulnerable enough to take an honest look at what needs to improve. That’s just what Tim Dilg asked his leadership team to do.
The Organizational Assessment
Tim Dilg is the superintendent of Valley Park School District, a 900-student school district in Valley Park, Missouri. In 2020, Tim tasked his leadership team with completing an organizational assessment. The assessment, based on John Kotter’s work, asked them to rate how Valley Park was doing in areas like alignment, readiness for change, consistency, effectiveness and culture. For the first time, the district had tangible data to make improvement decisions.
“It really took us beyond the stage of observational data to give us true data points and measurements where we could have deep and focused conversations,” Tim Dilg explained in his Gallery Walk presentation at the Studer Education What’s Right in Education conference. In the video, Tim shares the results of the organizational assessment. He explains how it drove the team’s work to create priorities and define measures that tie to what matters most.
Acting on the Results
An organizational assessment provides data across several areas. By centering on the three highest scoring items and the three lowest scoring items, Tim and his team were able to identify and share the strengths of the team and stay laser focused on the areas where their energy would make the most impact.
Setting Measurable Goals
“All of these pieces are really coming together to create an environment of continuous improvement, but also create an environment that is driven by student outcomes and measuring what matters most”.
While observationally the team knew that they were missing concrete measurable goals, the assessment made it clear. Closing this gap was critical for improvement. They began a scorecard process. Each leader identified one measurable goal to work toward for both employee engagement and student outcomes. Now, leaders can see how their goals align and contribute to the overall outcomes of the district.
The results of the assessment also showed that Valley Park was strong in communication with stakeholders but wasn’t necessarily communicating the right things. “We weren’t new to the idea of collecting data, but we were very new to sharing the results,” said Tim.
He used the assessment results as an opportunity to model this type of transparency. “As district leadership, I felt it was very important that we be the ones to take that first step in the journey of identifying the data points, sharing the results, and then creating measurable and specific goals so that we could model what true continuous improvement looks like for a school district.”
Creating a Great Culture
Tim was proud to see that the data validated what he instinctively knew – his team felt a personal sense of meaning in their work. “I know how passionate they are when they show up to work every day… It validated that they go above and beyond to ensure the success of each and every one of our schools.”
He also wasn’t surprised to learn that there was room to improve the culture. The assessment showed that the leadership team wanted a greater sense of community. They wanted to feel that their ideas and input had value. And they craved more individualized development. With this information, they set goals to build individual leader capacity.
They also knew that if they wanted to truly create a workplace where they could attract and retain quality people, they needed input from those people. The district has recently administered an employee engagement survey and a district services survey.
Like with the organizational assessment, the process of digging through the results can be emotional. It’s part of the continuous improvement process. The leaders will have to allow space to be vulnerable and begin the same type of conversation, again – what are we doing well and what areas can we improve to make the most difference?