To Set Your Course, You Must First Know Where You Are


To Set Your Course, You Must First Know Where You Are

By: Erich Bolz, Akribos Guest Contributor


Business sector author Patrick Lencioni stated, “If you could get all the people in an organization rowing in the same direction, you could dominate any industry, in any market, against any competition, at any time.” If the solution is so common-sensical, what comes between a successful, aligned organization and typical current organizational reality? It seems across all sectors, and education is no different, too often we do not have consensus around how to improve the current reality. When we do not know what our next critical work is as an organization, we can expend precious resources (time and money) applying solutions to problems that do not exist. Or worse, in-fighting leads to a negative culture, skilled people leaving the organization and failure to accomplish key goals.


All of these factors existed before the COVID-19 pandemic and as we slowly emerge from that once-in-a-hundred-year crisis, we find circumstances in school systems everywhere have changed dramatically. Just to recover from the pandemic is a herculean task in and of itself. To do so against the backdrop of school system governance and politics has created perhaps the most complex set of circumstances and variables unique to each school system across our country in our educational lifetimes.


Across school systems practitioner resiliency is low. Turnover is high, public criticism is prevalent and practitioners inside of a school system devoted unprecedented energy to overhaul practice to meet the constraints of the pandemic. As a result, nothing is potentially more dangerous or damaging for an organization, than to apply an effort-laden solution to a problem that is not of the highest urgent priority.


How then do we make sure we identify and address the right problem in the manner Lencioni describes in his quote? We believe it starts with ensuring 360 degrees of high-quality data, careful analysis, and the formulation of a problem of practice. We also believe in the recent past, many school systems faced common challenges. Contrast this recent state with each community’s unique impacts related to COVID 19, and we have a current environment suggesting the impacts on a singular school system vary dramatically from one neighborhood to the next.


Ensuring your system has the right data, organized to identify the most pressing issues, to build consensus and empowerment in the application of the necessary solutions is the urgent task at hand. The stakes have never been higher. How we address our identified issues in the coming days will undoubtedly impact our school systems, in the best-case-scenario, for the good, for years to come.


About the Author


Erich Bolz, MA. Ed.

Vice President, Research and District Engagement

The Center for Educational Effectiveness

(425) 947-5239

Erich’s educational career spans over 25 years in public education as a remedial reading teacher, pre-K-12 principal, central office administrator (small, large, and Educational Service District levels), Adjunct Professor at Heritage University and 2013 recipient of the Violet Lumley Rau Alumni Outstanding Alumnus Award. Board Member at Communities In Schools of BentonFranklin, WA and Partners for Early Learning serving Tri-Cities, WA

Leading educational transformation:

• Implementing building and district MTSS Systems

• Informing and executing strategic planning

• Grant writing expert

• Veteran Special Education Administrator

• Facilitating process improvement discussions using Compression Planning methodology

• Authoring and publishing on systemic change in education

• TEDx, keynote and conference breakout speaking at a local and national level on MTSS, education, literacy, the importance of early learning, educator care, and community building

• Published author

• Most recent education experience as Assistant Superintendent of 19,000 student school district overseeing sixteen elementary principals and the district’s executive team for teaching and learning services including, curriculum, instruction, special programs, and Special Education.

• BA, Central Washington University, Teaching Certificate, Washington State University, Master’s Education Administration and P-12 Principal Certificate, Heritage University, Superintendent Certificate, Washington State University