I am indebted to Dr. Pat Greco, Superintendent of the School District of Menomonee Falls (WI), for this week’s leadership tip. Earlier this month, Dr. Greco shared the “Just start” mantra with the participants at our What’s Right in Education event in Chicago, IL. This message resonated with the leaders in the room, with lots of Tweets about the topic.



Why does “Just start” appeal to leaders? What does it mean? To me, it calms our fears that an action plan must be perfect before we begin implementation. It gives us permission to act now, even if we haven’t figured out every step along the path to something better for our organization. It means that a small-scale pilot can be a productive beginning and a way to learn more about how new practices will scale.

I don’t think that the phrase diminishes the value of strategically planning and carefully approaching big changes. Instead, it tempers our tendency to plan and plan until we are paralyzed by the vision of a “perfect plan” that’s always somewhere beyond our reach. It reminds me of the fierce urgency of students’ needs for continuous improvement in our schools and classrooms, which is why planning paralysis can be so harmful.

To better serve our students, parents, employees and communities, sometimes we can and must “Just start.”



Melissa is an Evidence-Based Leadership coach for Studer Education, located in Pensacola, FL. Previously, she served as the Executive Director for Achievement and Accountability in the Charleston County (SC) School District. She earned her Ed.D. through the Harvard Graduate School of Education’s (HGSE) Urban Superintendents Program, and received both a Masters in School Leadership and a Masters in Education Policy and Management from HGSE. Melissa has also served as a middle school principal in the Peabody (MA) Public Schools, and as an 8th grade teacher and assistant principal in the Derry (NH) Cooperative School District. Melissa has coached aspiring and novice leaders at KIPP Jacksonville, FL; supervised teacher interns at the College of Charleston, SC and instructed graduate students in administration at American International College in Springfield, MA. Follow Dr. Matarazzo on Twitter at @LrngLdr and follow Dr. M’s weekly post “Try This Tip” here.

Thanks to Dr. Greco for her leadership, @dkunsman of Chippewa Falls Area Unified School District for the linked Tweet, and to http://beautyuprising.com for the image in this post. Learn more about the What’s Right in Education conference by visiting the link above to view our presentations and resources.

Interested in learning strategies for setting and sharing clear expectations? Contact us for more information about our coaching for continuous leadership development and systems improvement.

Our mission at Studer Education is to 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. Visit us online at http://studereducation.com. Studer Education is a division of Studer Group, ranked for the sixth 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: Baldrige Quality Self-Assessment, clear expectations, Coaching, Greco, Leader Development, Leadership, Melissa Matarazzo, Planning, School District of Menomonee Falls, SDMF, Straight A Leadership Assessment, Systems Improvement, Try This Tip, What’s Right in Education, WRIE

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