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Is there alignment of goals and a sense of urgency among leaders? How do you know? An organizational needs assessment or external survey asks leaders to rate the level of need (i.e., a scale of “no need” through “urgent need”) for specific action to move an organization to excellence. The survey’s purpose is to:

identify alignment, that is, whether leaders are both (a) on the same page with internal and external goals/strategies/actions and (b) perceive the same sense of urgency (Kotter, A Sense of Urgency; see also Studer, Straight A Leadership).

Administration of an organizational needs assessment helps identify any gaps or disconnects in goals/strategies/actions and sense of urgency across levels of leadership. Leadership levels include the executive/administrative team, department directors, and managers and supervisors; the table below provides examples in education.

If there is alignment among and across organizational leadership, then one can expect the same type and consistency in behavior among the leaders. Consider the importance using this example from Studer:

We actually had a hospital one time where the Executive Team said this is one of their areas to improve and the managers/supervisors had it as one of their strengths. [This is an example of one of those gaps/disconnects.] What the [needs assessment] is about is to see what these disconnects are, not to say “this is bad,” but to say, “if you have a disconnect then how do we make the connection” because obviously, a disconnect highlights communication challenges [such that people (leaders) are not on the same page.]1

It is important to focus on both horizontal and vertical consistency or gaps/disconnects when analyzing leader responses on the needs assessment. Why? Consider an item on the needs assessment that most leaders identify as “most urgent” for development, how to hold critical conversations with low performers.

For our K12 leaders, replacing a teacher who struggles to help students learn can be an uncomfortable decision, but research tells us that the alternative is far riskier. Doing nothing—a choice for some leaders—usually guarantees that a low-performing teacher will teach dozens or even hundreds more children, and never improve (p. 10). Marzano’s meta-analysis research confirms decreased student learning after 2 years among children who have the least ineffective teacher, even if the school is effective (2003). Does this drive a sense of urgency for action? “Holding Critical Conversations with Low Performers” as an end goal of improving opportunities for all children to learn is not a choice for leaders, but a responsibility.



Kotter, John. 2008. A Sense of Urgency. Boston, MA: Harvard Business Press. Author video on YouTube.

Marzano, Robert J. 2003. What Works in Schools: Translating Research Into Action. Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Studer, Quint. 2009. Straight A Leadership: Alignment, Action, Accountability. Gulf Breeze, FL: Fire Starter Publishing.

1 Studer, Quint. 2012. Straight A Leadership: Alignment, Action, Accountability. Studer Group Webinar Series.

Our mission at Studer Education’s EBL K12 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 partner with teachers and leaders to create results-oriented school cultures. Visit us online at http://eblk12.com to learn more about Studer Education and Evidence-Based Leadership in K12. Studer Education is a division of Studer Group, ranked for the sixth straight year on the Best Small and Medium Workplaces by Great Place to Work® and a recipient of the 2010 Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award.