Heart of the Matter

The Tool

Heart of the Matter is an effective protocol to engage colleagues in discussion about what really matters.It can be used with your leadership team (e.g. to establish priorities), governing body (e.g. when discussion strategic issues) or whole staff room (e.g. when seeking alignment around a key policy).

How to use

  • engage groups in discussion
  • prioritization exercise
  • to form a proximal map showing the extent to which elements relate to each other
  • sharing of opinions and thoughts
  • aligning group understanding

As a leader think pieces have many uses, some of which could be:

  • alignment of whole group understanding on a key issue for school: e.g. 'what is at the heart of learning?'
  • to discuss key elements of your strategy or school improvement plan
  • a tool to use in a finance setting meeting to establish priorities for spending
  • a departmental planning tool
  • curriculum planning tool - what is at the heart of what we are trying to teach?


  • Leader agrees set of statements, words, or priorities, writes them on strips of paper and places them in an envelope. If using with a large group (e.g. whole staff) sets of envelopes will be required.
  • Draw a large heart in the middle of an A3 piece of paper.
  • Group opens envelope and examines contents together.
  • Group arranges statements in order of importance.
  • Group constructs a proximal map putting the most important statement, word or priority, closest to the centre of the heart. All statements are arranged in order of importance and their relationship with each other.
  • Share completed map with another group and adjust your map if necessary.
  • Construct an agreed map and be prepared to explain it to others.
  • Leader facilitates a plenary drawing out key themes and the thinking behind the decisions made.

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