Dr. Monique Davis and Dr. Doug Anthony are no strangers to navigating large-scale organizational dilemmas in their work—in the public eye no less.
Davis is a Deputy Superintendent and Anthony is an Associate Superintendent at Prince George’s County Public Schools, a school district in Prince George’s County, Maryland with 20,000 employees and 131,000 students. The second largest school system in Maryland and one of the top 25 largest in the United States, PGCPS serves a student population wherein 60% of students are considered below the poverty line.
“Unfortunately we have made some headlines—we’re in the news and not necessarily for some great things,” shared Anthony at Arbinger’s Annual Facilitator Retraining this past Fall.
“Being in the Washington Metropolitan area, we’re not in little newspapers. We make The Washington Post, we make CNN, NBC, WTTG, ABC,” added Davis.
Both the scale of the operation and the circumstances of the majority of its students pose innumerable challenges unique to PGCPS. Helping things go right (and putting out fires when they aren’t) is more than a full-time job. Take, for example, PGCPS’ superintendent turnover rate: they’ve had eight superintendents (CEOs) in 14 years.
Navigating Organizational Challenges
Davis and Anthony have had to be exceptionally creative and patient in overcoming challenges, and have learned some valuable tools in the process.
“In the past, if something goes wrong, we just write an administrative procedure. And we make sure that you just follow that rule. But we kept not understanding why in the world behaviors hadn’t changed. What we finally figured out is that you can’t change behaviors through compliance procedures—but we found that out the hard way,” shared Davis.
After partnering with Arbinger three years ago, they discovered that true, sustained change occurs at a level deeper than behavior—at the level of mindset. A key learning was that shifting mindset is a process—”we understood at with 20,000 employees, this is not going to be an easy fix—it’s going to take time,” added Davis.
While change on such a massive scale is slow, both Davis and Anthony witness and participate in the district’s transformation on a daily basis. The key to success?
“It’s important to live it together—to go through the process and live the material together,” said Anthony.
View their whole talk here: