Articulating a Vision for Improvement

Driver Diagram

School improvement is more effective through small manageable chunks implemented and assessed over a shorter timeline of 3 months or less.  Successful school leaders, however, understand how all the chunks fit together in a full vision to lead improvement.  Just as it is important to see the system that produces the current outcomes, it is equally important to see the complete set of systems that will achieve your aim moving forward.

More so, successful school leaders articulate that vision for all users and stakeholders.  In our small schools, vision is often in the head (or heads) of the head of school, board members, principal, development director, Graduate Support director and others.  Our school leaders may think:  “We are not a big staff and I see most people on a regular basis.  Everyone has probably had a conversation with me about the vision at some point.  Plus, there are a lot more pressing needs than drafting a vision document.”   Yet, as has been stated before, we can recall times that confusion, inaccuracy and inconsistency has dominated the school culture because the vision was not intentionally articulated across users and stakeholders.

I am a visual learner so I appreciate a visual representation of an organization’s vision.  Learning to Improve suggests several tools such as a driver diagram (pictured above).  More so, like any good science book, the Carnegie Foundation team of researches defined the tool and its parts in its glossary.

Concept Framework – An account that provides conceptual detail and relevant research findings that form design principles for key drivers and change ideas.  It also provides a conceptual basis for the development of practical measures.

Driver Diagram – A tool that visually represents a group’s working theory of practice improvement.  The driver diagram creates a common language and coordinates the effort among the many different individuals joined together in solving a shared problem. Organizes the various changes the network is trying out.

Improvement Aim – A goal for an improvement effort that answers the questions: What are we trying to accomplish?  Improvement aims should clearly specify how much, for whom, and by when.

Primary Driver – Representation of a community’s hypothesis about the main areas of influence that necessary to advance the improvement aim.

Secondary Driver – A system component that is hypothesized to activate each primary driver – the ‘how’ of change.

Change Idea – An alteration to a system or process that is to be tested through a PDSA cycle to examine its efficacy in improving some driver(s) in working theory of improvement.

In order to effective develop and apply a driver diagram or any tool to visually represent and articulate a vision requires much more extensive understanding, reflection and training than a set of definitions or a blog post allows.  Yet taking the time to do so can greatly strengthen an improvement process by ensuring that all are heading in the same direction, engaged as needed and invested in the outcome.

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