Last week’s post at this blog features my video interview with Board Chair Andrew Brodie and Executive Director Dr. Tina Kerr of the Michigan Association of Superintendents and Administrators, who describe a major strategic change initiative, Launch Michigan. Our interview involves a story within a larger story. Our readers will recall that Launch Michigan is an ambitious, ongoing K-12 reform project guided by a diverse coalition of business, labor, philanthropic, civic, and K-12 leaders who aspire to reform K-12 financing and significantly boost student performance in Michigan. Tina is one of 5 co-chairs of the 21-member Steering Committee providing overall direction of the effort. This is the larger story – the framework – within which MASA’s role in Launch Michigan fits. There is also the story of MASA’s making the strategic decision to invest heavily in Launch Michigan. That is the subject of this post. By the way, readers who haven’t yet seen my video interview with Andrew and Tina will find the link at the end of this post.
Our readers should keep in mind that, in addition to being a high-stakes, statewide K-12 innovation effort involving a number of stakeholders, Launch Michigan is at the same time an innovation initiative residing in MASA’s “Change Investment Portfolio.” (Note that this is my term, not MASA’s, for the short list of innovation projects most organizations manage.) The MASA Board of Directors not only approved making a significant financial investment in Launch Michigan, it also green lighted the investment of substantial time of Tina’s as a co-chair of the Launch Michigan Steering Committee. I would suggest that the following four factors led to MASA’s inclusion of Launch Michigan in its Change Portfolio. They demonstrate why MASA is well on the road to mastering the art and science of innovation/change leadership:
- MASA is capable of spotting opportunities to invest in large-scale innovation that do not neatly fit within the box of traditional long-range planning. In an increasing complex, rapidly changing environment, the capacity for seeing through what I think of as an opportunistic lens is critical to an organization’s growing and thriving.
- MASA is courageous enough to invest in innovation involving significant risk. In light of a history of educational reform fraught with disappointment and failure nationally, Launch Michigan wasn’t – and still isn’t – a sure bet. The MASA Board, Chief Executive, and Executive Team clearly take to heart the old adage that is key to innovation: “ Nothing ventured, nothing gained.”
- MASA’s chief executive officer, Executive Director Tina Kerr, is ready and willing to play with gusto the role of Innovator-in-Chief for the association. One of the things I’ve learned from thirty-plus years of work in nonprofit/public innovation and change leadership is that without strong, indeed passionate, and hands-on chief executive leadership, success is highly unlikely. Tina doesn’t sit in her office, distant from the fray, reading reports on Launch Michigan performance; she’s actively engaged as a co-chair of the initiative’s Steering Committee.
- MASA’s Board and CEO function as a unified Strategic Governing Team. The fact is, the MASA Board owned the decision to invest in Launch Michigan and consciously added Launch Michigan to MASA’s Change Investment Portfolio. Tina knows that her leadership on the Launch Michigan Steering Committee has her Board’s full backing, making her an even more powerful resource for the initiative.