Byron's Babbles

What Is Your Organization’s Microclimate?

Posted in Education, Education Reform, Leadership, Learning Organization by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on October 5, 2014

IMG_0511.JPG While flying into Denver, Colorado today to get my connecting flight to Indianapolis I noticed what appeared to be clouds stuck on one side of the Rocky Mountains. I have included pictures I took out the plane window here in this post. I then decided to do a little research on this because it really made me think about my journey with Hoosier Academies right now that we have themed, “Hoosier Climbs Everest.” To me, it looked like the clouds were clinging to mountains or stopped on one side. I compared this in my mind to the obstacles and storms that happen as a school system or any other organization is working very hard to put the culture, processes, and learning organization in place to be high achieving.

Mountains also experience more severe weather in the form of rain, sleet, and snow on their windward sides. Think about it, organizations that are in turnaround mode are on the windward side of the mountain. These landforms do not so much attract clouds as cause them to form, in a well documented meteorological phenomenon. They are, in fact, a very important factor in meteorology — without mountains, the Earth’s climate would be very different. To continue my analogy we must realize that the culture we are building will also build the climate of our organization.

Air currents are constantly traveling across the surface of the Earth, usually in patterns that remain consistent. In the United States, for example, the prevailing winds run West to East. As air travels, it picks up water molecules in vapor form, which remain vaporous in the higher pressure at low elevations. When the air encounters mountains, however, it is forced to rise.
In the same way that the air is forced to rise when it reaches the mountain, we know that as we climb the mountains of building and improving our organizations that storm clouds will develop. Just remember, these are a necessary part of the meteorology and climate building of our organization. And, just as certain weather patterns can be dangerous when climbing mountains (remember the Everest disaster of 1996), we must too watch the weather patterns on the organizational mountain climbs we are making with our teams.


With the Continental Divide running northwest to southeast though the center of the park, two distinct weather and climate patterns are created. Typical of the east — Estes Park — side is a dryer, semi-arid climate with annual percipitation of 13.10″. The west — Grand Lake — side is marked by a moister climate with 19.95″ of annual percipitation. I have been on both sides of the Rockies and both sides are beautiful. Therefore, we can use this analogy to realize that the different weather patterns will drive the climate of our organization. Therefore we must always understand how these climate patterns of our organization are developed.

Large mountains often form their own microclimates, with extreme variations in weather depending on whether the observer is on the windward or lee side and what the elevation is. Think about it, our organizations form their own microclimates as well. Improving an organization can be as daunting a task as climbing Mt. Everest and we must make sure we are balancing the weather patterns of the windward and lee sides of the mountain. We need to make sure we create a balanced microclimate of shared leadership and learning.

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