Useless facts? It all depends. – SCN Encourager 5/9/2013

Useless facts? It all depends.

If a useless fact causes you to alter your future planning and behavior – it’s probably not a “useless fact” anymore.

This doesn’t mean that a formerly useless fact suddenly turns into a “good and positive” fact, though. It actually may be threatening, worrisome, and panic-inducing.

“The average wedding planner in the U.S. charges $850 per day” is such a fact.

While totally irrelevant and useless to many, it isn’t to me… and I’m planning and behaving a little differently at home these days because of it.

Here’s another seemingly useless fact that I heard a couple of days ago.

A business leader responded to a question by a radio show host by saying, “What gets measured gets managed… and what gets managed …  improves.”

I was driving my car at the time and pulled over. I grabbed a pen to write this maxim down right away, knowing I’d forget it otherwise. I’d love to tell you that I spoke it into my iPhone with Siri’s help, but the best I could do was scribble it on the outside of a small white bag left on my passenger seat. (Communicator’s tip: It may make your car look messy, but you never know when you’ll need an old donut bag.)

Via my low-tech retrieval technique, the words were accurately recorded:  “What gets measured gets managed… and what gets managed …  improves.”

When I first heard this, my first inclination was to ask, “Is this true?”

After thinking about it a bit, I believe it is true…  and it has significance for school leaders and communicators.

This is no useless fact.

We all operate within an ever-evolving standardized tested, common cored, and all-present-and- accounted-for educational environment.  With few exceptions, we do our best to embrace, and not deny the present day realities impacting us – so we are continually strategizing, implementing, and improving our programs and instructional practices to ensure that our schools are models for excellence in action. 

But despite our combined good work, this statement still nags at me. Why?

“What gets measured gets managed… and what gets managed …  improves.”

It reminds me that while we’ve become capable measurers, managers, and improvers, we’ve retreated when it comes to promoting the broad public discussion of WHAT exactly should be measured in first place.

When we – in our school communications planning – are so focused on developing and coordinating good visuals and story lines for our schools and programs (showing what we’re managing) and exploring ways to report out the scores we’re measuring (showing our progress), we’re unintentionally sidestepping our advocacy role for the bigger discussion that should take place.

Or at least I have.

I now see that it’s determining WHAT we measure, manage, and improve that makes all the difference in the world. And sadly, I’m not sure where any fair discussion of the “WHAT” actually occurs today. (I know where the “WHAT” is mandated, audited, and voted on… but I’m hoping for something beyond this. Bet you are, too.)

It’s a question worth asking: Should measuring and managing skill growth and academic proficiency be more important than measuring and managing the TIME our schools need to nurture meaningful relationships, the TIME principals and teachers need to truly listen to students, parents, and each other, and the TIME every student needs for art, music, and creative play?

I wonder. Maybe I should ask an $850 per day wedding consultant…

Tom Page, SCN




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