Thursday, July 15, 2010

Book Review: Good to Great

Jim Collins wrote the book, Good to Great, in response to requests from business leaders who had read, Built to Last. Good to Great begins with this opening line: “Good is the enemy of great”. Just this line is enough for us to ponder in the world of after-school. When we are working with students who demonstrate risky behaviors, when we are in a situation where instead of being part of the system we feel like we are the “other” or the “outsider”, we can easily become content with good. We are happy that our program receives good reviews, that attendance is good or at least at 85%, that homework support is helping about 70% of the students, and the list can go on and on. If we decide that good is enough, then chances are, we will never move to great intentionally. It might happen in a single moment, but as far as being sustainable and replicable—probably not. Yet our intent is to always do the very best for the young people we work with, so GREAT must be the bottom line. In the book, the line that follow the first, “And that is one of the key reasons why we have so little that becomes great.” says it all. In the world of after-school we must remain committed to being great.
Collins discusses several topics of interest to those of us in the field of after-school. He talks about the importance of getting “the right people on the bus” and the importance of facing the facts but never losing sight of the end result that you are trying to accomplish. He talks about the importance of developing a culture of discipline and the Hedgehog Concept. The Hedgehog Concept is explained in three overlapping circles. One circle identifies what you are deeply passionate about. A second circle identifies what you can be the best in the world at. The third is about what drives you economic engine. For service organizations or non-profits, this third sphere might be replaced with what drives your resource engine. At the nexus of these circles is greatness.
Read Collin’s book and then reflect on your own program. If you work in a non-profit arena read the monograph which accompanies Good to Great which looks closely at Social Sectors.

Not so usual celebrations…
July 15th is Cow Appreciation Day. This is a very interesting not so usual celebration. At first glance, you may be asking yourself “Why in the world would I want to appreciate a cow?” Well, certainly there are dairy products—cheese, milk, yogurt; and of course meat products such as hamburger, steak and ribs. Restaurants sometimes offer specials on Cow Appreciation Day. One of the most interesting is offered by Chick-fil-A. Of course, they celebrate Cow Appreciation Day on the 9th of July instead of the 15th, but the deal is this: if you come to Chick-fil-A in a cow costume (a full costume which will prove that you are not a chicken) they will give you a free Chick-fil-A meal. You can go onto the Chick-fil-A website and see pictures of winning diners who are dressed like cows. You can even go online and upload a picture of yourself in cow costume in case you don’t really want to go to one of the Chick-fil-A 1,400 stores dressed this way.

Activities for Youth
In honor of black and white cows worldwide, have youth brainstorm all of the things that come in black and white only.
After creating a list, have each group create 3 cards, one with a different black and white item, and a list of clues for each one.
Then have the teams have a riddle contest. One at a time, each team gives a clue and the other teams try to determine what the item is that they are describing.

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