Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Seeing the Forest for the Trees

There is an idiom that states, “can’t see the forest for the trees.” This expression refers to someone who is unable to understand what is important in a situation because he/she is giving too much attention to details. As a leader of an after-school program, it is easy to fall into this habit. Every day there is so much to do, so many details to take care of (making copies, distributing snacks, taking roll, orchestrating sign-out, following the schedule, talking with school day and parents…the list can go on and on.) So how do you keep from falling into this trap?

It is important to set goals for your after-school program and then to create a plan for accomplishing them. Once you have set these very important goals (1-3 is more than enough), determine how you will know if you are successful in accomplishing them. For example, if your goal was to win a basketball championship, you would know that you were successful when you win the trophy at the end of the season. The next thing to do is to determine what measures along the way to the final success that you can review regularly to ensure that you are on track to accomplish your goals. So, to continue the basketball analogy, you could check on weekly free throw averages (it is my understanding that this is a predictor of winning) as well as the number of rebounds the team makes.

Once you have your goals set, know how you will know that you were successful in the end, and defined the benchmarks that will act as guideposts along the way, you are ready to determine which strategies and activities you will need to implement to accomplish the desired results. For basketball I might plan daily practice sessions and week end tournaments to go along with scheduled league games. It is important to remember the Pareto Principle—20% of the activity will net you 80% of the results. The task at this point is to determine which activities you should do to achieve your desired results.

It is important that as the leader of an after-school program you are able to see the big picture, the future state that you are working to accomplish. Weekly reflections on how you are doing will keep you on track.

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