Excellence Model and Objective Key Results
Lecture Notes
Principals’ Conference, 26th July 2018
Leadership is not about titles, positions, wealth, execution of tasks, and
systems and processes. Leadership is about:
Higher purpose and meaning
Unlocking human potential, your potential,
and that of others you are responsible for.
About making a difference, legacy and impact
History is littered with examples where ordinary people become extra-ordinary.
Without challenging goals even extra-ordinary people become ordinary.
Man is born potential. With deliberate practice and the pursuit of goals, he
becomes talent.
In my experience, the tragedy of life does not lie in not reaching one’s goals.
The tragedy of life lies in having no goals to reach. As a result, goal-setting is not about
winning. Whether you achieve your goals or not is irrelevant. What is important is what
you become as a result of trying to achieve your goals. What counts at the end of the
day or the end of one’s life is whether one put in the effort?
What is achievement? Fulfilling a task or working hard is not achievement. If
you do what you can do, it is not achievement. If India wins the IPL it is not an
achievement. But if India wins the World Cup in 2022; that is an achievement. Born
out of sacrifice, achievement is a record of one’s:
Transformation - your transformation when you transform others.
Unlocking potential through challenging goals.
Contribution towards one’s profession.
Ability of bouncing back after failing.
If you look around most organizations or the friends you know, there may be
just a handful who have demonstrated continuous growth. The mainstream mass
continues doing what they did ten years ago; may be even more! Excellence is all
about raising the bar, and only goals can make it happen. For example, in academic
rigour, continuous improvement will be a key measure of excellence. This progression
occurs, provided one sets challenging goals, and pursues them with grit and firm
determination in the face of heavy odds.
Rewards on Goal-Setting
Gives you control over your life - a sense of purpose, meaning in life, and
Long-term vision and foundation of motivation.
Focus. To achieve challenging goals, or to achieve Pareto’s critical few, one
needs to focus one’s complete energy on the goal and the required efforts.
Achieve balance in life and at work, thus sparing plenty of time to do what one
wants to do.
Achieving excellence by achievement goals that instill intrinsic student
motivation to learn, improve student behavior, and improve academic achievement.
Creating the Excellence Model
The goal setting process can begin in any one of the following three ways:
SWOT, translate superior’s goal into one’s goal, and creating an excellence model. I
believe that when one is seeking high performance in any category, the excellence
model is the best start point.
The excellence model is built on the hypothesis of comparing oneself with the
best in the world, and identifying the accomplishment gap. For example, let us assume
that, the OKR is: Obtain high academic rigour in the Diploma Programme. The
excellence model could be built after matching the performance parameters of the
best schools in the world, the success of Icelandic football as well as football teams of
other nations with low population (Costa Rica, Senegal, Croatia, Cameroon Islands,
Panama, Serbia, Belgium, and many more), Finland’s prowess in school education,
and one’s experiences.
Excellence cannot happen overnight; it requires time to come to fruition, as it
involves changes in lifestyle, intrinsic motivation and building base competencies. You
will recall that in sports and performing arts, the selection and training begins very
early on. Therefore, since academic rigour and collateral cognitive and non-cognitive
competencies cannot be built overnight, a minimum of four years of deliberate practice
is necessary.
Therefore, the first step is to start DP preparations from Grade 9 onwards;
thereafter it is too late. Given the required motivation and mental readiness required
for high academic performance, an early start should be the beginning. Regrettably,
schools begin their readiness only in Grade 12. However, the issues that must be
addressed are: what preparations and how? In this regard, I strongly recommend that
a Four-Year Strategy is prepared to enable students to be initiated in self-directed
learning, book-reading habit, eventually leading to deep reading, writing persuasively,
and learning how to learn.
The second step is to write down what competencies and skills are necessary
for high academic performance. In turn, each competency should be further broken
down into smaller baseline requirements to create the excellence model personalized
for each student. Personalization is the key. These would be:
Academic Skills
How to learn & self-directed learning
Concept understanding
Progression (deep practice)
Immediate feedback
Failure is OK
Setting learning goals
Meeting academic deadlines
Time management
Study routine
Self-esteem and motivation
Physical exercise to improve memory
and concentration
8 hours of sleep
Personalized coaching
The third step is writing down learning goals (using the OKR model) by the
Coordinator, each teacher and each student, in that order. At the end of each month
the results are reviewed dispassionately by the academic coaches, and remedial
actions taken and followed up. The entire operation has to be planned and executed
as a well-oiled military operation.
