Are You Committed, Enrolled, or Compliant?

I said in one of my previous posts that I was slogging my way through Peter Senge’s The Fifth Discipline. That was a while ago. And I’m still slogging. I don’t really mean that in the negative sense. It’s a slog, because my little brain can only process so much at once. This is dense stuff. It’s good stuff. But dense. And sometimes I feel really dense when I’m reading it, but it actually helped me with a conversation today.

We were talking about how we might move towards a more criterion-referenced way of assessing student performance, and still be able to generate the the quantitative “mark” that is currently required at the high school level. I was wondering about the right question that needs to be asked so we can back up to what we believe about students, what matters for their learning, and what education should look like. My colleague started to wince a bit as he said, “You’re not talking about visioning are you?” I didn’t know. Was I? But I was intrigued. What was it about visioning that seemed more than just a teensy bit painful? I’ve been through the visioning process, and while it was inspiring and built a sense of community amongst the staff, alas, it was still a piece of paper that very few of us could recall later in our day to day operations. Either the language was too vague, too complex, or too whatever.  And that’s probably what made my colleague wince a bit. Two-day retreats are a lot of time and energy to put into something that is forgettable.

So Senge refers to basically five camps of people with respect to shared visions. Those who are “committed” feel “fully responsible for making the vision happen”. They’re not just playing by the rules, they’re creating the rules and structures. Those who are “enrolled” agree with the vision and act according to the spirit of the law, even participate in leadership roles. Those who are “compliant” may or may not agree with the vision. They may be “good soldiers” or they may be doing just enough to fly under the radar. Then there are those who are flat out “noncompliant”, and there are those who are “apathetic”.

The tricky thing is, you can’t force commitment. Well, you can, but by definition, that’s compliance at best. Instead, we have to inquire into each other’s personal vision. We have to ask questions of each other, and we have to question our own assumptions. We have to wander down each other’s paths, and as we do that, we begin to clarify and, hopefully, harmonize. Good leaders continually put that process visibly out in front of them. Visioning is constant, messy, ongoing work. It never gets put away. It’s not the grand gesture. It’s the daily grind. It’s not airy fairy. It’s gritty and tough. Just how I like it.

    • Heather Huisman
    • September 27th, 2011

    Kathy I so enjoy reading your posts! I hope life at the high school is treating you well! Thanks for continuing to share!

    • suts
    • September 27th, 2011

    But what about those of us who need to be committed ?? :)Seriously though , it is always true – there will always be the ones who are gung-ho , the ones who want a permanent contract and the other ones who stir up the pot. It is up to the individual to think beyond their own situation and remember why we are here – for the good of the kids (who will be running our nursing homes -regulating the health care systems – serving you on that cruise ship etc. etc.)

    • Randy
    • September 28th, 2011

    Oh most wise…the concept of vision at the high school level is a tricky thing in that I believe it must be built, imagined or dreamed on a foundation of values and beliefs that are “relatively” common among the people who will be looking to create it. It the departmentalized world of high school this difficult but doable. If the Mission is more than a motto perhaps the visioning step is ready for the taking. If not, two steps back before the three forward. Doing this in part siggnals the presence of what Senge would call a “learning organization.” Go for it!

    • BLynneHolden
    • October 3rd, 2011

    I love the description of ‘committed’. There is nothing more rewarding than creating the rules and the structures – really working collaboratively to do that – and coming up with something that makes everything ‘work’ in very different way. Sounds like really interesting reading. Thank you for ‘the find’!

    • Delores Tedeschi-Butler
    • June 7th, 2012

    Thank you for your insight. I too slogged through Peter Senge’s “The Fifth Discipline.” It was a read like no other, however the content on learning organizations was beneficial in helping me get buy in from my staff. Senge defines learning organizations as organizations where people continually expand their capacity to create the results they truly desire, where new and expansive patterns of thinking are nurtured, where collective aspiration is set free, and where people are continually learning how to learn together. Today and in the future, the organizations that will truly excel will be the ones that discover how to tap people’s commitment and capacity to learn at all levels in an organization. Once the teachers understood their personal mastery, it was easy for them to support the shared and unified vision for our school and students.

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