Guest Post via @Clarksroom: Move Your Bus

I just finished a book that was given to me to read over the summer called Move Your Bus by Ron Clark that had many great points about organizational change…but something didn’t sit well with me.

The main idea of the book is that any organization has 5 types of people trying to move the bus (organization) forward. Runners, Joggers, Walkers, Riders, and Drivers. Ron goes through each type of person, describes their traits, gives an anecdotal story about the type of person, and then details how he deals with that type of person as the driver (leader) of the organization.

Before I detail what didn’t sit well with me, I should give a BIG disclaimer: Ron Clark has written 4 best-sellers, run a multi-million dollar non-profit, is the leader of a very successful school, trains Fortune 500 company leaders, was on Oprah, and most impressively was played by Mathew Perry in a made for TV movie.

I am NOT any of those things!

The book is a great read, and Ron details many ideas about how organizations, especially schools, can move their bus in the right directions faster. Big surprise, all the ideas point towards supporting people in the appropriate ways…or relationships.

Two things bothered me though.

First, he basically states to not worry about the riders at all. Even if you get them to walk, it is not worth your time and it will not move the organization forward. While I believe he is right about the riders not moving the organization forward, this idea bothered me a lot. I guess if you relate it to students, we do not get to forget about the riders. We have to try to move them forward as well even though the impact may be minimal. Also, even if riders do not move an organization forward, if they are a part of the organization, they should be valued as well.

The second thing that really bothered me didn’t jump out until I did a little more research on the Ron Clark Academy. It is the extremely successful school that Ron started in an impoverished area in Atlanta and that his management ideas the book is about is vetted through. It is a great school, with all the students being successful in school and moving to college after high school. Thousands of educators visit the school every year to learn their strategies and take them back to their own schools. Ron has done some amazing things with high-risk students, no doubt.

BUT his Academy is not reality and not replicable very easily.

It has 113 students with 22 staff members; to put that into perspective my previous school had 670 students and about 55 staff members. With his model, you would need 132 staff members. I am not saying his model isn’t better, it is just not reality. He also raises millions of dollars a year from corporate sponsors like Coke, Delta, Verizon, and Oprah. Most schools are doing very well if they are able to raise more than $50,000. Once again I am not saying it is wrong, just not reality for most.

I would like to think of myself as pretty innovative and a risk-taker when it comes to inflicting change to improve learning for students, and the large majority of the book was great. There were a lot of points to be learned for sure. Sometimes though, I think we learn from what doesn’t sit well with us more than the things we agree with.

Self reflection on new information is ALWAYS an exercise in learning.


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