Lockdown and Innovation

Several years ago, I received a call that no school administrator ever wants to get. At the time, I was at a meeting in Oklahoma City. The message was that there was a man with a gun on campus – “we are in lockdown.”

The next several hours were terrifying, and I felt utterly helpless. We had practiced and planned, but never dreamed that such an event would happen on our campus. I immediately left for Bartlesville – two and a half hours away. On my way to school, several messages came through from co-workers hiding in their closets seeking information of which I had very little. The police responded quickly and professionally. They immediately secured the area and thankfully were able to determine that it was a false alarm. We later learned that the person who called 911 did the right thing by reporting a threat of someone she believed had a gun.

Regardless, the event was real for our folks hiding in terror with their students. Fearing the worst, text messages were sent to loved ones as they waited for a familiar voice to let them know all was clear, and they were safe.

While no one was ever in real danger, the event was a painful reminder of our need to be vigilant and aware that tragic things can happen. As a result, we decided to have a police officer on campus full-time. While this may seem like a no-brainer, the security would cost our organization over forty-thousand dollars per year. Often events like this require an organization to innovate – to do things differently.

Rarely does an organization’s need to innovate happen at a time when it is flush with cash.

Innovation is often confused with thinking “outside the box,” which is a phrase to suggest the need to do things differently. Hiring a police officer was hardly innovative; it was a necessity. We had to do something to ensure that our staff and students were safe and felt safe.

The real innovation, on the other hand, is an organization’s ability to proactively seek out efficiencies that align with the mission and vision of the institution.

As a result of Tri County’s performance excellence journey, we have developed a process that encourages proactive innovation that aligns with our vision. The process is termed 5D and is made up of these components; Dream, Design, Drive, Deliver, and Dissect. This 5D process was recently used to develop a partnership with the City of Bartlesville.

One of our employees learned that the police department wanted a substation on the east side of town that would allow them to respond to emergencies quicker. Our employee suggested that we house the substation on our campus (dream). I was initially apprehensive; however, the idea made it to the “design” phase where it started to get legs. We determined that the concept was in line with our vision and had the potential to save our institution thousands of dollars annually.

After approval by the City and Tri County, the “drive” phase began. The drive phase ensures the community is aware that there is now a substation on the east side of town at Tri County Tech. Services are now ready to be “delivered” to the customer. In one year, the idea will be “dissected” to ensure it is meeting its original intent, and to seek out additional efficiencies.

As a result of the partnership, Tri County will no longer need to higher police officers, saving our institution forty-thousand dollars, without sacrificing the safety of our students. The substation will ensure that there is a police presence on campus at all times. It also provides the east side of Bartlesville quicker police response times. The partnership is a win-win for both entities.

Innovation that is tied to the vision using a formal process can add significant value to an organization. More importantly, it ensures that an organization stays true to the course and keeps its most valuable asset, its customers, at the center of every decision.

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