Our Approach: Schedule Redesign and Optimization

At EXPLO Elevate, we believe schools are in many ways repositories for the way we used to do things in the larger culture.

The academic schedules we use are artifacts of the assembly lines of the industrial revolution. Place the daily schedule of a student in 1910 against the ones of today and you will be startled by the similarity. The goal of the schedule from the early part of the twentieth century was to deliver content. The emphasis was rarely on trying to help students become critical thinkers—the focus was centered obsessively with rote memorization. What we are trying to accomplish has changed dramatically, yet the schedule has remained, leaving us trying to get to the moon in a Singer Sewing Machine.

Our approach to schedule redesign was developed by VP of School Strategy, Ross Peters based on his experience facilitating redesign projects at North Shore Country Day School, Punahou School, and Vientiane International School, and also when he oversaw schedule change processes at schools where he worked, most notably Hawken School, and The Westminster Schools. This experience and expertise enables him to identify challenges before they arise and help schools navigate the way forward, avoiding pitfalls and mistakes along the way.

EXPLO Elevate uses a nine-step approach to creating an optimal school schedule. Underlying this process is the Two-Five-Ten change management process, described in more detail here. At the outset, we work with school leaders to articulate the most important outcomes that must be achieved at the end of the process, and then strive to align the leadership team to those outcomes. Next, a Time Task Force is formed, which takes the charge from the leadership team to gather stakeholder input that will inform the recommendations the task force makes.

Gathering stakeholder input is critical to facilitating a successful change process. School communities are made up of hundreds, sometimes thousands of people. When setting out to successfully implement change in such settings, schools inevitably face the challenge of discerning who ought to be included. Additional big questions include: Who holds the decision-making power? How can an institution include all the people affected by change without allowing all of those people to stake a claim in the process?

Ross advises schools that “You want to give everyone touched by the change a voice, but not a veto.” Ross helps schools execute a stakeholder engagement process that includes the voices of parents, faculty, students, and administration – hundreds of concerned people – in the process without ever handing over all the decision-making power.

“You want to give everyone touched by the change a voice, but not a veto.”

EXPLO Elevate augments the design process by providing multiple case studies, compiled by our research team, of schools which have implemented new schedules and the rationale behind them. EXPLO Elevate guides the school to the point where the Time Task Force is able to recommend a new schedule, one that is informed by the stakeholder analysis and the best practice research.

EXPLO Elevate then supports the school through the implementation phase, helping to identify how the new schedule impacts processes, systems, and other organizational structures. We assist the school with implementing a disciplined project management approach to manage all the moving parts. For some schools, we recommend doing a pre-mortem workshop, to understand the potential risks and pitfalls of the schedule.