Site-Based Decision-Making

Chapter 7 - Appraisal: Assessing Organizational Readiness

"Look before you leap!" is good advice to those standing at the shore about to launch their schools on the site-based management journey.

The basic question before each school is the level of readiness which exists to support the success of collaborative decision-making. What are the skills and the attitudes of those about to participate in the planning and development of new educational initiatives?

Each school should ideally develop a different schedule for implementation based upon the resources in the building. If a strong collaborative culture already exists, it makes sense to involve participants in significant levels of responsibility from the beginning. On the other hand, if participants have little skill and even less inclination toward collaboration, if they are used to top-down management or inclined toward argument rather than consensus-building, it is better to delay significant decision-making while a foundation is established. This issue points out the problem with states mandating the approach across the board within tight time lines.

The value of early appraisal is its link with the training function. A thorough implementation plan for site-based management sets clear benchmarks for the establishment of adequate supportive culture before allowing school councils to plunge into deep waters or climb dangerous peaks.


Too often we see plans adopted which treat all buildings as if they were identical. On the other hand, one must acknowledge the political danger of holding some groups back while others are allowed to proceed. Criteria for advancement to the RESPONSIBILITY level must be clearly established and broadcast in advance of the appraisal process so that participants will know what to expect if foundation skills and attitudes are not evident.

Surveys are readily available to support the kind of appraisal which is desirable. Several are included in the back of this book. The Davis-McKenzie Teacher Adaptability Quotient Scale (Appendix C) provides an indication of how teachers feel about professional or personal change. Used at a faculty meeting it places each teacher along a continuum from stability to innovation. For any team embarking on a voyage of change, this instrument offers a valuable glimpse of how the "crew" is likely to react to disruption and surprise. It gives a portrait of how the teachers in a building are distributed.

If you were given a choice of being principal in one of the following three elementary schools, which distribution of scores would be most desirable? The number shown with a "T" is the number of teachers in the building who scored at that point.

School A

-40 0 40 80

4T 3T 2T 4T 8T 5T 4T

School B

-40 0 40 80

8T 4T 3T 0T 0T 8T 7T

School C

-40 0 40 80

2T 2T 0T 6T 6T 14T

There is no correct answer, of course, but the question highlights the importance of knowing one's team.

The scale stimulates healthy discussion of the change process itself -- one of the major recommendations of pioneers. Participants are too often ill-prepared for the realities of change and the change process, under-estimating the consequences of initiating major modifications in existing practice.

Many other scales are available to assess readiness. Talico Inc. offers a series of instruments which cover many of the key questions deserving of study:

Some of the most effective organizational assessment can be less formally designed. Groups which view "First Ascent," a dramatic video showing two women mountain climbers conquering a difficult challenge, are able to extract a list of effective team strategies which can easily be converted into an organizational assessment instrument (Appendix D). Having listed these strategies, members of the school team then rate the frequency of their present practice by the group and vote for the four strategies deserving of the most attention during the following six months.

Once the group has tabulated results, it is possible to create an action plan to strengthen the strategies and norms identified. The assessment is followed by prioritizing, planning, training and then a re-assessment six months later.



The cycle continues for several years as the organization develops the foundation for effective group process. Those who would tackle difficult and risky challenges must be certain that their implementation plan incorporates activities to promote cultural change. Undue emphasis upon left side of the brain issues will leave the voyage exposed to the dangers of mutiny or abandonment.

How well does the system support innovation? Appendix E offers the Innovation and Environmental Scanning Index to measure the level of commitment to managing the future. Each team must determine which issues deserve the most attention and then assess the level of development which already exists.

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Copyrighted 1991 by Jamie McKenzie, all rights reserved.