Education Opinion

The Change Process

By Stu Silberman — December 23, 2013 3 min read
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Following is a post from guest blogger Phil Paige, long time district administrator now serving as a consultant to the Floyd County Schools.

The superintendent of the district I consult for is involved in a lot of things going on across our Kentucky. A fortunate by-product of that involvement is that he gets early word about what’s coming down the pike and there’s a lot coming. Reminds me of construction on I-75 around Atlanta.

Those specific changes are better discussed by others so let’s talk about how you as the leader make sure you get the message about the need to change and improve out clearly and effectively. You spend hours thinking about your plan to deal with new requirements and make improvements. Are you spending adequate time on your message?

I’m a big believer in processes and how important they are to effective leadership and management. This one has seven steps and although that’s four more than I really like, it’ll fit any situation. Let’s take a look.

Step 1....Theorists call this step “defining the current reality”. Translated that means “This is where we are.” It’s the current situation. Don’t forget that a lot of folks are going to think the current situation is okay if not good. It’s your job to convince them to give up the good for the better and it probably won’t be easy.

Step 2....You and I would say, “This is where we’re going.” It’s our goal...what we want to work toward. Be sure to emphasize the difference, read better, between where our organization is and where we want it to be and better means something that all can support and in education, that’s better for kids. But it also means better for your folks and a really effective message hits both these marks.

Step 3....To borrow from Pestalozzi, here it’s from the Big to the Small or from the Many to the One. We tell our folks what the organization is doing to bring the goal into reality. It’s the “we’re all in this together” moment. We know there are key people in our organization and these folks better be on board with what’s coming. They’re invaluable in bringing others to us because they have those strong day-to-day relationships with other members of our staff. The change is okay because Rachel or Robbie believe in it and they trust Rachel and Robbie. So do we, that’s why it works.

Step 4....This is our appeal to individuals - the “this is what we need from you” moment. You see why? We’ve made each person a part of something greater before we outlined their respective role. We’ve shown its value to their co-workers and how what we all want can’t happen without them.

Step 5....Be careful not to turn this into a carrot & stick situation or a if we don’t do this, this is what happens” moment. Our folks have heard the “the end is near” speech a bunch of times and they won’t respond well to fear based motivation. Helping kids succeed pulls at them much more than “you better change or the sanction monster will get you”. We need to let folks know what’s out there but our persuasive energy should be used for something they can believe in rather than something they may dread.

Step 6....This is the “we can do this and here’s why” portion of our message. Here we highlight the strengths of our team and all the support mechanisms. This is where we talk about passion, commitment, and belief in a higher purpose. It’s also where we stress knowledge, experience and resources along with pointing out the goal is achievable because others have reached it.

Step 7....For some reason, this step is often left out and that’s a serious error. The wrap-up is showing our folks where the organization has succeeded previously. Think of it as the highlight video. It will be especially helpful in convincing the folks who might be a little resistant to change because we outline the changes that were made for the organization to get where it is now.

Final thought....we want our change message to not only impact but stick with our folks. It will if it’s simple but profound, ambitious but doable, and part personality/part process.

Things are happening. Get ready to move and to keep moving forward.

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