Everyone dreams of being the boss, imagining that they’d have to answer to no one. But when you trace your way to the top of the org chart, you find that even the top brass answers to someone, like customers, shareholders, and the law. Nobody gets their way all the time.
Enter corporate governance. It’s a business term – a system by which corporations are directed and controlled. It’s generally intended to include company stakeholders and it is talked about in terms of profitability, responsibility, accountability, transparency and doing good for the community. There are conferences, associations, experts, and books, not just here in the U.S. but around the world.
Pondering corporate governance, my mind went to my son’s school. Founded more than 40 years ago, it started as a one-room schoolhouse with lots of freedom, learning opportunities, and transparency among parents, students, administration, and teachers. Everyone involved in the school had influence. No idea was too radical. The district left the school alone because the test scores were always high. Simpler times.
Now, a new school administration is in place. No longer are parents involved in selecting new teachers and shaping the curriculum. Freedom is restricted at other points. A student council was launched, but the principal disallowed it. Many teachers have left. Students are transferring to other schools. The traditional walk to a nearby park to celebrate the last day of school has been deemed unsafe and now the celebration takes place on the school parking lot. For families who’ve been part of the school family for years, these changes are frustrating. For new families, they’re wondering, “What’s the big deal?” It’s becoming a confusing mess.
There are many parallels between schools and corporations. Both entities play huge roles in our daily lives impacting where we work and where we learn. Corporations and schools both have multiple stakeholders and responsibilities. Some of the best corporations are governed by a Japanese business philosophy called "Kaizen” which means “improve” or “change for the best.” Companies that engage in Kaizen typically reduce waste, improve space utilization, and fine-tune communications – all considerations that make sense for schools and companies.
Whether you’re running a multi-billion dollar company or a 400-student K-12 school, ask, “Are we improving or changing for the best?” You may get different answers from different shareholders, but at least you’ll get a healthy dialogue going and affirm that everyone involved is important.