Fig.1 The need for alignment


Just before the end of the Christmas term, the Headmaster invited one of our current parents to run a development session with the senior leadership team. It was a fascinating exercise on developing a coherent plan for the future and the parent explained that when teams think about where they are now now, there is a relatively tight consensus represented by the shape or ‘perception crowd’ and the crosses on the left hand side of Fig. 1. However, when looking to the future, the area of consensus within the group widens with some team members very much outside the ‘perception cloud’ (as shown on the right hand side of Fig. 1). Working on this basis can lead to inefficient, or more devastating, ineffective work. The way to overcome this problem is not to create agreement (as variety is necessary and healthy) but an ‘alignment’ of thinking which provides the basis for action (Fig.2)

Fig 2. The creation of alignment


The way to create the situation on the second diagram is to go through the following process:

1) Each person writes on a post-it note a single idea they would like to see happen in relation to the big question

2) All the ideas are then collected and placed together on a wall and they are organised into some loose groupings/categories

3) A single post-it note is selected and read out. The person who wrote the idea is allowed to explain the thinking behind it. If someone is not ‘aligned’ with the thinking, they can ask for clarification from the proposer. A discussion between the person who proposed the idea and the person who is not ‘aligned’ continues until a point of ‘alignment’ is reached and the idea on the post it note is amended to reflect this (if needed). No other person can join the discussion until the two people discussing have reached a resolution. Once that is done, another person can join the conversation with the idea creator.

4) The ‘aligned’ idea is then placed on another wall or notice board and becomes part the consensus about where the group wants to be in the future.

5) This process is repeated until the final board or wall demonstrates a more closely connected idead of consensus. What you do with it afterwards is up to you…

Having gone through the exercise, it was obvious how powerful it is in creating an atmosphere of careful discussion and reflection between the person proposing the idea and the person not ‘aligned’ with it initially. For the people not engaged in this discussion, the vantage point of observer was particularly instructive as quality time was given to listening to the issues surrounding the point raising awareness and understanding.

As I left the meeting, I thought this exercise would also make a great essay planning lesson on the causes of German unification. Each point on the post-it notes created by the class would relate to the main causes or interpretations of unification and discussion would allow everyone to have a say or listen to something they may not have considered. At the end after a discussion of each factor, the major  points would be reflected on the board, captured by a camera and be a resource to help the writing process. The discussion would also revisit the prior learning of the students too.

I love it when a plan becomes ‘aligned’.

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