There are a lot of things in life that are hard to quantify. But like great acting, obscenity, and good manners…you know it when you see it. The same can be said for change within an organization’s culture. Quantifying positive culture change within an organization is extremely challenging. You can take surveys. You do exit interviews. You can form focus groups. But an organization’s culture is more often defined by its spontaneous behavior than anything else. And if you happened to be at our homecoming game last Friday, you were witnessing positive culture change in the making.
Two years ago this fall, I watched my first Wrangler football game. I’m pretty sure we won that game, but what I remember more than the game was how empty our stands were, and how quiet the game was. Parents outnumbered students and there was more discussion about egging than football. If you want a litmus test on how students feel about their high school, watch them at a sporting event. I was thinking about that first game as I watched a raucous student section rush the field after our football team drove the length of the field with under three minutes for the win. When’s the last time that happened at Sunny Korfanta Field?
If I’ve learned anything about positive cultural change, I’ve learned that there’s no easy path to success. It’s tough. Negative is easy, it’s lazy. Criticism is the path of least resistance. Benjamin Franklin said, “Any fool can criticize, condemn and complain and most fools do.” Positive change requires you to roll up your sleeves and engage in the process of improvement. It’s about really hard work, taking risks and hiring people with positive energy who refuse to give up, even in the face of the most challenging situations. And everywhere I looked Friday night, that’s exactly what I saw…and heard.
Let’s start with Ward Wise. Ward teaches business at the high school and announces the football games. Ward is one of the most positive people I’ve ever met. If judgment day includes an accounting of your life to St. Peter at the pearly gates, I want Ward doing the play-by-play. And how about our new band teacher, Justin Smith? Who could have bigger shoes to fill at PHS? But at one point I looked across the stands and wondered to myself who’s that guy whipping our band and student section into a frenzy. None other than first year teacher Justin Smith. Let’s not forget about Coach Johnson, his staff, and our football players. Get a big lead, give it up, and then band together to score the winning touchdown with just seconds left. Way to go fellas! I know times past when Pinedale would have just folded up the tent and closed the circus. And to all of the green moustached, orange haired lunatics in the stands…there’s no way we pull out a win like that without all your hootin’ and hollerin’. That’s what a student section at a football game looks like!
Now I’m not saying that Pinedale High School, SCSD #1, or our football team for that matter, has arrived as an organization. We haven’t. We still have a lot of work to do. I’m just saying that our culture is changing for the better. Mr. Turcato, the high school staff, our students, and their families deserve all the credit. They have embraced the work of change and building a positive culture. They have exchanged their vision for a positive school for the daily grind that success requires. We have a long way to go to meet our goals, but if that bunch of crazed Wrangler fans is any indication as to the positive energy we possess, there’s no limit to where we can go. Go Wranglers!