We had three class captains in fourth grade in my school. Chosen based on academic performance, I was the 3rd captain (despite being 6th on the merit position as others in-between were uninterested in the role).

As captains, we had a very complex reporting role. During each period, we had to note down who had missed homework or failed to answer the teachers’ questions. We kept records on a daily basis (see Tracking System A). At the end of the term, all three of us, alongside our class teacher, would go through all the documentation, counting the points for each student. The class teacher then reported the score as individual feedback to the respective parents. It was an arduous task, looking for a name one by one through all the daily reports and adding the number of times they appeared. It took the four of us hours to finish this task.

2 systems of tracking
Old tracking system vs new tracking system

After using this method for a term, I suggested to our teacher a different solution.

“Why don’t we keep track based on individuals to begin with? For the whole semester, we could use a tally sheet (Yes, we had learnt counting in tally by then. See Tracking System B). This will mean that we don’t have to do all the counting to make the individual reports.”

The teacher was convinced with my proposal and agreed to use tally sheets. And now, I was suddenly in charge of explaining this new system to the other two captains. Hence, the 3rd captain was all of a sudden leading the other two, even if it were for the training period only. We enjoyed the result of this method in the next term in the form of less work.

Radi Shafiq in 4th Grade
To put things into perspective of how a change leader looks, this is a very cool (according to the then-me) photograph of my 4th-grade-self.

It never dawned upon me how surprising all of this was: the fourth grader version of me convincing the teacher to change an old system and leading the steps in the development of a newer one. It was only yesterday that I saw it all in a new light.

We observe the same law in the context of careers in a large organization. Young employees DO have the capacity to be the initiators of change, provided they observe the 3 rules below:

  1. Acquaint themselves with the conventional way things are done and show that they can follow the traditional course of action.
  2. Suggest a better way of doing something and get the top management to buy-in to their suggestion.
  3. Have the willingness to follow through to lead or help with the implementation of the new system.

So what are you going to do with this lesson from a fourth grader?

Go ahead! As the marketing guru, Seth Godin, says, “Make a Ruckus!”

Shamsur Rahman Talukder
Thanks to Shamsur Rahman Talukder sir, my 4th grade class teacher, for trusting me and nurturing the change leader in me.

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