Traditional Goal-Setting and OKR
On the surface, SMART goals and Objective and Key Results, or OKR, appear
similar, but there are subtle differences. Traditional goal-setting is useful when the
environment is stable, and there is a reasonable degree of certainty about the future.
In a VUCA scenario, the alternative is OKR. The main difference is that in OKR the
goal is split into the objective and how it is to be measured. I would like schools and
individuals to adopt this style. However, there are common features such as SWOT
analysis, challenging objectives, and preparing detailed and measurable plans. The
salient differences are shown below:
6 months and beyond
1-3 months in an unstable
& stable environment
Quarterly or monthly review @
- principal down to
Faster as measuring is
more precise and frequent
How Many
Not more than 2 or 3
Multiple Key Results (3 to 5)
Academic and financial targets
in Schools
A specimen OKR is given below.
Objective (what you want to accomplish): “Achieve an academic score of 37 in DP”
Key Results (A measurable goal that defines achievement):
Qr 1
Qr 2
Qr 3
KR # 1
KR #2:
KR #3:
KR #4:
OKR can be effectively used by students and teachers to perform optimally and
unlock their potential. There are four distinct steps: first, create an excellence model;
second complete a SWOT analysis to determine the accomplishment gap; three, write
out the OKR; and four, review monthly, or as frequently as possible.
Designing, writing down the goal, and presenting an excellent plan is not the
end of the exercise; it is the implementation and monitoring of the plan that matters
most. This process is best staged and phased as under:
1: Multi-level goals are set - for teachers, and school leaders as well. A lot
of training is required in this regard.
2: Students are assisted in designing learning goals, based on pre-
assessment and the excellence model.
3: Deliberate practice: frequent formative assessments.
4: Coach enables mental preparation and self-motivation, and provides
continuous feedback to students as well as teachers.
5: Determine continuous progress and goal attainment through data
6: Fortnightly performance review separately for teachers and students.
7: Modify OKR @ end of quarter, if necessary.
Academic Coaches
A small country like Iceland with a population of 3.5 lacs has 600 football
coaches. Erstwhile East Germany and Soviet Union scaled the gold medal tally in all
Olympics because of their obsession for coaching and psychological preparation of
athletes and sportspersons. In today’s complex world excellence cannot happen
unless we have the best coaches. We need to institute academic coaches with
immediate effect. I urge all academics present to seriously consider this proposal.
When we are seeking excellence, average coaches, and that is what teachers have
been considered all these years, are not good enough. In no human endeavor can
excellence be achieved unless the best coaches are available. Given the
interdisciplinary nature of excellence - motivation, competencies, neuroscience of
learning and memory, psychology and deliberate practice, etc., the present approach
to excellence is unworkable. The time has come for the sports analogy to be applied
in academics. I don’t think countries like Senegal, Nigeria, Costa Rica or the
Cameroon have higher motivation than us!
A White Paper on academic coaches will be circulated for your comments.
Their key responsibilities will include:
1. Preparation and monitoring a 4-Year Strategy for readiness for the IBDP
2. Assisting students in writing their OKR for learning. This will include vertical
alignment of goals by teachers and the Coordinator.
3. Student and teacher feedback analysis.
4. Data analytics to design strategies for teachers and students in continuous
5. Monitoring performance on continuous basis.
6. Conduct workshops and advice on MOOC/LinkedIn courses on how to
learn, best teaching practices, and strategies in:
Self-directed learning.
Neuro science of mindfulness, growth mindset, and Circadian rhythm
and Alpha waves for improved memory and concentration.
How to rewire the brain for improved memory and smart study skills?
Pareto’s 80:20 and time management.
Note-taking and test-taking.
Lifestyle and routine to include sleep, daily exercise and nutrition.
I wish to emphasize that excellence is a journey involving sweat, tears and
elation. The following is the secret sauce:
Protracted time
Excellence model based on the best in the world
Expert coaches
Continuous review, monitoring, feedback
Leadership! Leadership!!