Cracking the Clarity Code

EP 3

How can we gain enhanced clarity in our improvement thinking? Simon unpacks 4 key questions that educational leaders can use to test, refine and sharpen their improvement projects and ideas. He then outlines how leaders and teams can build a habit of using these questions to structure their strategic conversations about improvement.


Today I want to explore together what it takes to crack the clarity code when we’re trying to sharpen our ideas about a specific improvement project or initiative. Hey, all of us I know have serious aspirations to make things better in our schools. And of course, through strategic planning and through project formulation, many of us sort of want to set out and try to make things different and better in our teams, in our organisations, sometimes even across multiple schools within a network. But good intentions and even strong aspirations and motivation, they’re not sufficient to get real cut through on complex challenges that we’re working on. And so I found four simple questions. Unbelievably helpful when working alongside schools. And we pause and we take an initial idea. Or indeed sometimes we take an idea that’s been around for quite a while and ensure that we move together from a level of confusion towards really trying to crack the clarity code. The four essential questions that I think any improver needs to be able to answer in order to get real cut through in their ideas are these, number one impact. What impact do we want to have?

Number two, problem, what problem are we trying to solve? Question number three, change. What change or change could we make that we think will result in improvement?

Question number four, evidence. How will we judge whether or not we have been successful? Now, I know these ideas, these questions are pretty simple, but that’s the point. It’s in there simplicity, that we pause and we stop ourselves from writing out the 15 page plan. We don’t need to construct the PowerPoint to try to get the staff buy-in, and we’re trying to first really crack the clarity code ourselves. Do we really understand what we’re trying to do and how we’re trying to do it, and how we’ll know whether we’re making progress? These four simple questions can help us in a really direct way, check in to see whether or not the ideas that we are progressing really meet the criteria for clarity. Cuz once we crack the clarity code, once we are in a position to really know what we’re trying to do and how we’re trying to do it, and the direction that we’re heading becomes so much easier to think about the implementation, to think about getting the input and buy-in and support of colleagues to come with us.

To have a think about the degree of clarity that you have now about some of the big things that you are trying to move forward or get ready to launch within your school community. And think about applying those four essential questions. What impact do we want to have? What problem are we trying to solve? What change could we make that would result in improvement? And how will we judge whether or not we’ve been successful? You can apply this to new ideas that you are kicking around as a team and thinking about bringing forward and ensuring you actually don’t launch anything or bring things to scale without really ensuring that you’ve got crisp answers, aligned answers to those questions. So too, if you’re getting a bit of pushback, whether active or passive resistance in some of your change efforts, perhaps it’s worth actually coming back and realising maybe some of that pushback is actually coming from our lack of clarity.

And can we get to a greater degree of precision about what we’re trying to do and how all this comes together. Clarity emerges over time, having dialogue, capturing our draught thinking, stepping away from it for a while and then coming back to it again. And in this way as leaders, I want to suggest we need to keep finding ways to think and rethink on a regular cadence until indeed we can crack the clarity code in our work and often therefore unlock real progress moving forward. So have you cracked the clarity code yet in some of the core improvement areas that you are working on? Do you have long plans that perhaps lack that real cut through of simple answers to the core questions that’ll let you know whether or not you’ve got a promising and precise improvement idea? Run these questions through work that you’ve already got happening. Run these questions through things that you are thinking about launching and have a high standard for not moving forward and investing more and asking people to lean in and come with you in around ideas that haven’t yet cracked the Clarity code.

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