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School Culture...According to Dabbawalas (13/365)

My writing challenges:

  • Dive deep

  • Focus on brevity

  • Write for readers

  • Repeat daily

My post “Leadership Lessons From Dabbawalas” (by my account) missed several of these objectives. This writing challenge is about daily improvement and pursuing my personal best. This piece aims bringing me closer to conquering my challenges.


Personal growth is critical. The best educators are planners. However, we’ve become learners again. We’ve adapted and were responsive. And we’ve mastered building and maintaining new routines.

We’ve also come to accept and embrace the challenge to “do hard things”, while prioritizing what’s most important, in terms of basic human needs.


  • Remembered what we’ve learned about Maslow’s Hierarchy of Human Needs.

  • Focused on (physical, mental, and emotional) health and safety for all.

  • Fostered a sense of belonging, for individuals and as members of a group.

  • Prioritized self-actualization, as in-person learning communities were restored.

We commanded what was within our control. And we navigated and managed what was beyond our control.

The summer months provide deserved respite for educators, a chance to tend to self-cafe, reflect on the past, and plan towards the future. Keeping Maslow in mind, it’s important to maintain a rhythmic focus on wellness. Doing this will help us, help others around us.

Looking at organizational success outside the realm of our expertise can help us learn.

Take for example, the Dabbawalas.

According to Mumbai's Models of Service Excellence, they focus on four pillars:

  • organization

  • management

  • process

  • culture

Let’s imagine, for a moment, in 2021-22, educators adopted such pillars.

What actions are associated with achieving these as daily priorities?

Four questions that connect Dabbawalas’ culture of work with school culture:

  • How is our schedule established to maximize these elements (and minimize obstacles)?

  • How are our daily management tasks communicated and implemented with consistency?

  • How do our daily actions show others what to expect, reducing “noise” and minimizing distractions that interfere with our focus on these daily actions?

  • How do answers to these questions clarify expectations and agreements towards building a culture of learning, together?

Our responses shape the type of learning organization we will create. This doesn’t happen in one classroom, one office, or with one or several people within the organization. Revisiting these questions will provide clarity. Being receptive to feedback from those impacted by our priorities will build individual and collective efficacy.

What actions can leaders take in support of growing confidence towards collective efficacy?

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