Gathering Intelligence

By Benjamin O. Canada

Intelligence gathering may bring to mind clandestine, possibly subversive agents in wide-brimmed hats and trench coats, or military officials with the mission of seeking information that may compromise national security. But intelligence gathering and analysis also are regularly practiced by effective superintendent/ CEOs and school boards.

After 9/11, intelligence operations abounded, and the government was faced with having to explain how information was acquired, shared, and verified. The nature of the information acquired by a board is completely different from that of national concern, but the effect on decision making is critical.

School boards are bombarded daily with massive data dumps, hearsay, and pointed comments designed to influence decision making, and they sometimes receive faulty data or other misinformation. The consequences can be damaging when intelligence gathering is missed, misinterpreted, or misused. Problems are likely if you don’t have a system to manage the intelligence coming into the district.

In my opinion, strategic use of intelligence -- for our purposes, the information that emanates from a variety of sources -- is the main tool that separates the most successful districts from the rest. During my 40 years in education, including nearly two decades as a superintendent in three states, I have witnessed or been directly involved with the successful use of leadership intelligence data, the negative consequences of using faulty intelligence, and the inappropriate application of good or bad data.

What I’ve discovered is that top-performing school districts consistently create leadership teams that know how to effectively manage the constant influx of information. For new board members and administrators, this system is especially critical to your future success.

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