Managing Change

This morning’s session looked at strategies for managing ICT. I enjoyed listening to Kathleen Gormley, Principal, St Cecilia’s College, Derry. She is obviously and outstanding leader and provided and inspirational perspective on successful school leadership.

Kathleen outlined 6 steps of a strategic map for change. These steps were:

  1. Vision;
  2. Planning;
  3. Partnership;
  4. Development;
  5. Leadership;
  6. Learning Environment.

She then quoted Kotter 1996 “Skipping steps creates only the illusion of speed and never produces satisfactory results”

On hearing Kathleen speak I don’t think she really sees these steps as being sequential or separate but the quote certainly gives that impression.

This set me to thinking – what is my strategic map for change?

My problem is that I see change as being messy – if you try to make it too rational and scientific I believe you are destined to fail. I thought back to how I led the change process as a headteacher and now as a Head of Education. I know this flies in the face of all accepted practice but I would like to suggest a multiple metaphor model for change management – MMM? (aghh mixed metaphors the English teachers cry!!!)

Please regard this as a work in progress and I’d love to hear from you if you have suggestions for amendments or additions – or if you just plain disagree.

My multiple metaphor model for change has seven metaphors – why seven? -well why not – it was the number which Alan McLuskey used yesterday, it worked for Steven Covey and there were seven brides for …..

My metaphors are:

  1. Gardening – with apologies to Vygotsky
  2. Sculpting
  3. House Building
  4. Child rearing
  5. Hill walking
  6. Inventing
  7. Belonging

Gardening – gardening needs long term thinking, we need to defer reward just as the gardener does with faith that our efforts will be rewarded; we need to spend time preparing the gound; there are environmental factors which conspire to ruin our crops; we need to tend our crop- weeding, supporting, feeding, watering and selective removal of plants which aren't flourishing; there is a reward at the end of the day but there is also pleasure to be had in the process – and so it can be with the process of collaborative change.

Sculpting – a sculptress has a vision; they are creative; they have an expertise; they adapt their ideas in response to the material they are working with; there is a finished product which people appreciate; the finished product might be very different from the original vision.

House building – we select a design or a commision an architect; we take affordablity, convenience, personal requirements into account; the build has a timescale; it involves integrating different groups with a variety of expertise; there is a snagging process once the build is complete and people have moved in.

Child rearing – I once wrote a piece of doggerel about my son and the pleasure I got from holding his hand:

Take your child by the hand

And hold the future there

Keep him upright if you can

Release him if you dare

Change management can be like this – we need to nurture, encourage, support, provide opportunities to succeed and fail; provide unconditional positive regard; and eventually release from our control.

Hill Walking – we might have a map, or we might have a guide, or just follow signposts; we use a compass to help us know which direction we are going in; we have appropriate equipment, foood and water, perhaps a means of shelter, a communication tool; we let people know where we intend to go in case we get lost – but the view from the top of the hill makes everything worthwhile.

Inventing – when faced with a need human beings have a capacity to invent a solution – Scots have a reputation as inventors; we need to be prepared to step into uncharted territory, use our expertise and come up with ways of doing things which have never been done before.

Belonging – people need to belong; we need to take pride in our comunity – Belfast has reinforced this with the people taking an enormous pride in their community; people are valued within their own community; a community shares values – above all a sense of belonging is built upon a mutual sense of trust.

For me change management is a sophisticated combination of all these metaphors where we might merge any number of them together to fulfil our goals.

I intend to develop these metaphors as The Seven Sides of Educational Leadership.