In Continuous Improvement, Leadership Tips, Uncategorized

4 tools to create a high-performing school system

You can’t build a house without the proper tools. If you want to set the framework to last, you have to make sure you have the right tools on your belt. The same goes with your organization. You might find yourself building your house from the ground up, or maybe you’re just coming in to do some renovations, or maybe you’re taking on an “extreme home makeover.” Whatever the situation, it’s important to know that as a great leader, you have to utilize the proper tools and tactics that aid in process improvement to build an engaged workplace culture focused on results.

In AASA’s School Administrator magazine, Dr. Janet Pilcher, Managing Director of Studer Education, discusses specific tools and tactics to achieve high performance results in the areas of student achievement, employee engagement, service excellence and financial efficiency. Dr. Pilcher explains that the basis of these exceptional tools are rooted in the Nine Principles of Organizational Excellence:

  1. Commit to excellence.
  2. Measure the important things.
  3. Build a culture around service.
  4. Develop leaders to develop people.
  5. Focus on employee engagement.
  6. Build individual accountability.
  7. Align behaviors with goals and values.
  8. Communicate at all levels.
  9. Recognize and reward success.

TOOL #1: Organizational Scorecard
Principles 1 and 2

Every good builder is going to have a tape measure in their toolbox. Measuring for accuracy in the beginning of your build is vital to the accuracy of the project. Though most organizations follow a strategic plan, they often fail to use the plan for continuous review and process improvement. This is where the organizational scorecard comes into play. The scorecard offers a way to measure what matters and focus teams on bringing the strategic plan to life. It drives progress by moving all department and unit arrows in the same direction and helps teams understand their purpose within the organization and the effect of their efforts.

Through multiple strategy sessions, organizations can work to complete their scorecard and measure the results. After the organizational scorecard is complete, executive team members will create divisional scorecards to align to the organizational scorecard. Unit leaders and department directors will do the same to align to the divisional scorecard.

In the article, Dr. Pilcher outlines the scorecard process and provides sample measures you might find on an organizational scorecard.

TOOL #2: Survey Rollout Process
Principles 3 and 5

“Surveys are meaningful when we do something with the results,” says Dr. Pilcher, and as a part of the improvement process, we work with our partners to not only administer surveys, but also train leaders to roll out results. The surveys are focused on employee engagement, student engagement, parent satisfaction and support services. After the surveys have been administered and the data has been collected, leaders will engage in conversations with key employees to review the higher- and lower-scored items on each survey. This survey and discussion process is vital to creating an improvement action plan.

TOOL #3: 30-Day and 90-Day Meetings
Principle 5

Retaining qualified and dedicated team members is a priority for any organization. Unfortunately, turnover among new team members happens frequently within the first 90 days or first year. So, what can you do to stop this from happening? Dr. Pilcher states that leaders who intentionally make connections with employees during their first 30 and 90 days open up the opportunity to address any fears or concerns that the employee might have. This type of support has shown to have positive impact on employee retention in organizations with which we work. You wouldn’t build your house without checking in with your contractor periodically, right?

Dr. Pilcher also suggests that leaders ask specific questions during the 30- and 90-day meetings including:

  • How do we compare to what we said we would be like?
  • Tell me what you like. What’s going well?
  • I noticed you came from ____. Are there things you did there that might be helpful to us?
  • Is there anything here you are uncomfortable with?
  • As your supervisor, how can I be helpful?

These discussion questions can help both the leader and the employee address any concerns, spark additional questions that need to be answered, and provide more clarity and bring more unison to the team.

TOOL #4: Leader Rounding
Principle 5

“One of the lowest-scored items on the employee engagement survey indicates that employees perceive they have little input into decisions that affect their work.”  – Dr. Janet Pilcher

Motivation isn’t a tool that leaders need to have. It isn’t their responsibility to motivate others. However, it is their job to create an environment where employees choose to engage not only in their work, but also with others. Leaders who intentionally connect with their employees by showing genuine concern and care will create a culture that employees want to be a part of.

Leader rounding is a highly effective tool that leaders can use to gain input from employees. The purpose of this tool is to build relationships with employees by making personal connections regularly. Leader rounding questions are:

  • What has been working well for you these past few weeks?
  • How can I be helpful to you to keep you engaged in your work?
  • Who has been especially helpful to you these past few weeks and what did he/she do?

After this conversation, it is important to follow-up by acting on the information gained and recognizing those who have been helpful.


Building an effective workplace culture is part of the leadership team’s responsibility and must be taken seriously. Utilizing these process improvement tools and tactics that support team members to do their best is vital for organizational improvement. Leaders must always make every effort to continually improve in every corner of the organization.

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