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Leading in Education

I am summarizing the book LEADING in a culture of CHANGE to assess what Alameda can do to accomplish "Student Success -Whatever It Takes" in the AUSD Strategic Plan for 2003-2008.

Each component is summarized:

  • Summary Overview of materials presented in the book
  • Educational Examples Examples presented by author of the book
  • Implications in Alameda How the book relates to Alameda
  • Understanding the Change Process


    Understanding the change process us less about about innovation and more about innovativeness. It is less about strategy and more about strategizing. It about avoiding the common mistakes when change starts. And it is rocket science, not least because we are inundated complex, and often contradcitory advice. For example:

    Kotter's Leading Change proposes eight steps:

    1. Establishing a Sense of Urgency
    2. Creating a Guiding Coalition
    3. Developing a Vision and Strategy
    4. Communicating the Change Vision
    5. Empowering Broad-Based Action
    6. Genebrating Short-Term Wins
    7. Consolidating Gains and PRoducing More Change
    8. Anchoring New Approaches in the Culture

    Or Hamel's acvice to "lead the revolution":

    1. Buile a point of view
    2. Write a manifesto
    3. Create a coalition
    4. Pick your targets and pick your moments
    5. Co-opt and neutralize
    6. Find a translator
    7. Win small, win early and win often
    8. Isolate, infiltrate, integrate

    Despite the contradictory advice and the valuable ideas contained in leadership books, change can be led and leadership does make a difference.

    The book then details its appraoch to understanding change in order to better lead it.

    Understanding the Change Process

    • The goal is not to innovate the most.
    • It is not enough to have the best ideas.
    • Appreciate the implementation dip.
    • Redefine resistance.
    • Reculturing is the name of the game.
    • Never a checklist, always complexity.

    The book places a premium on on understanding and insight rather than on mere action steps. In the long run, leadership effectiveness depends on developing internal commitment in which the ideas and instrinic motivation of the vast majority of organizational members, bceome activated. Along the way, authorative ideas, democratic empowerment, affiliative bonds, and coaching will be needed.

    Edcuational Examples

    "Christmas tree schools" are those schools who glitter from a distance -- so many innovations, so little time -- but they end up superfically adorned with many decorations lacking depth and coherence.

    Implications in Alameda

    Most of us are caught in the "implementation mentality" and rarely step back and assess what the lasting changes we want to accomplish. What long term changes are needed in Alameda and what has to change to get commitment from a vast majority of the employees within the District?

    Additional Materials

    10 Do and Don't Assumptions About Change

    Excerpted from The new meaning of educational change, 3rd edition, by Michael Fullan. New York: Teachers College Press, 2001, pgs. 108-110. Used with permission.

    The assumptions we make about change are powerful and frequently subconscious sources of actions. When we begin to understand what change is as people experience it, we also begin to see clearly that assumptions made by planners of change are extremely important determinants of whether the reality of implementation gets confronted or ignored.

    The analysis of change carried out so far leads me to identify 10 "do" or "don't" assumptions that are basic to a successful approach to educational change.

    1. Do not assume that your version of what the change should be is the one that should or could be implemented.

    On the contrary, assume that one of the main purposes of the process of implementation is to exchange your reality of what should be through interaction with implementers and others concerned. Stated another way, assume that successful implementation consists of some transformation or continual development of initial ideas.

    2. Assume that any significant innovation, if it is to result in change, requires individual implementers to work out their own meaning.

    Significant change involves a certain amount of ambiguity, ambivalence, and uncertainty for the individual about the meaning of the change. Thus, effective implementation is a process of clarification. It is also important not to spend too much time in the early stages on needs assessment, program development, and problem definition activities - school staff have limited time. Clarification is likely to come in large part through reflective practice.

    3. Assume that conflict and disagreement are not only inevitable but fundamental to successful change.

    Since any group of people possess multiple realities, any collective change attempt will necessarily involve conflict. Assumptions 2 and 3 combine to suggest that all successful efforts of significance, no matter how well planned, will experience an implementation dip in the early stages. Smooth implementation is often a sign that not much is really changing.

    4. Assume that people need pressure to change (even in directions that they desire), but it will be effective only under conditions that allow them to react, to form their own position, to interact with other implementers, to obtain technical assistance, etc.

    It is alright and helpful to express what you value in the form of standards of practice and expectations of accountability, but only if coupled with capacity-building and problem-solving opportunities.

    5. Assume that effective change takes time.

    It is a process of "development in use." Unrealistic or undefined time lines fail to recognize that implementation occurs developmentally. Significant change in the form of implementing specific innovations can be expected to take a minimum of two or three years; bringing about institutional reforms can take five or ten years. At the same time, work on changing the infrastructure (policies, incentives, capacity of agencies at all levels) so that valued gains can be sustained and built upon.

    6. Do not assume that the reason for lack of implementation is outright rejection of the values embodied in the change, or hard core resistance to all change.

    Assume that there are a number of possible reasons: value rejection, inadequate resources to support implementation, insufficient time elapsed, and the possibility that resisters have some good points to make.

    7. Do not expect all or even most people or groups to change.

    Progress occurs when we take steps (e.g. by following the assumptions listed here) that increase the number of people affected. Our reach should exceed our grasp, but not by such a margin that we fall flat on our face. Instead of being discouraged by all that remains to be done, be encouraged by what has been accomplished by way of improvement resulting from your actions.

    8. Assume that you will need a plan that is based on the above assumptions and that addresses the factors known to affect implementation.

    Evolutionary planning and problem-coping models based on knowledge of the change process are essential.

    9. Assume that no amount of knowledge will ever make it totally clear what action should be taken.

    Action decisions are a combination of valid knowledge, political considerations, on-the-spot decisions, and intuition. Better knowledge of the change process will improve the mix of resources on which we draw, but it will never and should never represent the sole basis for decision.

    10. Assume that changing the culture of institutions is the real agenda, not implementing single innovations.

    Put another way, when implementing particular innovations, we should always pay attention to whether each institution and the relationships among institutions and individuals are developing or not.

    Source: The new meaning of educational change, 3rd edition, by Michael Fullan. New York: Teachers College Press, 2001, pgs. 108-110. Used with permission.

    Fullan's six guidelines for principals

    1. Steer clear of false certainty. There is no ready-made answer out there to the "how' question.
    2. Base risk on security. Promote risk-taking but provide safety nets of supportive relationships.
    3. Respect those you want to silence. Incorporate and learn from dissenters.
    4. Move toward the danger in forming new alliances. "Out there" may be dangerous but you need external partners.
    5. Manage emotionally as well as rationally. Work on your emotional intelligence. Don't take dissent personally.
    6. Fight for lost causes. Be hopeful against the odds.

    Source: The new meaning of educational change, 3rd edition, by Michael Fullan. New York: Teachers College Press, 2001, pg. 150.

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    Last modified: November 2, 2003

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