Picture it. You’re standing at a busy intersection in New York City. You press the crosswalk button and wait as traffic whirls by. After several minutes, you press the button again. A fellow pedestrian smiles and informs you, “Those things don’t work.” What?

You followed the instructions clearly printed on the black and white sign. You obeyed the rules of the system and expected favorable results. So, what happened? The system is broken, and you didn’t get the memo.

In the latest issue of AASA’s School Administrator magazine, Dr. Pat Greco reminds us that broken systems and processes prevent us from achieving lasting improvement. Getting the results we want requires a capacity to detect barriers, work to remove them, and communicate our progress.

Stoplight Report

In her article, Pat says training the whole team in improvement tools and processes is how we remove the barriers. One continuous improvement tool the School District of Menomonee Falls uses across departments is the Stoplight Report. Teams track improvement needs on the Stoplight Report. They regularly share the tool so that everyone who is impacted can see what is being done to address the issue.

The Stoplight Report is the sign above the crosswalk button that says, “This button does not work.” It also builds trust, because people know the organization is committed to fixing the system.

How to Use a Stoplight Report:

  1. Collect information about needed improvements. Take notes during connection conversations, capture barriers during a team meeting, or conduct a workplace walkthrough.
  2. Create a green, yellow, and red column. Record the barriers in the appropriate column. Green Light items have been addressed and are complete. Yellow Light items are in progress. Red Light items are those issues or ideas that cannot be done. For Red Light items, list the reason why. Tip: Knock out the low-hanging fruit right away so that you can add those to the Green Light column.
  3. Share the Stoplight Report with your team. This step develops the mindset Pat says we need “to make improvement real.”

You probably won’t be able to look at a crosswalk button the same again. If you’re like me, you felt an immediate need to fix the system when you discovered the hidden barrier. People want to do the right work to create the best results. Tools like the Stoplight Report build capacity and a collective mindset for improvement.

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