School district operational relationships : a qualitative exploration of how system linkages support organizational learning
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As federal and state policies continue to increase the demands for student academic achievement, school districts across the nation must function less as bureaucratic organizations and more as learning organizations. Operational relationships might be a significant avenue for school districts to promote such a transformative change. However, it is not clear how to accomplish such change. Thus, this study focused on an analysis of the pertinent literature to highlight what previous research suggests upon which to embark in the creation of successful relationships within school districts and the implications for further inquiry. While some previous research suggests that distributive leadership and systems thinking might ensure sustainability of school reform and lead to true learning organizations, few have focused on how leadership development is enhanced through operational relationships. This qualitative study investigated the types of operational relationships that exist within school districts, how those operational relationships are built, and the extent to which the operational relationships reflect organizational learning attributes. A phenomenological approach, which used semi-structured interviews of eight participants from two mid-sized school districts was employed. Findings for this study suggest that operational relationships may take the following forms: hierarchical relationship, mentor-protégé relationship, aligned relationship, and personal relationship. Several strategies appear to aide in the building of operational relationships. These include being accessible, engaging in meaningful experiences, and interacting with others. Findings also indicate that operational relationships may contribute to a district’s progression from a bureaucratic organization towards organizational learning to some extent.