Managing Change within Education
When schools undergo change, for example becoming an Academy, what impact has the change on the resources and function of the organisation?
Moving from position A to position B involves deploying resources not only in the planning and execution phases but also during the conversion and evaluation phases. It is these last two phases that are often ignored in terms of building in capacity. The evaluation phase can be accomplished through an external agency, for example Ofsted and by an active Governor team but what of the conversion phase?
I define the conversion phase as the one that involves actioning the change, moving to a point where policies, practices, and procedures are imbedded into the organisation. It is where old ways, relationships, and structures are left behind and new ones adopted. It is also one where concerns and conflict increase significantly. My argument is that unless resources are deployed to allay concerns and mitigate conflict the organisation will struggle to reach point B. Not that it will never reach point B, but that the journey will be much more stressful and the cost will be much greater in terms of teacher attrition and unstable teams. Ultimately this impacts on teaching and learning and therefore achievement. In short, ignore this phase at your peril. How do you know if you are ignoring it or not?
Monitor most things
Change a few things
There is a lot of rhetoric about managing change and very little actually applies to schools. I suggest schools are unique in the way they are managed and organised. Schools can adopt change management principles but applying them is fraught with difficulty, but why? Imagine taking a team, setting a goal or target and then isolating the team members for the majority of the time, setting them an emotionally and intellectually demanding activity which often requires 100% of their capacity ( i.e. teaching) and expecting them to apply themselves to accomplishing the goal. There is something wrong with that don’t you think, especially when you consider the additional insecurity associated with change. The result is lost teaching time as staff fall ill, misdirection, slow take up of new policies and practices and conflict and concerns. If you are suffering any of these then you are suffering the effects of actually ignoring this phase or just paying lip service to it.
What can be done to help during this conversion phase?
I believe I have a solution which will save thousands of pounds, lost teaching hours, reduce stress, and reach point B much quicker. The proof that this approach works is there, it is built into common sense if you look deeply enough. It is this: don’t ask people to do two things at once, we are not good at it, especially when one of them requires almost 100% commitment and 100% of your capacity.
Don’t ask people to do more than one job! Job descriptions are not an excuse to meet the needs of an organisation by using as few people as possible. Since conversion is a partial phase you do not need full time staff but this does not make it a part time job! It requires a specific set of skills, a great deal of flexibility (hampered by the organisation structure of schools), a degree of objectivity and a lack of self-interest (real or perceived).
Having been there, got the T shirt and the DVD I know what I am talking about. I know first-hand the cost of underestimating this phase of change. You can pretend it is not there, that it does not exist but just explore your absence and illness statistics, assess the atmosphere in the staff room, look at people’s faces or listen to people say they have not enough time. Measure the disruption to learning as a result of unsettled students or suggest a new initiative or further change and see how it goes down. If you have an ounce of intuition or emotional intelligence you will know it is time to consider a different approach. The effective deployment of resources is a key aspect of leadership and management so it may be time to bring in the resource you need to move forward. Change may need to happen but it does not have to be painful.
For a package that includes: coaching and mentoring, concern and time management, developing teaching strategies and dealing with challenge you can contact me at ace-d* any time.
*Advocating Creativity Ltd. Tel: 01604 891229 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org