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Systems And Working On The Business

In the eighties, management expert Michael Gerber coined a phrase that became popular across the world: Work on your business, not in your business”. Leaders in many businesses were very excited to hear that and I am certain there is a lesson there for school leaders too. Gerber highlighted the risk of being too busy focusing on the day-to-day operations (working IN the business) and not paying enough attention to keeping an eye on the future and the BIG picture (working ON the business).

Another of Michael Gerber’s maxims was: “Systems run the business. People run the systems.” Gerber argues that this is what leaders are supposed to do: find or design systems for their businesses (schools). Without ‘profit’ systems, a business is highly susceptible to the winds of change.

Whilst businesses are driven by profit and therefore need to focus on ‘profit’ systems, school leaders need to focus on ‘outcomes’. Whilst these measures are often more complex and difficult to measure than profit, they are at least as important.

Some businesses generated large sums but turnover and profit are different things.

  • Without financial foundations, cash flows in… and then flows out.
  • Without marketing systems… there is little generation of new business.
  • Without a hiring system… little is done to find, develop or retain great staff.
  • Without MODERN training systems… mediocrity becomes the norm.
  • Without monitoring systems… warning signs aren’t detected.

Systems are required by highly effective school leadership teams to ensure sustainable ‘outcomes’ are achieved in schools.

How would you rate your school’s systems in the following areas?

  • Utilising financial resources for optimal outcomes
  • Facilities provide optimal learning environments and are fully utilised
  • Superstars are recruited (and retained)
  • Marketing to attract suitable enrolments and position the school appropriately
  • Staff development
  • Leadership alignment and impact
  • Succession planning
  • Communication with parents
  • Monitoring effectiveness
  • Catering for individual needs
  • Exciting, fun and engaging learning experiences
  • Future proofing your students

All of these aspects contribute to your school’s reputation and position. What is your school known for?