As I am usually a positive person, I like it when a new practice or tool is introduced into my educational surroundings. However, I have noticed from time to time, that even though change brings positive effects it disappears with time. This can be discouraging especially for the ones who direct time and energy to bring it to life in the first place. So, when I came upon the topic of this quest: “The 19 reasons sustainable change doesn’t happen in K-12 education,” I thought: Maybe I should have a look at the reasons why sustainable change does not seem to stay active over time.
Part of the introduction states that, “this is for people who are looking for answers and positive solutions” which I can identify with.
“We must understand the change process and how it affects people over time.”
According to the authors of the article, “sustaining change requires recognition of the complexity of change processes, intensive communication (sharing of information) and new models of collaboration among diverse networks of people (9).”
The difference in these authors’ approach as to why sustainable change does not occur is that they are focusing more on what can be controlled by us. They are looking at the “common mistakes” made while instigating a change with the hope that they will be avoided in the future. They are also introducing the “Master Mind Group” concept which focusses on bringing like-minded leaders to “work together towards creating sustainable change (10).”
“People who are change oriented benefit from having the support of others...we are all part of a mix bigger than ourselves...this shift protects us from our predilection toward self-centeredness” (10).
“Reasons 1 to 6: Failure to recognize the complexity of change”
1. Failure to change your own assumptions As we are all human, we have our own baggage that can partially clutter our vision of the situation. Our assumptions will affect what we say, perceive things and what we do.
My reaction: right away, I got interested and thought: How do I change my own assumptions?” So, I googled it and found this article: “9 ways to change your assumptions” written by Scott Mautz. He suggested to:
3. Address only part of the problem
When implementing a new project, initiative or a change, it is important to make sure that every facet of the project/change are looked at and planned for.
4. Underestimate how much time it takes to institute a change
This reason happens quite often in small and big organizations. It is necessary to make sure there is extra time scheduled to allow for setbacks and unforeseen circumstances to be dealt with without jeopardizing the whole project/change.
5. Propose ideas that are in conflict with mandates and standard operating procedures
It is important to make sure that the new venture does not go against existing mandates and current standards. Otherwise, it will create some conflicts that might endanger the project or the change.
6. Try too many things at once
It is better to begin small and to reach success then to try to move mountains and fail. Furthermore, “keeping people focused on your core vision and mission can be compromised.”
7. Fail to realize that people will ignore you
Everyone can “only focus on what we are interested in or on what we are required to deal with at that very moment. Everything else is ignored. We are only capable of focusing on what is important to us.” People know that it is an urgent issue that it will resurface but until then, they don’t have to worry about it.
8. Fail to enter into the conversation that is already going on in the minds of the people you want to influence
When having conversations presenting the new initiative or change, it is necessary to make it relate to the others’ problems and concerns.
9. Only get your message out once or twice,
10. Only get your message out in one or two ways, and
11. Communicate in a boring and non-provocative style
“Ignoring is a strategy that is effective. People have learned to wait it out. […]communication strategies must be intensive and different; and that you need to communicate over an extended period of time and in a wide variety of formats. Otherwise, you just don’t get the attention of your intended audience. The other common failure is that we neglect to “provoke” a response in our messages.”
12. Fail to have all the right information and data; and then fail to use that data effectively in communication
The right data needs to be used to communicate effectively the ideas of the project or change. Otherwise, people won’t take you seriously and it will be easy for the project/initiative to be ruined.
13. Apologize too much in the communication of the message
“It’s not what you say but how you say it!” There is a fine line between empathizing and challenging. It is important not to predict others their feelings and experiences.
14. Fail to listen to the naysayer early on, and
15. Think you can ram your idea through
“Communication is a two way street. Failing to listen to the pessimists or simply writing them off as contrarians “with a bad attitude” is a common mistake that can be career threatening. […]even if their concerns aren’t all that valid, they will not go away and more than likely will fester and grow virally if you don’t meet them head on and in a way where you ensure cooperation.”
16. Hang out with the wrong people – or with nobody!
Spending time with the people who are optimistic will help you achieve your goals while you will support them reach theirs.
17. Go too far out on a limb without a support network or safety net
The bigger the initiative or the change is, the more support is necessary in order for it to become successful. “Who in your district was covering your back? Who asked you the tough questions before it was too late? Who helped you envision what could go wrong and how to avoid it? If you don’t understand the need for these questions the fall from the limb will be a long one!”
18. Fail to collaborate with other leaders in the school
“It is easy to confuse our desire to be frank and visionary with our lack of humility and our inability to demonstrate servant leadership. The challenge is to find the appropriate venue and the appropriate audience for your own venting. Expressing your discontent with a colleague in your own community inevitably burns bridges. That doesn’t mean you don’t have legitimate concerns. You may well. You just need to have the right forum and the right support network that can help you move beyond the subjective and personal frustration to objective solutions.”
19. Fail to gradually build a community of support for new ideas
In order to receive support for the project/change, it is necessary to prove the idea of it, to research and share it, to model it, to show how, to recognize the people who get it, and to support the ones who don’t.
