Certainly, anyone in education can identify with Heraclitus’s quote; “change is the one constant that we all face – and yet it is the one thing that many fear.” Change, when just foisted upon us, can cause a torrent of other problems….sort of like when you change one thing on your computer and the next thing you know your printer doesn’t work, you can’t find your files and all of a sudden everything is too slow.
But, change does not always have to be painful – proper planning, a transparent process and working with stakeholders can not only reduce the pain, it can actually feel good and bring additional benefits to your schools. The ability to lead change is critical for today’s leaders. Our leaders need to understand how to create the conditions necessary for successful implementation of any new initiative. You can take some simple steps to begin to create those conditions in your district:
1. Seek clarity: Identify and clarify issues surrounding implementation through the eyes of your stakeholders. School districts are complex entities. Simple schedule changes, for example, may affect not just students and teachers, but transportation, aides, cafeteria staff, contracts, legal issues, etc. Before you implement a change, take the time to listen to all stakeholders to determine the issues that may result before they happen.
2. Collaborate: Meet with your leadership team and stakeholders to determine what needs to be done based on the issues that have come up. This can be done by meeting with stakeholders as separate focus groups or including them in on your implementation team.
3. Set expectations: Use the issues that you have clarified to develop a plan of action around each one. For each issue determine “What needs to be done?” “By whom?” “By when?” Keep your plan visible (on a chart, whiteboard, google doc, etc.) and follow up to ensure that the work gets done.
School districts are complex entities with many moving parts. When you add “change” to the equation some of those moving parts will need a little lubrication to get moving. Giving those parts the opportunity to discuss their issues and be part of the process gives the process transparency, increased buy in and a plan that will have you working like a well-oiled machine.