Change Happens (Part 1)

When I am interviewing for a Head of School position I always ask the interviewers three simple questions:

  1. What do you like about the school?
  2. What is working well at the school?
  3. What do you want to see changed at the school?

The first two questions are usually met with the normal answers like

  • `This school feels like a family and we want to keep that feeling going forward`
  • `We have good teachers and want them to stay a long time`
  • `Our parents are very supportive of our school`
  • `We have outstanding students`

However, the third question is usually only answered truthfully after a signed contract.  The answer to that question most generally is that Boards want change.  They might want change in staff, curriculum, lack of or too much discipline in the school, the culture, and always to lower tuition.  Overall, they want new eyes to look at the school and make improvements.  Simple, right?  No problem for an experienced administrator, right?  Think again.

According to the management-consulting firm McKinsey and Co. 70% of all large-scale organizational change initiatives fail to meet their objectives, a failure rate that has remained constant since 1995.

As managers of change, our goal is to implement change(s) that fall within the 30% of initiatives that are successful and lasting.  The question that leaders grapple with is how to make those changes so they remain in the organization years after you leave.

A Google search shows there are many models on how to implement change in an organization.  The most widely cited models have been summarized in the following article:  While these models all have advantages and disadvantages, I do not believe one model fits all situations or organizations.  As the leader, I believe to make lasting change you need to develop the ability to read and understand the culture of the organization.   Once you have that understanding you will be able to utilize the change strategy that fits best with the organization.  In some instances, a hybrid of several models will need to be developed. I firmly believe the reason most change fails is due to the leader coming to the organization with a ´one size fits all´ philosophy.  An effective change manager understands the need to use a Situational Change Management strategy.  My next blog posting with look in depth at Situational Change Management.  Thanks for reading.

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