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Leading Successful Change

There are 5 essential elements that MUST be considered in planning for the successful implementation of any change in a school. Whether it is a new program, a new teaching or assessment strategy, rolling out new technology or a new timetable, it is essential that all five factors are carefully considered and addressed.

VISION – What is the compelling reason WHY this change needs to be implemented?
Many staff are suffering change fatigue. If they view this new initiative as “just another change” they are unlikely to invest their time or energy into implementation. It is vital that leaders clearly explain the compelling reason why this change is necessary. Ideally, this should paint a clear picture of what it will be like once the change has been successfully implemented.

“Change is necessary when a discrepancy occurs between an actual set of events – something that is happening right now – and a desired set of events – what you would like to happen.” Blanchard

If you can’t paint a clear picture of how things are going to be better for students (and ideally for staff as well eg more engaged students, save time etc) after the change process is implemented, then the change will be very difficult to successfully implement.

PLAN – Implementation of the change needs to be carefully considered. Is there a pilot project, a gradual roll out, a phasing in or full implementation scheduled?
Timing can be crucial to successful implementation. Consider what other demands are placed on staff at the time of the roll out?

Often school leaders are too conservative with a long and gradual roll out. They worry too much about what their “high maintenance” staff say about the change and therefore plan a softly, softly very slow implementation. This can result in change fatigue. By diluting the change down to minimal impact, it can result in it taking forever to actually implement the change. It will feel like death by a thousand cuts. Sometimes it is better to bite off more than you feel comfortable and chew like crazy!

RESOURCES – Identifying and purchasing the necessary resources to successfully implement the plan is vital. Under resourcing will lead to considerable frustration with staff likely to revert to what they previously did, if the new resources are not provided or scare.

TRAINING – It is vital that relevant staff receive timely training on the “new” way of operating. Providing the resources without the support of training is likely to lead to anxiety. Staff generally want to do a good job and get value from the investment made by the school. For example, the arrival of new technology, without the accompanying training will result in staff feeling anxious. They will be anxious to be trying to utilise the technology

In planning for the year ahead, there are only a limited number of key opportunities to provide training. For example, most schools only have two staff PD sessions and two staff meetings per term. It is vital that leaders strategically utilise these to provide timely training for staff that is aligned to the vision intended by the change.

MOMENTUM – The change will only be successful when the new way of operating has become the ‘norm’ within the school culture. “That’s the way we do things around here!”
Jim Collins in the great leadership book, “Good to Great” uses a great analogy of a fly-wheel when considering the implementation of change.

Collins argues that starting a change process is like pushing a giant fly-wheel, it takes a lot of energy to overcome inertia and start the fly-wheel moving. Throughout the change process leaders enlist staff to also push the change agenda and start the wheel spinning and building momentum. Once the fly-wheel starts spinning of it’s own accord it has momentum and becomes the new norm.

Failing to consider and address one of these five aspects will lead to side affects.
If a compelling VISION is not established, then staff will be CONFUSED about why the change is being implemented.
If a PLAN is not staged and thoughtfully developed, then staff will feel like they are running pointlessly on a TREADMILL.
If the necessary TRAINING isn’t provided in a timely fashion, then staff will be ANXIOUS about what is being expected of them.
If they receive training but don’t have the necessary RESOURCES to successfully implement the new approach, then they will be FRUSTRATED.
If MOMENTUM is not established, then staff will experience change FATIGUE.

Careful consideration of all FIVE ASPECTS is essential for successful change.