As leaders, we need to spend our time where the work is done. We need to understand that work deeply, so we can provide the kind of leadership the organization needs.
As instructional leaders, that means we need to be in classrooms.
At Toyota, this concept is called Genchi Genbutsu, which conveys the idea of going to the gemba, or the place where the actual work is done. Leaders who don’t spend time in the gemba won’t have the information they need to make decisions, solve problems, and support employees effectively.
I recently read two of Jeff Liker’s many books about Toyota, The Toyota Way: 14 Management Principles from the World’s Greatest Manufacturer and The Toyota Way to Lean Leadership: Achieving and Sustaining Excellence through Leadership Development. If you’re interested, I recommend the latter, as it’s more applicable to the work of leaders and leadership development, but both are fascinating.
While you might think there are few parallels between Toyota and schools, Toyota’s culture is the envy of organizations everywhere. I suspect that there are welders and painters on Toyota’s assembly lines who work in higher-functioning “professional learning communities” than many educators.
We need to close that gap. Organizations that exist for the purpose of learning must be, in fact, organizations that engage in learning. As leaders, that means we need to be practitioners of Genchi Genbutsu. We need to be in classrooms.
At the moment, 2,027 people from 24 countries have joined the Instructional Leadership Challenge, which started about a year ago and has grown each month as word spreads. We’re kicking things off for a new year, and you can learn more in a free webinar next week.
Webinar: The Instructional Leadership Challenge
This Monday, August 4, I’ll be leading a webinar with my friends at TeachBoost, co-sponsors of the Instructional Leadership Challenge.
Date: Monday, August 4
Time: 3:30 PM Eastern (2:30 Central/1:30 Mountain/12:30 Pacific)
Register here »
If you’ve already participated in the Challenge, welcome back! You can go through the 21-day process again at any time, to maintain your habit of visiting classrooms daily. Email firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to restart the Challenge.
Beyond the Classroom: Go And See More
There are other aspects of your school that you need to go and see. What information do you need? Who do you need to support? What work do you need to see actually being done so that you can lead effectively?
Make a plan to go there this school year.