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Think big; start small

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in Leaders & Managers

Even with a big goal, small changes early can create excitement and instill confidence.

Charlie Mae Knight, a new superintendent in California, faced a seemingly insurmountable task. His school district in East Palo Alto was one of the poorest in the state, and a monstrous 98% of students ranked in the lowest percentiles for performance.

Although he needed a big-picture solution, Knight began swiftly implementing small, focused programs that would produce noticeable results. Starting with one school, Knight organized companies and community foundations to repair the wiring and phones, eradicate a pest problem and paint the place.

The physical improvements were so dramatic that the community began to take a more active role in education. After only two years, the school had reached academic achievement in the 51st percentile, an impressive turnaround.

Lesson: Big change can start small.

— Adapted from The Leader of the Future, Frances Hesselbeln, Jossey-Bass.

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