COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo.
- Dec. 8, 2014
-- School districts deal with many diverse issues every day, from transportation and security to curriculum and special needs. Departments often work independently of each other and develop communication and operational procedures unaware of the constraints or needs of other segments they may directly impact in the district. This scenario, prevalent in many districts and not restricted to these departments, was resolved though conscious effort and the application of rational thinking strategies in one district in Colorado.
Despite being across the hall from one another, when it came to decision making and procedures, the Grants Office and Procurement departments in the Colorado Springs School District 11 worked as independent silos. This lack of cooperation caused problems with both fiscal and program compliance. In addition, each department created completely separate approval processes without regard for the impact on the other. As conflicts in procurement and compliance occurred, threatening the proper implementation of grant moneys, it became clear that collaboration between departments was necessary to develop common procedures to avoid those conflicts.
The Director of Grants, Rebecca Novak, previously trained by http://TregoED.org
(a nonprofit affiliated with Kepner-Tregoe)
in decision-making and problem-solving strategies, recognized that using Situation Appraisal (SA) could help the two groups work together to understand each other’s wants and needs. Using the four steps that are the hallmark of the strategy, the groups were able to collaborate on the issues that were unique to their departments as well as those that overlapped in their common objectives to procure grant money and be compliant with all procedural regulations that exist in the district and those denoted in the application process. Once the issues were out on the table and clarified so that all involved could understand the perspectives of the other, the group could begin to develop consensus on priorities that needed to be considered. Their final work together resulted in a plan that delineated how each issue would be taken care of by who and by when. Using the SA process, the group was able to break apart redundant and confusing issues, set priorities and manage simultaneous activities without emotions clouding the situation.
The recently published case study, “Silos and the Need for Communication and Collaboration”
) found that focused and deliberate collaborative efforts resulted in a number of mutually beneficial outcomes. Procedures were developed that improved communication throughout the entire grant process from the application to contracts, purchasing and invoicing. Recognizing the value of the process, training has been planned for additional departments and stakeholders. The increased collaboration and communication between the two departments has also resulted in an improved relationship, increase in compliance and decrease in errors. The end result gave the district a clear procedure that will enable them to successfully navigate the complexities of obtaining and properly executing grant moneys. The lessons learned by these two departments are a great model for districts everywhere where conflict and productivity has broken down due to their operation as independent silos.
TregoED has been helping school districts develop true collaborative decision-making and problem-solving excellence in and around the U.S. and Canada for over 25 years. For information on leadership workshops, consulting, coaching and support for school leaders go to http://www.tregoed.org