System mapping


A framework for Central Office redesign

Chiefs for Change

Chiefs for Change is a national organization that brings together district and state education leaders to share insight and advance equitable policy decisions. One of the organization’s areas of investigation is central office redesign, considering how school district’s central administrative offices can be designed with intention to best serve students.

In partnership with Boston Public Schools Superintendent Tommy Chang, we documented BPS’s central office redesign efforts to create a playbook that might inspire and inform other district leaders. This playbook offers a framework for tackling organizational design, mapping both the function elements of an organization as well as the critical -- but often underemphasized -- cultural aspects.

Using case studies from BPS, the playbook brings to life the cultural mindsets necessary to make functional transformation sticky and impactful. Exercises allow playbook readers to practice these mindsets and approaches with their own teams.

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Mapping a theory of action

Boston Pubic Schools

Boston Public Schools Superintendent Tommy Chang had a vision for change in the district, centered on graduating college- and career-ready young adults by empowering schools as the unit of change. Stakeholders (from administrative teams to external partners), however, had a hard time seeing how their work fit into this vision.

A map of the district’s theory of action made visible the connective threads between vision, mission, and action. It allowed internal middle managers and school leaders to connect their work into a broader ambition. And it was a forcing mechanism for leadership’s prioritization of the complex, cross-departmental work that was necessary to move the system.

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The customer-centered public institution

Boston Public Schools

Customer-centricity deserves to be more than a corporate buzz-word.  It is integral to a public institution’s ability to equitably deliver services to its constituents.

Boston Public Schools has developed a highly relational culture.  If you have the right person’s number, you can get the answers you want.  This works great for the principals and parents in the know, for the bold, the enfranchised, the persistent.

It leaves the rest of us on hold.

While BPS understood it wasn’t providing quality customer experience, it had not framed the challenge to be able to make movement towards improvement. Our work helped to identify the issues in the system and to create near-, mid-, and long-term workstreams that move the organization towards its customer-centric ideal.