Tracking Lead Indicators

EP 5

What should we first expect to see? Simon unpacks a simple framework for focusing on the most important lead indicators in our change efforts. He argues that leaders should focus on the essential changes we should we in 3 and 6 months and avoid getting stuck in conversations about the long-term outcomes we are hoping to move. Lead indicators can motivate our teams and accelerate our learning from doing.


What should we first expect to see? Lots of us are involved in various improvement and implementation projects. We all want to make sure that the strategies that we’re implementing and the actions that we’re taking are resulting in the long term improvements that we want to see for learners, both in learning and wellbeing or for teachers and for our cultures. But so often I find in our conversations, we can be stuck between, well, either talking about what we’re doing, the implementation strategies and actions, or speaking only about longer-term final outcomes. Things that are about what we eventually hope to see happen if our strategies really have their long-term impact. But thinking long-term about outcomes isn’t all that useful for those of us who want to be more agile and responsive and work out well. It’s what I’m doing right now, leading to what I should be seeing at this stage of our improvement journey.

So my work with leaders, often we bring forward the temporal horizon about looking at leading indicators within the next six months. And the key sentence that I ask them to answer is this, or fill out is this, if we do dot, dot, dot, what should we first expect to see? And then a little later, what should we see? The simple phrasing helps us to focus on the causal pathway and the connections between what we’re doing right now, and first, what we should see in about the first one to three months from now, four to 12 weeks. And then if we saw those things, what do you think we should see a little bit later in say, four to six months? And keeping that horizon of one to three months and then four to six months, keeps us honest, keeps us focused, keeps us thinking about the leading indicators of progress that we hope to see if our implementation efforts are both on track and on pace. So I wonder about the nature of the monitoring discussions you have with your team. Do you have at the moment a tendency to always talk about the long-term learning outcome, the long-term well-being outcome? And might there be an opportunity to bring forward some discussion?

What would we first expect to see at the end of the current term that we’re working on? And then what should we see a little bit later, for example, at the end of the next term? And that temporal horizon of the end of this term, or the end of this cycle and the end of next term, helps us really focus in on the most important signals about whether we’re on track or not. So why don’t you try that frame in your own thinking about impact, or perhaps as you lead a discussion with your team, if we do X, Y, Z, what will we first expect to see? And then a little later, what should we see? And start to have that dialogue to see whether you can come to a shared understanding of the temporal horizon of what changes we should see and over what time.


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