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.