Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Another example of Shaping the Path

The last few weeks, I have been talking about "sw!tch," a book that outlines strategies for changes that actually work.  These changes fall into one of three categories:  Direct the rider (the rational side of people); motivate the elephant (the emotional side), or shape the path.
Here's another education example that uses the concept of Shaping the Path.

Natalie Elder took on the job of improving student achievement in an elementary school that had the worst test scores in the state of Tennessee.  After taking some of the usual steps to address behavior issues that impeded learning--suspending students, involving pollice when egregious rule breaking occurred--she realized that these actions were not going to get the results she wanted.

She focused on changing the way the day started.  She and her staff became valets, greeting every student as they arrived; saying hello to parents who were dropping off their children, escorting all children to the cafeteria.  This simple change meant the day was starting at a better place for the students.  In the process, she created an environment that allowed children to be good.  Students who were previously seen as "bad" suddenly started acting like "good" kids.

Small, simple changes that can make a difference.  Sometimes we are so focused on the end game that we cannot see how small steps can make a big difference.  How can you address the needs of the riders and elephants in your organization?  How can you shape the path so that you have a better chance of actually getting the change you seek.

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