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In December, 2012, we blogged about how the Oklahoma City Public Schools had found a “Changing Culture with The 10’ – 5’ Rule.” This is one example of a district applying an ALWAYS Action, developing and institutionalizing a “soft skill” as an action that must always occur, based on the findings from its Support Services Survey.

Consider these four “soft skills” and two operational policies to positively influence support service excellence using more than 28,500 responses from principals and assistant principals across six school districts.

  1. Answer the Telephone (Focus: Accessibility)
  2. Respond to Calls or Emails with an Appropriate Greeting and Information (Focus: Accuracy)
  3. Engage in the 10’ – 5’ Rule (Focus: Attitude)
  4. Return Phone Calls and Emails within 24 Hours always and then Follow-up when Additional Time is Needed (Focus: Timeliness)

Two additional policy items help organizations focus on operations:

  1. Create Detailed Voice Messages for Answering Machine
  2. Transfer Calls Only to a (Real) Person

The key? Focus on only one of these skills or policies to achieve results and create objective measures for the goal/outcome. Consider an article from Public Administration Review (Resh and Pitts, Jan/Feb 2013):

Theories of goal conflict suggest… organizations face a zero-sum trade-off among goals. [This portion of goal conflict theory was used/tested] to explain the implementation and interaction of multiple policy goals in the context of Georgia public high schools… The findings demonstrate the highly contingent nature of… trade-off. [That is,] more robust gains can be made toward a higher-order objective by focusing on one particular lower-order goal rather than an all-inclusive approach to goal attainment.

There is a greater likelihood of (positively) influencing behavior and change when an organization focuses on one goal or objective. Focus on one goal, institutionalize (hardwire) behavior to achieve it — make it your culture, and measure it. And, remember that service excellence begins with one’s leadership and commitment to purpose, worthwhile work, and making a difference (Studer, 2008).

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Resh, William G., and Pitts, David W. (January/February 2013). No Solutions, Only Trade-Offs? Evidence about Goal Conflict in Street-Level Bureaucracies” Public Administration Review, 73(1): 132-142. PDF available online here: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1540-6210.2012.02623.x/pdf.

Studer, Q. 2008. Results that Last: Hardwiring Behaviors That will Take Your Company to the Top. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Our mission at Studer Education is to provide students with a great place to learn, teachers with a great place to teach, and parents with confidence that their children are getting a great education. To do this we work with school boards, leaders, and teachers to apply Evidence-Based continuous improvement processes and the principles from How to Lead Teachers to Become Great in their districts to get the best student learning results and create results-oriented school cultures. Visit us online at http://studereducation.com. Studer Education is a division of Studer Group, a recipient of the 2010 Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award.