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When to Quit and Communication, pages 246-261

Updated: Feb 17

Part Two: Leadership Tactics, 3. Maneuvers, I. When to Quit, 4. Communication A. Keep the Troops Informed (pages 246-261)


I. When to Quit

“There is a time to quit”. When comparing a strategic objective versus a tactical objective, you must understand the difference. Tactical is the situation that is directly in front of you whereas strategic is the long-term goal. It’s acceptable to quit a tactical plan if it is not working. Not doing so will severely limit your ability to achieve the strategic objective. A better way to look at it is to not use the word quit but the word retreat instead. You are not quitting on the end goal, but rather quitting a tactic that is not working so that you can develop another approach.

Effective teaching involves trial and error. What worked yesterday in the classroom might not work today. This is because educators have a dynamic raw material, the student. Unlike carpenters, plumbers, HVAC technicians, etc., that can depend on their tools and materials being consistent, educators face an ever-changing work environment. Every student enters the classroom a bit different from when they left it the day before. Most times the changes are small and don’t drastically affect the learning environment. Sometimes though they do. That is when the effective teacher realizes that and implements another tactic. It is not that the teacher is quitting on the lesson objective, it’s that the effective teacher realizes the strategy/tactic they are executing is not getting the desired results and they must try a different approach. If that tactic is not effective, another one is implemented. Hence the trial and error of teaching. I have purposely used the term effective teaching when speaking to trial and error. Unfortunately, I have witnessed teachers that were not willing to change their tactics even though the students were not learning. They felt it was the student's job to change. That in itself is inexcusable. When I would speak to a teacher who I observed doing this I would typically give them this example to ponder. Does the carpenter blame the hammer for not driving the nail straight? Who is the carpenter? What represents the hammer? Who represents the nail? What’s the objective? These questions make the teacher see that as the carpenter they must alter their approach because their current approach is not effective and all that is getting accomplished is bent nails aka frustrated students. As they say, “A good craftsman never blames his tools.”


A. Keep the Troops Informed

The farther back you get from the point man in a foot patrol, the less you know about where you are going and what you are about to encounter. This can negatively affect morale. To overcome this, before the patrol/work begins, inform all of those involved with as much information as possible. Additionally, keep the information flowing as the work continues. Uniformed team members will eventually become lost. Lost team members can no longer be effective. This then causes morale to drop.

I often described being a Superintendent as being able to see all the jigsaw pieces and how they fit together. Additionally, I understood that no one else in my district had that luxury. Each saw their piece but not the entire puzzle. It was my responsibility to explain how all the pieces fit together. For example, the math department wanted new materials. What they did not see was the cost. If I were to shift money out of another department, for example, buildings and grounds, then the much-needed new van couldn’t be purchased. Without a new van, some athletes would have no transportation. Additionally, that van transported food to school buildings. So, in essence, new math materials would affect both athletes and food service. Explaining this went a long way in creating understanding with my staff.

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