Change Management: Leadership Expectations & Implementation of New Tech Tools
• “Expectations” could refer to:
• leadership - (setting expectations) or
• Anticipation - “what should I expect when introducing change?”
• Won’t spend much time on process today.
• Focus on generally neglected aspect of change management; the human
side of change.
Change management is clearly both an Art and a Science but in my experience, well-
executed change management is less about process and more about people.
A perfectly executed process will never overcome deeply rooted resistance to change.
- Google “Change Management models” - numerous methodologies for
Find a process that feels right to you and matches your school’s ability to
execute the process.
Business jargon equivalent to “Think Happy Thoughts”
Change efforts never go exactly as planned. It is always messy because change
How do you personally feel about change? Take a second to feel this word. Picture change
in your school.
Small word - large implications.
How many like change? Borderline sociopath?
Those who like change probably developed strong coping skills to process change and
move to acceptance faster than others.
Change is hard. Example: When cardiologists tell their patients that they will die unless
they quit smoking, diet and exercise, 6 out of 7 don’t change.
Resistance to change is hard-wired into our human programming. We like routine
because it helps us to assess our standing.
Change disrupts routine.
Managing the change process isn’t particularly difficult. People make change difficult.
CDNow example: 1999
Macs vs PCs
What is the typical human response to the prospect of change?
5 stages of loss.
Next: John Fisher’s work show this the best.
Here is a diagram Fisher presented in 1999, at the Tenth International
Personal Construct Congress in Berlin.
Your reaction to this chart?
What concerns should you have?
Next: Some things to consider…
If that is how most people experience change…
If Change can place people in a state of grief, understand that …
Increase the odds? – Tune-in to your constituents! Listen for grieving in their resistance to
The message is clear…
The independent school culture is very different from the private-sector culture.
The real message here is about resistance to change.
Patrick Bassett, former NAIS president writes:
Communicating and leading change, taking risks and making mistakes are hard in
But they are especially difficult in independent schools where another NAIS board
“It’s difficult to convince the faculty that they are not self-employed
“It’s easier to change the course of history than to change a history course.
Next: Dig a bit deeper into understanding resistance, specifically in the independent
What’s unique about the independent school environment that makes people more resistant
Are teachers more resistant to change than others? Probably so.
Teachers tend to resist change more than others because it’s in their nature. Being good at what
they do depends on a consistent delivery of information. Pedagogical innovation is good but only
to a certain extent. Teaching consistently is desirable. Teachers, by nature, tend to maintain
Again, change disrupts continuity. Teachers generally don’t like a lot of change.
• Been there, done that – Failed change creates apathy
• Overburdened – Independent Schools do a great job of leveraging resources. If you don’t
say “no” you can quickly become too busy.
• Outlive it – Another result of failed change efforts.
• No Mandates, only consensus
• Friends Central Example: I taught at a Quaker school
• Common misconception that the Quaker decision-making process relies on consensus. Not
accurate. Quaker process describes a “sense of the meeting”, not consensus.
• Starting the year before I began teaching, the faculty body talked about revising the MS and
US schedules for 6 years without effecting change.
In the 7th year, “Been there, done that” and “I can outlive it” kicked in. In the end, we
dropped the discussion.
• Last year, Craig Sellers, in his first year as Head of school, instituted new schedules, even in a
culture committed to Quaker process.
Next: Here’s how…
Craig Sellers (a Quaker) taught me this simple lesson. Establish
ground rules and create empowerment.
Tired of technology change – Everyone is and it creates a constant stressor, especially in
How do you initiate change in the Independent School culture when faced with so much
potential for resistance?
Next: You blame it on a really smart guy.
We could avoid change, but that approach comes with certain risks and isn’t feasible in
today’s competitive world.
Next: Let’s understand more about what creates resistance.
• Humans are pattern-seeking animals
• Steve Gould, Harvard Paleontologist - “Pattern-seeking is hard-wired into our brains and
vital to our very existence.
• Our ability to make sense of events – and to adjust to new circumstances – depends on
continuity and the validity of what we learn and how we learn it.”
• Change disrupts continuity.
• Change is personal
• Each of us creates patterns and continuity through our own unique experiences.
• No single approach to change management can be 100% effective in helping all
constituents navigate the change.
• Change = Loss
• We saw this earlier… Growth & Development are typical synonyms for change but grief and
bereavement are just as accurate.
• We create meaning as we construct patterns in our lives, and this meaning is rooted in
feelings and emotions.
• Asking people to change patterns triggers specific feelings and emotions proportionate to
their view of the change.
• Competency Threatened
• Change threatens competency. e.g. – you introduce a new curriculum or teaching method.
