As TCRCE began to prepare its System Improvement Plan in the Spring of 2019, it necessitated a deep look at our existing data and evidence of progress. Several areas for growth related to student achievement were identified. The development of the plan was more than an opportunity to point out what needed improvement, but also an opportunity to deliberately build some collective efficacy.
Through our System Improvement Plan, we had an opportunity to create actions intended to create positive momentum in the Region. One of the core beliefs in creating the plan was that action could create motivation, and being engaged in the plan could result in people thinking things like “If I can do this, maybe I can do that”, “I’ve done one thing, so maybe I can do another thing”, and /or “Now that I have taken the first step, the next steps should be more manageable”. Such statements are well aligned with collective efficacy; a shared belief that, together, we can make a difference.
Another goal of the system improvement plan was to create what I will refer to as “positive disruption”. We had conversations related to whether our Region was ready for some of the actions the Improvement Plan was going to challenge us to take. One consequence of the development of the System Improvement Plan was that it made clear there would never be an ideal time to start. There was not a time when conditions were just right to start moving towards goals that will require us to move out of our comfort zone.
I have heard the phrase “The tyranny of when…” used in various settings. This phrase resonates with me because it speaks to our tendency of waiting for things to be just right before starting something. There is no such time – if we wait for the right time to step out of our comfort zone, it may never arise. I recently heard the statement, “We do not sit home and wait for all the lights to turn green before getting in our car and driving”. This made me think about our Region’s strategic planning. Conditions do not need to be ‘just right’ to start a new goal.
The system improvement plan was built on the premise that action creates motivation. Doing something constructive was intended to build more positive emotions and collective efficacy (hope, optimism, and self-belief) that we could make a difference. We were where we were, and the system improvement plan was a way to move forward together. It challenged us to get started, even if things were not perfect.
There was nothing good to come from staring at our current results; knowing they were there without taking some action ran the risk of creating a sense of helplessness. Rather than letting inaction lead to inaction, the goal was to build collective efficacy by moving forward and taking those immediate, doable next steps that lead the way forward to the larger growth goal.