The Attrition Plan Doom Loop

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If there is a universal truth in school leadership it is this: Run away from “Attrition” plans for professional staff. At best, they stop capacity building almost immediately.  At worst, they throw the organization into a doom loom.  So what is an “Attrition Plan?”  Simply put it is a staffing plan that either balances the budget or pays for a program by not replacing vacancies.  So why is that bad?

Attrition plans are bad because they violate the Whitaker Rule.  Todd Whitaker states (correctly, hence “Rule”) that the greatest asset a campus or district leader can possess is a staff vacancy.  A vacancy gives the leader the singular opportunity to hire a better employee than the one who was in the position previously.  He follows this up with the truism that there are only two ways to improve an organization:

1. Hire better people. 2. Improve your current people. 

I’ll add that any leader of a learning organization that isn’t working on both #1 and #2 concurrently really isn’t much of a leader.

Now here is how an attrition plan throws a learning organization (schools) into a doom loop.  Let’s assume you have four teacher and their skill levels are distinct, giving you an “A” teacher, “B” teacher, “C” teacher and “F” teacher. If you lose the “F” teacher you haven’t lost much in terms of talent and the rest of the teachers can probably pick up the slack with little trouble.  That is how the attrition plan is sold. But this ignores the fact that you have lost the chance to hire another “A” teacher.

But real life doesn’t work the way the plan is drawn on paper.  Of all the above listed teachers (A-B-C-D-F), which one has the greatest possibility of leaving the organization?

The correct answer is the “A” teacher.  And the reason why is that your “A” teacher has the most options.  The “A” teacher is the one most likely to get a promotion and the most likely to get recruited to another campus or district, because they have the most marketable skill set.  And where an A-B-C team may very well outperform an A-B-C-F team.  I can promise you that a B-C-F team will not.  Plus, the more “A” teachers that leave, the more likely that even more “A” and “B” teachers will leave. 

And the best description of attrition driven C-F teams is “Self-Inflicted Doom Loop.”

Which means if you are considering an attrition plan, find a better solution.

Think. Work. Achieve. Your turn…

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