In another Tale of Two Cities I lamented poverty issues that affected the capacity and vision of schools and districts in need to do what they needed to do by their children-clients.

I have been to another such “city” recently and have seen it again. Truly saddens me.

However this case also drove home to me how Mental Models, negative ones, if permitted to persist, can possibly drag a whole system down.

Do NOT get me wrong, the individuals with whom I worked in this case were a splendid collection of educational professionals in every sense. These were folks who were working hard to counteract the negativity they perceived around them, affect how they lead and how they make it work. But some had begun to feel their efforts futile.

The negative mental models with which they contended were the perceptions and politics of the community in which they lead.

I have often noted to my Leadership classes that educators are many  ” – ologists”. They are

– PSYCHologists

– Economists,

– Political Scientists and

– SOCIOLogists, perhaps above all, before and / or in addition to being educator-leaders. They work with and lead people-groups!

This group clearly recognized and lamented the economic, political, and sociological forces that had intertwined for a “perfect storm” in their district.

For sure there are economic issues confounded by economic divide. One section of the district is very wealthy. Another section is very poor.

For sure there are political issues. I am not sure I have parsed them accurately yet but you can guess which group appears to control policy making and resource allocation.

These are underscored by sociological and demographic factors at play in many regions of our country. A growing “underclass” “threatening” those who hire them to perform service tasks but who are reluctant and / or downright resistant to providing them educational and social services to help them overcome their under-class – ness.

This becomes more likely an IMperfect storm whose consequences spin even the most well – meaning participants far, far from where they would prefer to be.

Incident after incident they recounted to me included how they wanted to do X and Y but were prevented by decision makers whose agenda were not grounded in the shared vision of creating and implementing the kinds of services, programs, initiatives, and resources that the district’s students truly needed.

Again, the paragraph above highlights the interconnectedness of Senge’s Five Disciplines. In this case the Shared Vision while still there was at the mercy of negative Mental Models.

As the group began to pile concern upon concern and negative incident upon negative incident I began to realize that I had to on-the-fly, try to give them new mental models or perspectives for engagement.

And so I drove to Root Cause.