I have been taking stock of my home book collection lately. Packing away some titles, preparing to move others to a new location. Without question, hardbacks, paperbacks, and workbooks dealing with leadership, management, and transformational change account for most of my collection.
One that recently got a thorough re-reading is Willie Pietersen’s Strategic Learning: How to Be Smarter Than Your Competition and Turn Key Insights into Competitive Advantage. I am a longtime fan of the book, widely lauded for redefining the strategic thinking needed for ongoing organizational success and flexibility. As NSBA works to transform itself into a more responsive association, better able to meet the needs and expectations of its federation partners, Pietersen and Strategic Learning are serving as valuable resources in our journey.
In October, NSBA launched Future Ready, our strategic learning initiative, to help us rethink our products, services, programs, and role in the education leadership sector. By us, I mean NSBA staff at all levels of the organization, along with a dozen stakeholders, including state association executive directors, members of our national board of directors and equity councils, and external colleagues.
Our planned 10-month journey began with a full-day virtual workshop facilitated by Pietersen and Peter Meola, both professors at the Columbia Business School in New York and experts in the leadership of change. Pietersen’s Strategic Learning framework is the core method for teaching strategy in the school’s executive education programs. Numerous corporations and nonprofits also have adopted Pietersen’s “insight to action” model.
We will become immersed in Strategic Learning’s four linked steps for “generating a cycle of ongoing discovery and adaptation”:
- LEARN by doing a situation analysis of the external environment, customers, and our realities and develop a set of insights about these.
- FOCUS by using these insights to make the best possible strategic choices about where we will compete, how we will win, and what our priorities will be.
- ALIGN the organization and business systems with measures and rewards, structure and process, and culture and competencies to support the strategy.
- EXECUTE by implementing and experimenting with the strategy to see what works while continuing the learn-focus-align-execute cycle to renew strategies accordingly.
I have been excited by the willingness of those inside and outside the association who have agreed to join this strategic learning program to rethink our future at NSBA and ensure we move in the right direction. I am excited about the prospect of true transformational change coming to this proud organization.
This work is critical as NSBA asks the tough questions about our vision for the next decade. It is work that is essential to making a sustained impact on the education leadership landscape. It is work that will lay the groundwork so that we can best serve our state associations so that they, in turn, can best serve the more than 90,000 school board members who diligently work to support and strengthen the education of the nation’s public schoolchildren.