What Can Steve Jobs Teach Us About Improving Pinellas County Schools?

steve_jobs“The [Pinellas County Schools(PCS)] District Strategic Plan 2014-2015 is composed of the vision, mission, values, strategic direction and goals of Pinellas County Schools…

“The goals and action plans of the District Strategic Plan are the focus and driving force of the District. All decision-making, planning, resource allocations, and other activities affecting the plan year and beyond shall support these plan goals and action plans.”

 Each year Pinellas County Schools, teachers and students are evaluated on their performance. Evaluation may trigger changes that affect the schools, teachers and students. Evaluations don’t, however, reflect the reality that for all concerned that the quality of the educational experience is a direct result of the quality of the District Strategic Plan (DSP). To really improve PCS’s educational performance, attention needs to be directed further upstream, at the source: the DSP and the process that produces it.

Three quotations from one of Silicon Valley’s foremost icons, Steve Jobs, provide perspective:

  1. “In your life you only get to do so many things and right now we’ve chosen to do this, so let’s make it great.”

    How poignant, considering Jobs’ life was cut short by pancreatic cancer at arguably the high point of his career.

    “Well before he became Disney’s Chief Creative Officer, John Lasseter recalls his first meeting with Steve Jobs after Jobs bought Pixar in 1986. Lasseter was working on a short film at the time and, at the end of the meeting, Lasseter says Steve Jobs asked him to do one thing: “Make it great.” The short, Tin Toy, went on to win the first academy award ever given for computer animation and set the foundation for what later would become Toy Story. (Lasseter has told the story publicly a few times, most recently in this emotional tribute at Disney’s D23 Expo. The story begins at 8:30.) Lasseter said those three words—make it great—have applied to every frame of every Pixar movie he worked on.” 10 Powerful Quotes From The Steve Jobs Movie And What They Teach Us About Leadership, by Carmine Gallo, Forbes.

    Would you describe Pinellas County Schools as ‘great?’ Undoubtedly there are many great people at PCS. Every day they create great things. But some terribly disappointing things happen, too.

  2. “The greatest artists like Dylan, Picasso and Newton risked failure. And if we want to be great, we’ve got to risk it too,” said Jobs.
    “You’ve got to be willing to crash and burn. If you’re afraid of failing, you won’t get very far.” “…and that’s what separates the people who do things from the people who just dream about them.” Ibid.

    Great organizations support risk taking; failure is accepted, even encouraged. A great example is Silicon Valley. In Decoding The Contradictory Culture of Silicon Valley, Jeanne G. Harris and Iris Junglas explain:

    “People in Silicon Valley are very pragmatic: they understand that successes are typically built on many failures. And they realize that failures, even repeated failures, are part of the process and should be viewed as opportunities to learn, grow and improve.”

    How would you describe the culture at PCS?

  3. “If you want to hire great people and have them stay working for you,…you have to be run by ideas, not hierarchy.  The best ideas have to win, otherwise the best people won’t stay.” Golden Rules By Steve Jobs (Video)

    If PCS is going to be great, “…The best ideas have to win…”


About Freedom to...

Consultant helping people and employers in health care, education and government to see and understand how their organization works and how to change them to improve performance.
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