Thursday, 26 November 2009

Inspired by Sir Ken...

I went to see Sir Ken Robinson speak last night, courtesy of Education Leeds.

Inspirational, funny and with some content as well – truly a rare combination for any ‘motivational speaker’.

Whilst finding much of what he said valuable, I wrote down one quote that struck me as especially significant “Our assumptions influence our perceptions before they drive our conceptions”. In my work, both in and out of schools, I have found this principle hugely helpful when dealing with ‘stuck’ situations – the challenge is the one that Einstein highlighted, namely that the level of thinking that created a problem cannot solve it. In unearthing these assumptions, there is a key role for independent process facilitation by individuals who have no significant investment in the outcome of the challenge they make to their clients. Who is providing this challenge/facilitation as we move education into the 21st Century?

The jobs our children will do are still to be created, the technology they will use will be beyond our current comprehension (how many of us 50-odd year olds could have imagined an i-phone when we were 10 years old?!), the skills they will need an dhow they will use them remain to be understood. We need a 21st Century system that equips pupils for the technological/knowledge-based future not the industrial revolution.

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Head or heart?

Our move of site is moving forward - slowly and with some discomfort. As a change management/leadership professional this is an interesting experience to be part of, so I thought I might offer a few observations on how everything is happening rather than what is going on.

Only to be expected for such a significant change as there are (at least) two processes going on in parallel. Firstly the building of a team who will decide on a proposal and then deliver it; secondly the personal transitions from As-Is to To-Be. Let's explore what is likely to be happening...

The team development 'route' is well known (Tuckman, if you really want the source) - Form, Storm, Norm, Perform, Unform. At a meeting last night there was a lot of frustration expressed, people needing to have their say, to understand how the overall process would work... Classic 'storming' behaviour and necessary if the team is to really start to get to grips with the task they face. It's important that everyone involved recognises this and works through it, only then can we start to sort out how to make the team work effectively (norming) and ultimately get on with stuff. As a process observer, the big challenge here is to get participants to realise that these processes happen and take time so that the team needs forming early enough to enable a health process to take place before real decisions have to be made.

The change journey model that I find most helpful is based on the work of Elisabeth Ross-Kubler and has been summarised into six stages - Shock, Denial, Anger/Depression, Resignation, Acceptance, Future Focus.

Shock - WHAT! Nobody has paid attention to our needs!
Denial - SURELY NOT! It can't be as bad as that!
Anger/Depression - GRRRRR!!!! "They" really don't care/understand!
Resignation - OH WELL If that's what they want there is not much I can do about it.
Acceptance - OK If that's how it is going to be, what's the best way forward for me?
Future Focus - Right, so this is what I am going to do now.

So there we were blaming others, wondering what next, trying to find out what 'they' wanted, who would be making the 'real' decisions - classic 'victim' behaviour in the Anger/Depression position. We could continue as Victims or we could start to take positive action to address our concerns (which was what happened and is still happening) thus moving ourselves through the powerless Anger and Depression.

Anyway - what a change to be able to observe this stuff in action and to write about it.

One final thought - what did I use the title "Head or Heart"? Well because any change inevitably involves both head and heart. The (relatively) easy stuff is the cognitive/intellectual reasoning and redesign - 'head work'. The hard bit is to move from intellectual acceptance to affective/emotional understanding - 'heart work'. This latter is often underestimated, especially by those who due to the nature of their work routinely redesign schools and provision and may not understand the emotional issues being faced by those actually working in and with the school. The 'head' people may find moving through the change curve easy and quick, the 'hearts' risk getting trapped in the early stages - and communication between the two camps gets harder and more frustrating. Each party needs to clearly express their current needs and persist in getting them met before it is possible to move forward.

Head or Heart then? Well, both actually.

Monday, 9 November 2009

Communicate, communicate, communicate...

Communicate, communicate, the mantra of all effective change leaders. We know, and have recently experienced, that in the absence of any communication rumours start and circulate. Those rumours may or may not be based on 'truth' and certainly get transmogrified as the Chinese Whisper process affects them.

The message to us governors, as strategic leaders in our schools, is that we need to be proactive about communicating. This matters especially during any period of uncertainty or change. The need goes so far as to issue bulletins (or whatever) explaining that 'nothing has happened or changed'. This latter is counter-intuitive as our tendency is to only communicate when we have something to say.

Finally, when the rumours DO start - avoid scapegoating and witch-hunts. It's almost inevitable that legitimate and often informal discussions 'leak' into the public domain and get turned into rumours. Seeking out and punishing 'the guilty' will just close down communications channels and lead to disaffection in those who we most need to be open.

I have long had a set of principles for communicating during change:

• Those most affected will be the first to hear
• Our people will hear things first from their managers
• We will use multiple channels to communicate with our people
• “One hymn, one hymn sheet”
• We will be as quick to give any bad news as the good
• We will be as open as possible
• Face-to-face will be our preferred route for all major communications
• Wherever possible we will avoid jargon, where not possible we will explain it
• Individuals making decisions will have personal accountability for ensuring that those affected by the decision are communicated with effectively
• We will ensure that there is an unfiltered feedback route from our people to the top team
• There will be regular updates on progress
• We recognise the existence of The Grapevine and will try to be sure that it deals in facts not fiction