I wrote about the project I am doing for the Strategic leadership course and how I have decided on a topic. Of course things have changed – I think the most shocking thing that could happen at work is if one day I complete a project that is the same as when I started.

I think this is where the art of project management, or really any type of management, comes into play. A lot of people seem to think that project management is about Gantt charts and budgets, but that isn’t it any more than time tables and cost centres are what school management is about. Or maybe that’s the difference between management and leadership?

It seems to me that some of the difference between leadership and management comes down to how you handle the unexpected. There are lots of options when something new comes along:

  • Panic
  • Ignore it (are these the same?)
  • Minimise the disruption and aim to get back to normal
  • Work around it
  • Embrace it and embed it in your new vision

Several of these are positive, and I certainly don’t want to say that there is a ‘best’ way of doing something – it always depends on the circumstances. But I find the last idea the most exciting. It’s a spin on the old saw that we have opportunities, not problems. It can only be done with a very clear vision of what you are trying to achieve, because you have to ask yourself if a new pathway is going to move you towards that or not. If you don’t, your new and improved project will not achieve what you want, but will meander along ineffectively.

I’m probably getting repetitive on the importance of what rather than how, but this is a good demonstration. I was asked to be a guinea pig for something, which was relatively easy. But in the process and speaking to others, we realised it could be much more. If we’d stuck with how we’d been asked to do it, it would have worked. But by going back to what we were trying to achieve, we made it more effective and gave more control to the people who will be responsible for the work.

After much to-ing and fro-ing, consultation, feedback, change of format, change of program and testing with several examples, we have a visioning template that can walk people who’ve never done it through the process, or let experienced people fill it in quickly and move on. It ensures they hit all the highlights, and automatically pulls the important pieces together and prepares them for the next step. Now it’s ready to be used by other people, and hopefully we’ve bomb proofed it enough that it will do what we want.

It’s the same type of work I was intending to do for my project, but in a different context. Rather than trying to get back to my original plan, I think I’ve achieved something bigger by running with a new opportunity.

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We’ve been challenged to think about a leadership headline or mantra. Leadership needs different things according to the circumstances and skills of the leader, so the idea is to try to distill what you are trying to achieve.

The first part of mine is easy – I think one of the most important things I do is questioning. Why are we doing things this way? What are you trying to get out of this? What is causing the problem here? Have you thought about?

And I think the best answers come from connections. This might be connecting people who are working on similar things, or information that comes from different places, or projects that become richer or more efficient when they are brought together.

But the last one has me stumped. I know exactly what I want it to be, but can’t think of the way to encapsulate it.

One of the things I’ve seen over and over again is having too much knowledge resting with one person. When they leave, no-one can find anything on the server, or remember how to organise the sports carnival, or what the process is for a student who needs an individual behaviour plan.

Then there are the things we all do over and over again, like programming, data analysis or contacting parents.

If you start from scratch every time, think of all the creative energy you use having to think of what to do Every. Single. Time. This is why I am an enormous believer in processes and structures. Some people think they are rigid, but I see the opposite – by taking care of the what, they let me spend all my creativity and imagination on how, and still be confident that I’ve included all the important things.

I feel one of the most important roles of a leader is to give their people this structure and boundaries. Let your imaginations run wild and be the best you can be, so long as you stay within these walls. You will always be sure of what I am asking for, because it is all on this list and the same every time. (Except of course when we refine it together.)

So I know exactly what it is, but it’s hard to boil it down to one word. ‘Structuring’ doesn’t quite cut it, or ‘giving boundaries.’ For the moment, I’m stuck with

Questioning, connecting, and something else.

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Project – Finding a topic

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One of the things we have to do for the strategic leadership course is an ongoing project. I think this is great, I love projects as a way of tying things together for long term practice and experiential learning. But what to do? Projects are my bread and butter – Project Manager is right there […]

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I‘ve been lucky enough to be accepted for a strategic leadership professional development course. It seems to be a good opportunity to get back to blogging, which I’ve been away from since I’ve been working, and have a regular space to reflect on what I’m learning and how it relates to my work. One of […]

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Australian Curriculum: Science 2 – structure of the curriculum

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Before we get into the next installment, I want you to go to AC: Science and have a little play, if you haven’t already. One of the things I love about this curriculum has nothing to do with the pedagogy or science and everything to do with the presentation. Those little symbols up the top that […]

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Australian Curriculum: Science 1 – who does what


This is a response to the #onsci twitter chat on the 9th of August about the Australian Curriculum (AC) that I think might be useful generally. Judging from the chat there seem to be a few broad themes of concerns, some of which I’m placed to explain or discuss. This seems the appropriate time to […]

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Thou Shalt Not Teach Thine Own Opinions


This is not some technical detail. It’s the basis of the entire mass education system, the social contract of teaching. In the past, wealthy people hired a tutor or governor, someone they could oversee and be sure exactly what their children were being taught. Poor people were grateful for whatever they got. With mass education, […]

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Top Down vs Bottom Up in the Classroom

Classroom Management
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I‘ve been in a few conversations lately that have made me think about my way of viewing classroom problems. Top down and bottom up aren’t quite right, but I suppose it’s such a common metaphor that I’m finding it difficult to break free of it. The top and bottom in this case are not people […]

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Self-motivated, Collaborative, Creative, Edited, Technological Literacy FTW!

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It’s holidays, and the girls (almost 4 and 6) are miserable with a cold. So they asked if they could work on their book. They are snuggled together in my bed: Using a book (Animalia) to get ideas for each letter. 6 yr old is telling 4 yr old how to type the words into […]

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A Standing Desk

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My desk is currently covered in boxes, and I’m loving it. I work at a little table that fits in the space between the window and the bookcase, opposite the lovely large table with the sewing machines on it. I use a laptop that sits directly on the desk and a cheap office chair. It’s […]

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