Measuring What Matters

Ella & Beck; On the edge of Sherwood Forest

Ella & Beck; On the edge of Sherwood Forest

"No matter what's going on around us, if we truly believe that we're in this together, and we work hard to be there for one another, we can make it through."   (Margaret Wheatley)


It's been a while since we taught these guys to map read and sent them off into the depths of Sherwood Forest to meet up at Robin Hood's hiding tree.  Nearly ten years later,  their horizons have broadened; Ella is an ace SatNav operator and Beck would drive.  These days, we could arrange to meet them 100 miles away or in a different country and they would reliably be there.

As a parent, I couldn't be more proud. Yet for the last couple of weeks I've witnessed them endure the heartbreaking trial of GCSE's and A-levels.  In a world which requires deep collaboration and sharing, the ability to show up for each other and to develop trusting bonds, they have spent every last moment of recent months locking themselves away, absorbed in individual effort as they prepared for a solo achievement to meet the measure set by examiners.  

They seem to have fared well enough but, in other news, this kind of endeavour means that incidents of stress-related illness among children and young adults is steadily increasing.

And as they have been in the exam hall, I've been negotiating industry metrics higher up the educational hierarchy where we see that emotional health among students is disturbingly poor and college lecturers are suffering from lack of support and high workloads.  

A thread of social isolation runs through all of these efforts to measure and assess.

Throughout education we advocate co-operation, collaboration and participation yet continually separate and fragment our community efforts as we use structures for assessment at every level that divide and isolate. It's the same in most industries; shared reward for group or company success is rare. Bonuses are paid opaquely to individuals and executives are rewarded for the achievements of others.

Ten years ago, our kids instinctively knew that the best chances of finding their way was to work together.  

The same is true today.

If we are going to continually measure ourselves and work in systems that provide differential reward, then let's at least measure the things that matter; collaboration, sharing, kindness, support of others and participation. This kind of collective effort is essential if we are to face the problems of an ever smaller world effectively and the choice for each of us is clear.

As Margaret Wheatley says simply, "We can choose to be in this together. Or not."



Margaret Wheatley's website is a fantastic resource for those interested in a different, progressive version of leadership and I'm a fan of her latest book 'Who do we choose to be?'

Peter Block's 'Stewardship' is well worth a read; showing how to move from controlling and directing to shared governance and partnership.


Steve MarshallComment