What's the core business? That's the question that should define all school and college activities.
The usual prompt answers are that the core business is teaching and learning, or that it is achieving the best outcomes for the students.
OK, that does provide a general sense of direction and it does define what the organisation is about but how does that then guide the termly, weekly and daily activities of senior leaders?
In one of the senior leadership CPD sessions that we regularly facilitate there is a telling activity that points to the difficulty of translating core business into systematic activity. The participants are asked to list all their activities from the previous week one separate post its. They are then asked to order the activities from most to least time consuming. Once they have sequenced the activities the participants are then challenged to identify those which can be defined as directly relating to the core business of the college or school.
The result? As you have probably guessed in most cases the participants find that few of their activities relate to core business and, of those that do engage in little time is given to them.
In The Sticking Point Solution, Jay Abraham proposes a defining series of questions that need to be asked if busyness is to move to core business: relevance, competence and passion.
'If a task is not relevant but you are competent at it, it's a waste of your time. If your competency in a particular task is less than average, then you are not the most efficient person for the job, which means it's a huge problem expenditure of energy and, again, a waste of your time.' Finally, of the activities that remain, which are you truly passionate about? 'It frees you up to focus on your most precious assets - your time, energy and opportunity costs - on the things that matter most and deliver the most meaningful ongoing results.'
Prioritisation of this kind is challenging but staffing is far and away the largest component of any school or college budget, so if senior leaders are devoting most of their time to activities that do not directly enhance core business not only is the school or college not achieving that core business, it's also squandering precious cash along the way.