Improvement is NOT a Circular Process

Since I can remember, leadership books have always shown the iterative improvement process as a cycle.

Perhaps you’ve seen some of these, or something like them:

I don’t disagree that the improvement process entails the steps of Plan, Do, Assess, Plan, Do, Assess, etc.

The issue I take with all of these images is their circular nature.  What they portray is that the work we do always has us ending up in the same spot. I would hate to think that the substance of our professional careers has us ending up in the same place we started. Don’t get me wrong, I know from Modest Mouse that “The universe is shaped exactly like the Earth: If you go straight long enough you’ll end up where you were.” This isn’t a discussion of astrophysics.

It’s a discussion of the iterative process of planning, doing, assessing, etc.

I’ve spent the last few days at CUE Rockstar Admin at Skywalker Ranch (yeah, I’m pretty lucky). In one of our sessions, Eric Saibel led us in a conversation about the Inclusion process; including those affected by the change. For me, this includes the teachers in our 1:1 Learning classrooms and all teachers who are working toward the integration of the Maker movement into their instruction. At the end of the conversation, we were asked to put our thoughts into some kind of imagery.

I started to think about the way we plan, work, get feedback, and adjust. In my head, I saw a back and forth between District Leadership and the sites, a back and forth that was reminiscent of a skier going down the slalom.

Each “cycle” should move us forward.  With each set of feedback, we move the entire process forward, inching ever closer to our constantly evolving goals.  Played out over time, we can never reach ‘the end’ of the process, similar to the circular diagrams above. However, in a more linear fashion, we continue to move forward, seeking a goal that is ever moving. I visualized it this way:

Copy of IterativeFeedback

We cannot rest on our laurels, we cannot shy away from the challenge. We must keep moving, though there may be resistance, though there may be unforeseen challenges. In the words of F. Scott Fitzgerald,

“tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther. . . . And then one fine morning—
So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.” The Great Gatsby


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