After outlining all the reasons why an initiative would reach successful completion, the article offers a solution. The idea is to “develop a Master Mind Group of educators who are ready to work together with their peers around the globe to create sustainable change at their local level regardless of the circumstances and regardless of their position or role in the school or district.” This last part of the article did not appeal to me. I agree that approaching a new project/change requires lots of preparation and should be presented a certain way in order to secure its success but I don’t think that it is necessary to join an outside group who will support you with the implementation process within your organization. After reflecting on all the reasons why a sustainable change might not succeed, I realized that in order to obtain sustainability for a project/change, one should approach and execute it by following the same principles as a project manager would for any project.
So, I decided to look at what is required to prepare and carry an initiative or change to success. According to Horton, objectives need to be well defined. Objectives, timeframe, scope, assumptions, high-level requirements, resources and everything else about the project should be determined as specifically as possible. The next step is to research the what, why, who, when, and how and to find relevant data that will support the goals of the initiative. Thirdly, a plan of action needs to be drawn which will outline the roles and responsibilities of the participants. Finally, a risk assessment should be prepared to determine what could go wrong and to find solutions to ensure that it does not all fall apart.
I am concluding that every time an initiative, project, or change wants to be implemented within a school, it is important to be well prepared; to be surround with people who think alike; to present it in different ways, several times; and to be ready for roadblocks and delays. Furthermore, from my personal experience, I also think that consultation and collaboration need to be part of the process. We might have some initiative that you believe will work within the institutions but someone else might see the situation and the needs to be different. It is important to do some consultation at all levels and especially with the people doing the work. Teachers, educational assistants, and students should be allowed to share their concerns and the possible outcomes and ramifications of the change before initiative are being implemented. Too often, decisions are being made from top-down although; the people doing the hands-on are the ones who will have to juggle the implementation and to try to sustain it.
“Sustaining change requires recognition of the complexity of change processes, it requires intensive communication, and it requires new models of collaboration among diverse networks of people.”
The above exercise was very valuable but it reflected more a Nonlène’s attitude. When getting ready to implement a sustainable change, it is important to evaluate the negative feedback that will come upon his presentation and its failed outcomes to become more prepared for any eventualities.
However, as I am more the type to lean towards Ouilène, I decided to do some research of what is needed to implement a sustainable change or initiative. Scott Neil (2015) from the School Leadership Solutions explains how there are five necessary steps to create a sustainable change. According to him (2015), “a strategic approach is needed to implement change.” First, a need assessment is necessary to look at the facts to determine what is needed to make the organization better. In order to assess the situation properly, conversations need to happen with the people who will be impacted the most by the change. It is also important to find out what are the roots of the problem in order to be able to really address it. Define, analyze and solve are the main steps of a root cause analysis. “It will provide important data to help a leader build off of the strengths that already exist within the organization and learn to avoid the mistakes of the past” (Neil, 2015). The next step is to create a plan outlining how the change will happen. It is also important to share with the people who will be affected by it. However, the plan should be presented in small increments so that the people involved are taken back from too much sudden change. Data should be collected and success should be shared. In reality, the leader will be guiding the change but the people will be executing it. Therefore, it is very important for everyone to work together during the implementation of the plan. Strategies should be developed along the way to overcome obstacles. It is important that the leader makes “sure everyone is clear as to what their role is within the plan and clearly identify what success looks like along the way for each stakeholder group” (Neil, 2015). The next important factor is to measure quantitatively and qualitatively the progress of the change and all results should be shared. “These data allow you as a leader to check the “temperature” of the climate during the change effort and provide targeted support where it is needed the most” (Neil, 2015). Finally, reflections are necessary to look at the data collected over time to share the success and also to stimulate conversations to see if adjustments are needed.
Neil (2015) stipulates that “change requires focused management in order to be sustainable. Leaders who get results over long stretches of time know this. Work with your team to devise a plan on how you can make sure your next change is a lasting one. “
Once again, it was really useful to read this article and to reflect on it. My personal experience as a teacher, who has had three different administrators and two superintendents in the last six years, has taught me the consequences of having leaders who do and who do not follow strategies outlined above. One had a team working with conviction and dedication and in the other situation, it felt more like the leader was informing of the plan and trying to pull the rest of the team towards it. My overall impression of this shift in leadership is that the results did not seem to be as positive when leaders were not interested in working as a team.
I believe that in order to create sustainability around a change within an organization, it is necessary to approach it with both Nonlène and Ouilène’s perspectives. It provides a balance between examining the negative view points with a positive proactive well-planned approach. All that is needed to obtain success when implementing a sustainable project, initiative or change.
With this knowledge in hand, I look forward to be in a position where I can participate in a well lead change.
Horton, S. (April 6, 2015). 4 things to prepare for before kicking off any project. PM times Resources for project managers. Retrieved Janaury 30, 2017 from https://www.projecttimes.com/articles/4-things-to-prepare-for-before-kicking-off-any-project.html
Jackson, R. Gould, J. Haenke, R. The 19 reasons sustainable change doesn’t happen in K-12 education. Top Practices Education. Retrieved January 28, 2017 from OLTD 509 resource http://leading2learn.ca/viu/OLTD509/documents/_19Reasons_Book.pdf
Mautz, S. (November, 2015). http://switchandshift.com/9-ways-to-challenge-your-assumptions
Neil, S. (October 28, 2015) Five steps to create sustainable change. School Leadership Solutions. Retrieved January 30, 2017 from http://schoolleadershipsolutions.com/2015/10/28/five-steps-to-create-sustainable-change/