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Slow and Steady

Originally published on November 30, 2017

Happy Thursday!

In my former life I worked at a Leader In Me school where the entire staff, including me, were trained in the 7 Habits. Our primary trainer Gary McGuey used to say that the process to become a real Leader In Me school was one that would take several years because this work was like “a crockpot not a microwave.” I really liked that analogy because it helped me to breathe and recognize the importance of time.

Time is one of the most valuable resources. We can work with time, but no matter how hard we try, we cannot create time. We can work with time, but no matter how hard we try, we cannot make time go faster. We can work with time, but no matter how hard we try, our paychecks, our titles, and our wealth of experience will not alter that we all get 24 hours. Time is an equalizer.

In fact, the things that are the most important often require the most amount of time and the greatest patience. If the idea of the crockpot is true, then the way a crockpot works is that the critical work in creating a good meal is done upfront. It’s the time spent getting the best recipe, the best ingredients, and doing the best preparation to make the meal. Once you have done that initial work, you add the ingredients to the pot and allow time to do it’s magic. You patiently monitor the work that is taking place with some slow heat over time. That’s not to say that there aren’t moments when you lift the lid to peek or make some minor adjustments. However, unlike when you cook using a microwave, the process is intentionally slow and patient.

This reminds me of Michael Murphy’s book Orchestrating School Change (2014) where he writes, “Too many of our best school efforts fall apart during the first two years of implementation. This failure is not due to a lack of effort; rather the failure is due to a lack of careful orchestration of efforts, balancing the press for change and the support for individual improvement, throughout the initiative’s new life unit it becomes embedded into the culture of the school” (p. 15). In other words, change fails because there isn’t a plan prior to the change in how to appropriately implement the change over the course of the transition from the current state to the desired state. Murphy advocates that the leader(s) of the change effort both (1) identify what the micro-changes should be during the course of the transition and (2) highlight the micro-changes so others can see the progress over time. These micro-changes are really just another way of saying “approximations” of the end goal.

Substantial changes that are successful take time…they also take the ability to recognize the small steps along the way that indicate that even if you’re not yet fully “cooked” yet, you are able to recognize what you’re looking for to know that it’s working OR that you need to make some adjustments OR how much time is left until dinner is served.


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