Organizational Culture in Schools: The Sixth Man on Your Team!
In every aspect of our lives we come into contact with many different people on multiple levels within our personal, professional, and social lives. Each of these encounters reveals some level of cultural influence.
To place this article into perspective, I view culture as the foundation necessary to create long lasting organizational change. The weight of organizational change will inevitably crush the efforts of innovators if there is not a top-down approach to developing a culture that has a foundation embedded deep in its core. Ready for the heavy lifting? Changing one classroom at a time can be the valiant effort of a few, however, if the change is not adopted within the other structural levels of the school and/or district one of two things will occur; 1) The instructional staff will eventually flame out one-by-one due to the overwhelming task that they have attempted to achieve on their own; or 2) The knowledge exists only with the individual instructor(s). The reality facing these brave heroes is that one or two successful classrooms does not equate to sustainable or school-wide cultural change.
Think about culture in the analogy of the sixth man in basketball. Although the fans cannot physically impact the play occurring on the court, the crowd’s unified cheering and inherent belief in the team and its players who are performing on their behalf can create this overwhelming and impacting effect on the outcome of the game. In a sense, the sixth man (culture) creates that necessary second wind that holds the power to will the team to succeed. The other components to this equation are those who make up the organization, i.e. the players, the front office, the owner, the coaches, the equipment manager, the janitor, and so on. It is these individuals who have a direct connection to the organization reaching high achievement consistently in order to create a winning environment. In the sports world we cherish the concept of home court advantage, because as stakeholders who expect high achievement, we know the sixth-man effect is almost invaluable when it comes to winning.
To frame this in an educational environment, the sixth-man effect determines the difference between a high performing school and the mediocre or low achieving schools. If organizational culture is the driving force behind the educational model, then without it guiding the preferred outcome, neither the best designs of a specialist nor the most experienced implementation teams will be able to achieve sustaining success. Too many times in education we have seen some of the best goals, visions and missions go unrealized due to the lack of sustainability needed to foster a strong cultural environment.