The idea for this blog post came to me when I was reviewing my school’s behaviour policy. When considering implementing change you need to think carefully about whether there is the need for change. The blog post is based on the work of Kotter (1996) and Blanchard et al (2009).
Charles Darwin stated “It is not the strongest of the species that survive or the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change”. So true, considering our recent educational climate.
Change is rarely popular as it can create stress and additional work for staff. Change can be unsettling for staff as it requires at times a different approach. It needs to be well planned, led and managed in a way that people can cope with.
Fullan (2004:14) stated “If we can understand change better, we are able to influence, but not control it to be better”.
Kotter‘s (1996) model (Figure 1), states that eight steps are needed to implement change. Kotter sets out a simple, actionable process, which is regarded as an excellent starting point for anyone implementing change. A professor at Harvard Business School, Kotter argues that 70% of all major change efforts fail, as they do not take a long-term approach towards the entire process. Hence the idea for the blog post.
See figure 1. Implementing change (Kotter 1996)
At the outset you need to be clear about why you are introducing change, and ensure that you are not introducing change for changes sake. The ‘5 whys tool’ is a problem-solving technique that helps its users to get to the root of a problem. It was made popular in the 1970s by the Toyota Production system. The tool involves looking at any problem and asking “why?” and “what caused the problem?” The first answer will then led to another question “why did that occur?” The question is posed five times, which then provides a quick and effective way of drilling down on an issue. Here’s a link to the tool.
One of the key concepts in the leadership and management of change is vision; hence prior to implementing any change, a leader must articulate a clear vision for the school.
The next step is to ensure that the right drivers (people and teams) are in place to drive change and improvement. Teams need careful consideration in setting up to ensure their effectiveness. Whilst the work of Belbin doesn’t entirely resonate with me, it may be worth a read to shape your thoughts about putting together the drivers. Belbin (2010) suggested, within the context of teams, that nine key roles need to be filled in order for the organisation to fulfil its potential. Belbin suggests that teams work best when there is a balance of roles and when team members know their roles, work to their strengths and manage their weaknesses. In the true context of distributive leadership, the drivers can also help to develop and refine the vision.
Considering the time, effort and resources that are taken up when implementing change, it’s worth considering how you are going to measure the impact of your work. For example, if you were going to measure the impact of the attendance officer/team on attendance, it would be worthwhile using benchmarking statistics from the Autumn term from 2012/13 and 2011/2012 so that you have a set of data to ask questions.
Blanchard et al. (2009) state that sponsorship or advocates for change from senior leaders, will help to gain commitment and buy-in for the change process. Who will back you? Can you sell the vision and possible outcome of the work to them?
6. CHANGE GRID
7. SHORT-TERM WINS
Short-term wins help to sustain motivation. Imagine having a goal, which could only be measured after a year. A lack of knowledge about how you are progressing may lead to a loss of focus, demotivated staff: the list goes on. How will you create short- term wins?
8. MAKE IT STICK ‘EVALUATION AND REVIEW’
To ensure that the implanted change ‘sticks’, we need to evaluate review and refine the plan. The cycle below, a little out-dated, sets out a useful evaluation cycle.
Figure 3 Department for Education (2001)
Change requires a compelling reason and a sense of urgency. Getting the most effective staff behind the change will ensure that it will gain commitment, and only once a team - for example, the SLT or the change management team - have come together should a shared vision be established. In my experience this is an area where change fails. The vision must be then be communicated to others and must be supported in terms of both advocates from the SLT and resources, which include the training and development of staff. There must be clear processes for monitoring, evaluating and reviewing linked to clear roles for accountability.
My advice to others from experience is to ensure that students are at the heart of the change and improvement process. Ensure that the change is informed by data and carries a strong moral purpose to ensure that you are working towards improvement. If it does neither, you must ask yourself, ‘Why is change needed?’ The challenge for schools under the current coalition government is the amount of change coming at one time and for school leaders having the courage and conviction to do what is best for your students.
Belbin, R. M. (2010), Management Teams: Why They Succeed or Fail Butterworth Heinemann.
Blanchard, K. Britt, J., Zigarmi, P. and Hoekstra, J. (2009) Who Killed change? St Ives: Polvera Publishing
Davies, B. (2005) From school development plans to a strategic planning framework (2005) University of Hull: International Leadership Centre.
Fullan, M. (2004). System thinkers in action: Moving beyond the standards plateau. London: Innovation Unit, Department for Education and Skills.
Kotter, J. (1996) Leading change. Harvard: Harvard Business School