Thursday, July 30, 2009

Change Management

Change management!!! Oh how I wish it was esy as it sounds. There are many models of change management e.g. Kurt Lewin’s unfreeze, change and refreeze version, John Kotter’s model and also the one well-known in education, action research. Kotter’s 2007 article on Why Transformational Efforts Fail really resonates with me. When I consider all of the various changes we have implemented at school, I see now why some were more successful than others. In fact on reflection I would say I have been lucky to get away with some efforts without mass mutiny!! Creating a sense of urgency is vital and I note that this is what we did quite well when we reviewed the students’ understanding of learning—what occurred was they had a very behavioural view of learning and this was a shock to most of the staff. It meant that some of our teaching practices had to change and had to change fast! A great sense of urgency. Other changes in the school that have been failed mostly to move from the “have to do” to the “want to do” I now realize haven’t had the same buy-in from the staff and the same sense of urgency over the proposed action.
Not having a powerful enough guiding coalition is another major problem in change management and it is here that we are indeed very fortunate—all of us at the leadership level are very united in our mission to bring about transformational change. A major tick for us. A strong vision is another plus area for Red Beach School, in fact the school’s vision which was built from the floor up is the key to the school’s current success. However under-communication can trip anyone up and my own personal dilemma with this is its relentless need—I almost get tired of trotting out the same old lines, however the audience—new students, new staff and new parents are forever changing and do need to be communicated to.
Removing obstacles to the vision is another area of potential stickiness and sometimes these are in places that are most undefined, such as inside your own head—good to watch out for this! Creating short-term wins is another vital element—got to keep up the celebrations and keep up the credit where credit is due. Declaring victory too soon is another potential cross—we have achieved much but also have much to achieve—good to watch out for the complacency that early success can encourage! And last but not least is not totally embedding the changes into the organization’s culture—interesting for our school—I wonder how others now interpret the school’s vision and what it actually means and what it requires of teachers. Interesting!
Great to be more knowledgeable about change processes—hopefully I won’t make so many blunders in the future!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Innovation or stability? or both?

Blue Ocean strategy!! Golly gosh, how interesting! This strategy used in the world of business has been the topic of my recent reading, aligned to certain New Zealand businesses and what makes them successful. The narrative of Kim Crawford wines is intriguing, especially when you consider where and how they started out. What is it that enables some businesses to flourish and succeed and others to become an “also ran”? A big message for myself from the KCW case is the importance of developing relationships, this is of course vital in the world of education. However interestingly in our world we tend to hide behind the need to be collegial and have positive working relationships and shy away from relationships that are based upon honesty. As per the work of Argyis and Schon, these are called model 2 or open to learning relationships.
I have thought a lot recently about why the world of education holds on so tightly to maintaining stability within its infrastructure. In my discussion with colleagues I believe the following 4 variables have a lot to do with this. Firstly, in schools the product is not a commodity and the business model is not about making money; whatever happens affects other peoples’ children and there is a subsequent hesitation to experiment with something so precious. Secondly, those who enter the teaching profession do seem to be cautious and risk-adverse by their very nature; perhaps this is an outcome of the nineties where accountability and measurable outcomes reigned. Thirdly, schools are responsive to the communities they serve and within those communities are literally hundreds of personnel who have all experienced over 15,000 hours of compulsory education themselves. The result of this is that there are many “experts” within the industry, and many who would prefer things to stay the same. The statement “my schooling never did any harm, so why would you want something different” is a shared value within many parent-led bodies. Finally schools have been around in their current form for quite a while and this concept of isomorphism that we have recently learned of is alive and well within education. Coercive isomorphism occurs when there is control from a central force, as there is from central government. Schools are expected to deliver that which the ministry deems to be important and the push becomes one of stability rather than innovation.
It is interesting to me, as the new world is reliant on the development of employees with the right sort of skills and dispositions, yet our education system is caught in a paradigm where traditional skills and qualifications are the mark of success. What a paradox!!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

What makes a great organization!

I listened to Steve Newman previously from NZ iconic company NavMan recently. What an amazing story! And obviously a pretty awesome businessman, who together with Peter Maire turned their own innovative ideas into a very successful business. I was interested in his comments around having staff that are a balance between “ideas” people and those who were able to measure the risk—I would totally agree with him and have been thinking a lot about the make up of our own staff and how you do need a combination of both types—innovators and stabilizers! I love this quote given to us in class: “Without order nothing can exist, without chaos nothing can evolve.”
I also really liked his narrative around what they did to build a solid staff culture—monthly whole staff meetings, 1 cafeteria for all, employee of the month schemes. Ultimately I would say it was the clash of cultures that occurred after Brunswick bought out NavMan that caused the greatest problems. I must get a copy of the book by Daniel Fink “A Whole New Mind”. The youtube site
of Daniel speaking is great to listen to, especially around his concerns about the education system.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Changes in the world

The world is certainly a different place than in the time when I was growing up here in small-town New Zealand. We now live in a time when technological developments have enabled all peoples, regardless of where they live, what ethnic race they align with and what educational background they have to be able to access the same information as each other. Communications across countries, regions and cultures are possible and advantageous. My clothes are now manufactured in another region of the globe, my food can come from the farmer’s market down the road or the other side of the world—the choice is mine. My car is from Europe and the man on the end of the help-desk is probably situated in New Delhi.

Once again how much this has all changed! It seems a mile from my simple up-bringing when fruit could only be purchased in season and a holiday away was only ever to visit the family. In recently reading what is now quite an old book in terms of such material, Thomas Friedman’s The World is Flat, I was intrigued to follow his explanations of the change agents that came along to stimulate this rapid change—the collapse of the Berlin Wall, the introduction of the web, uploading and outsourcing and the phlethora of technological toys such as mobile phones, ipods, instant messaging to name but a few. I would have to say I did feel my age as I recounted the “oh yes, I remember when that come in.” Interestingly these changes have actually impacted upon my own life, all in ways that have changed my world and my thinking.

My aha in reading Friedman was—how has our education system changed so that it can cater for those who now participate in this new world? My answer is yes, there have been changes but mostly incremental ones nothing as transformational as those reported on by Friedman.
The world that the children present in our primary schools right now are entering is one of constant change—in fact change is the constancy of life! Has our education system changed in line with the rest of the world or are we still instituting the same methods that no doubt were used on me, in those classrooms of yesteryear? Lots of food for thought.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Hi there, this is my very first blog entry and I am feeling very proud of myself for finally getting there. I have been doing so much thinking in recent weeks, most of it probably facilitated by the study I am currently engaged in. Many of my thoughts have been around the future, the amazing changes the world has seen in recent times and the strong need for the education system to transform itself for existing and future times. I attended a session with Australian educator, Tony Ryan last night and listened while he explained that learning is now recognised as a significant contributor to personal and national wealth. Lots of food for thought!