Three Paths to Whole-System Transformation

If you want to transform your entire district, what method and tools can you use? And, then, how do you sustain those improvements? The F. M. Duffy Group believes that you need to use a methodology and a set of tools that will lead you simultaneously along three paths. Each of these paths, if followed alone, will not lead to the kind of fundamental change needed to improve entire school systems. All three paths must be followed simultaneously and by making that journey your school district will arrive at a single destination-a place marked by high quality student, teacher, and system learning that is sustained for the life of your school district. And, then, once there, you will be able to sustain those improvements so your system doesn't backslide. The methodology to take you there is called Step-Up-To-Excellence SM.

Path 1: Improve Your District's Relationships with Its External Environment

Your district is an open system. An open system is one that interacts with its environment by exchanging a valued product or service in return for needed resources. To become a high performing school system you need to have a positive and supportive relationship with stakeholders in your environment. But you can't wait until you improve your work processes and social architecture to start working on those relationships. You need positive and supportive relationships to make the important changes you want to make. So, you also have to improve your district's environmental relationships at the same time you start improving your work processes and social architecture.

Path 2: Improve Your District's Core and Supporting Work Processes

You have to redesign every part of your district, not just your curriculum and not just a single school or level of schooling. The main or core work of your school district is teaching and learning. All other work in your district is important, too, but it is secondary in importance to teaching and learning. Nevertheless, even supporting work (which includes, for example, administration, supervision, pupil personnel services, cafeteria services, bus transportation services, and grounds and building maintenance services) must be improved if you want to move your district toward world-class standards for educating children.

Path 3: Improve Your District's Internal Social "Infrastructure"

The social system of your school district is powerful, influential and astonishingly important to the overall success of your district. When your people leave at the end of a day, the curriculum, desks, chairs, books, and so on, all become dormant. It is only when people show up the next day that those inanimate things become tools used to do work. This is what brings "life" to your school system--people interacting with each other and with the tools of teaching and learning.

Policies, procedures, job descriptions, methods, techniques, values, beliefs, communication structures, organization culture, and so on, support life in a social system. All of these supports are part of what organization improvement experts call social "architecture." These supports need to be redesigned to improve your faculty and staff's job satisfaction, motivation, and effectiveness. Further, the "architecture" needs to be redesigned at the same time you redesign your work processes. Why? Because you want to make sure that the new social architecture and the new work processes compliment and support each other. The best way to assure this complementarity is to make simultaneous improvements to both elements of your school system.