Sunday, 18 October 2009

People who plan the battle, rarely battle the plan

We face a challenging year or more with significant change for pupils, staff, parents and all stakeholders.The challenge in change is not to 'design a solution' or to 'manage the processes', it is to keep the people on board.

I recall making myself slightly(?!) unpopular with a new Managing Director once when they guy spent half an hour expounding what he was going to do to the company and I asked "Well, that all sounds interesting Mr XXX, but I do wonder if you understand that you will get what the 4500 people who work here want and that may not be what you say will happen".

Well sometimes as leaders we have to make difficult decisions (whoever said leadership would be easy had not been there!) and we should not shirk from them. However implementation needs all of our people on board and that is truly what leadership is about - helping the people get to somewhere they might not have thought of going themselves.

There is no room for "mushroom management"; exhortations just tire out the voice; instruction leads, at best, to compliance. Only genuine involvement in the processes of designing (if possible) the end-point and figuring out how to get there leads to commitment.

Schools, and Education Authorities, can sometimes be very bureaucratic organisations, often led by formalities around statutory processes. But just because we have a formal process to go through does not mean that we cannot treat our stakeholders as human individuals with current needs for information, clarity and support. Those of us involved in change and leadership know full well that it is the 'dark' side of organisations that gets things done - the informal networks through which things can be made to happen, or not. We must feed and work this informal side of the organisation well - their power is such that we need them with us not against us.

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