For a number of years I worked for AIESEC, the largest student-run leadership development organization for youth. In 2005 when I was member of the global leadership team, based in Rotterdam (The Netherlands) we launched and implemented a long term plan, based on the “AIESEC 2010” vision, a  statement that was created through the Appreciative Inquiry method with members from around the world, i.e. approx 600 country representatives were present and about 20,000 more were reached virtually. We created a sound strategic planning framework, set our governance structure around it and defined our measures of success. I remember some late night conversations that led us to a scenario that said that the way to measure the organization’s success (vs. performance) was through the organization’s Alumni, their careers, their leadership paths, characteristics, competencies etc..At that point, we would stop the discussion and return to something more tangible and measurable, something we could measure in the scope of the organization.

I meet a lot of people who mostly focus on the output of their work and not the outcome. What I mean is that they care about whether tasks have been achieved and not if the goal has been reached. In the same way, traditional, formal education systems focus on what they can actually measure; whether a set of hard skills and knowledge have passed to their audience; students and pupils.  For most of us of course that have worked, all these “reaching the outcome and not just checking something off a task list” sound nice but in the end of the day the work still needs to be done, tasks and priorities to be met.

Something that has worked for me to keep my mind on “what really matters” and are specific to educational organizations are the following 5 tips:

1. Keeping my mind on the end “consumer”, in this case the student. How does what I do influence the daily experience of the student? (in a positive or in a negative way)

2.What kind of people do I want my students to become? What kind of leaders? What kind of members of their community do I want them to be? Do I care only about their intellectual development or for example their emotional and physical as well?

3. What challenges will the world need to face in the next decades? Even though I am no fortune teller, I could predict a couple of trends. Is my education program / environment reflecting the development of such citizens that will be able to answer those challenges?

4. Am I doing well? I would ask my students, my pupils, their parents and my colleagues. How are we doing?

5. Still…get the job done. Tick the boxes with the tasks, on time, with high quality and meet my weekly priorities. No matter how good I am in thinking and elaborating the above 4 questions, as we all know, to bake the perfect cupcake, you still need to follow successfully the steps of the recipe…

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