• This change threatens teacher’s competency because it requires them to abandon
something they know and to do something they don’t know how to do. Some will
experience a greater threat and therefore greater loss.
• Every change creates winners and losers. Depending on their existing skill-set, individuals
will have more or less difficulty adapting to change.
Next: Time for more inspiration…
This statement certainly gets to the point, but in an independent school, shouldn’t
there be a balance between innovation and continuity?
Here’s my personal experience. You decide.
• As a parent and teacher, I watched our school fade from “leader” to nearly
“irrelevant” in just six years.
• While the Head had many strengths, he was very traditional and was generally
closed to innovative ideas. Change was almost non-existent and the Head saw
that as a positive (stability). Vision was weakly-defined and staff/faculty had
relatively few shared values outside our love of teaching children.
• Result? In changing times (demographics, economy), our enrollment dropped
35% in three years.
What tools can you use to ensure positive, successful change? To some extent, it
depends on how you view your institution.
Are Independent Schools businesses?
Clearly, businesses deal with change every day. Are there lessons Schools can
learn from Business?
Let’s look at current challenges facing Business vs. Independent Schools.
Are there other factors? Am I missing anything important here?
Certainly, Independent schools face more business-like challenges now verses 10
So, if you agree with this supposition that Independent Schools face similar
challenges to business, what lessons about managing change might you learn
Positive response to change doesn’t happen through one effort.
First, you need to lay the groundwork for change.
It starts with Leadership…
The Head is the driving force behind building a school that can sustain change –
“top down management” is the business term but perhaps “top-down leadership”
is more appropriate for independent schools.
Key: Leaders cannot effectively lead from the desk. Leaders must maintain visibility
in the community.
However, a strong leader must also create a climate and culture where change is
Most important: Establish a clear sense of direction and set of goals
Clearly communicated goals help administrators and faculty understand the vision
and develop a sense of shared values. Leaders should work actively to maintain
and support these shared values.
People who don’t believe in the school’s vision will not change.
Change is infinitely easier when most believe in and value a common vision.
• Build a strong, committed team.
• No substitution for great people.
• Surround yourself with people who are open to change and
• People with a “can-do” attitude
• Put your best people on your biggest opportunities, not your biggest
• In my experience, compared to business, independent schools tend to be
more forgiving of average performers (staff & faculty). Accepting mediocrity
in a few sets the tone for all.
With high tuition comes high expectation. Maintaining excellence is key to
• Your institution cannot afford to carry low performers. Businesses
understand this and react more quickly to staff who consistently perform
below standards for their position.
• Mentor low performers through a “performance review plan”. Monitor
progress against the plan. If necessary, even though it is difficult, replace an
employee whose performance does not improve.
• Create a culture of creativity and innovation
• Create an environment where ideas are exchanged freely
• Trust must thrive
• Open access and communication
• Broad Collaboration – Get people involved; give people a voice.
• Establish a safe environment where faculty and staff can raise issues and suggest
solutions. If someone brings a weak idea, mentor them.
• Allow people to “fail forward”. If someone takes positive action and makes a
mistake, take advantage of the teachable moment and help the individual to grow.
• Communicate, Communicate
• Poor communication is the main reason why change management initiatives fail
• Keep it simple – Staff and faculty will see through attempts to create false urgency
• Use metaphors and analogies – Not permitting iPads in the classroom is similar to
the push-back against calculators when they first became affordable
• Use different forums – Talk with small groups, parent groups, individual
• Reiterate communication – People will interpret your reasons for change in different
ways. Make sure to repeat a consistent message.
• Lead by example
• Listen to individuals - Remember that dealing with change is a highly personal
voyage. Support those struggling with change.
• Overburdening - the perception that there are too many initiatives and lack of time - is seen as
the main barrier to implementing and sustaining change.
• It doesn’t matter whether you’re an independent school or private sector company, it’s no
longer typical to carry excess resources and people are asked to do more.
• Regarding technical change, in general, your faculty and staff simply may not possess strong
technical skills and may be more resistant to technical change.
• Your administrators, asked to be project managers, may not have change management
experience and may not understand the link between effective change management and
• (example: Gmail rolled out with an email notification one week prior to the migration and a
second message 24 hours before)
• Communicate challenges & benefits –
• Talk to different types of users & listen!
• Know what you want from the upgrade.
• What defines success? Envision it!
• Identify your change team
• Train system administrators
• Live Mode: Engage Staff and Faculty
• Develop a launch plan: Communicate it to all constituents!
• Train before launch and Support, Support, Support after launch
• Enlist tech-savvy teachers from each department to support technological
change within the department. (dept. gurus)
• Expect some bumps. Allow people time to adjust to the change at their own pace.