Saturday, November 22, 2014

The More Things Change...Lessons in Leadership Week 6

Lately, I have been thinking about the number of initiatives, innovations, research and just plain changes in schooling, education and learning. Specifically, I've been wondering about how they are introduced, rolled out, how and to what extent they are implemented. There's no shortage of good ideas, worthy causes, and meaningful work. How do we decide what could, and should be tackled first? Do we tackle more than one initiative, two initiatives or three at a time? I propose the following considerations:

Embracing numerous initiatives at once blurs our focus. A lack of focus and direction seems to point to a change initiative that is doomed to fail. I mean just think about the number of high-priority concerns that present themselves in a given week, a given day even. All things that require immediate action. If there are too many competing priorities what gets done?

Pilot, and by pilot, I mean truly pilot initiatives. This gives the faculty, staff, building or district, an opportunity to test the initiative before implementing it system-wide. During this time it is possible to determine best practices, identify barriers, and improve buy-in down the road. Too often we see the "mock pilot". You know the type of pilot where a handful of individuals get early access, and yet don't really have the opportunity to be changemakers, providing feedback and direction or re-direction as necessary. If we take the time to pilot in meaningful ways we are able to increase buy-in and problem solve or adapt based on the obstacles that arise. In this fashion we move from reactive, to proactive.

Cascade of Information
Critical to the success of any initiative is timely communication, and involvement, of relevant stakeholders. Insufficient communication paired with change leads to high-anxiety. There are times when a whole group situation makes sense, but the reality is that if you want competence, you must have clarity. If you think about this in terms of teaching, the most powerful lessons are those that are differentiated, and actively engage students, and more often than not are done in small groups.

Usability & Value
In short, those that are being impacted by the change initiative need to understand the why. The reasons may be compelling to you, the individual initiating the change, but until your stakeholders are also in tune with the why, it's not likely that the change initiative will gain much momentum.

How often have we heard that timing is everything, or it is all in the timing? Yet, sometimes I think these nuggets of advice are ignored.  These are stressful times for many in the world of education. There is no shortage of mandates, and must-do's, and regardless of how fantastic this new initiative is, it is competing with these. Before initiating a change it is wise to get a lay of the land, and to mindfully consider what the present demands are. Is there a time that is perhaps not as laden with other competing demands?

Change is inevitable, as we are constantly in search of innovative ways to do things, but in our excitement to implement these innovations we must do the legwork to ensure a successful implementation.

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