Tony Gurr

“Herding Cats” and Change 3.0 (Part 3)

In Educational Leadership, Quality & Institutional Effectiveness, The Paradigm Debate on 09/11/2011 at 12:19 pm

I know, I know – I never really did get round to outlining exactly what Change 3.0 is in Part 2.

You have to remember…I am a “male of the species” and we do get oh-so-confused when we try this multi-tasking stuff…Besides, it is the topic of “change” we are dealing with…and tolerance for ambiguity is a big part of this.

Tolerate “with” me…just a wee bit more


In the last post, I think I finished up asking whether it was, in fact, the questions that educational managers (and leaders) ask – that are the real source of many of our “change woes”.

I suggested that far too many of them ask the question:

  • How do we motivate “our people” to change? 

Rather than some of the more powerful questions that Peter Block suggests we consider: 

  • What is my contribution to the problems I am concerned with?
  • What refusals have I been postponing?
  • What commitments am I will to make? 

Or, the question that Leo Tolstoy sort-of-proposed so many years back: 

  • How do “I” need to change as an educational manager?

FUNNY…we don’t see these last 4 questions in the preamble of many strategic plans


Organisations do notmanage” or “lead” themselves. Institutions do not write their own strategic plans. Schools, colleges and universities do not choose which of their problems need attentionat the “organisational level”  (formal) educational managers and leaders do all that.

Change agendas and implementation strategies are not handed down from the heavens – they are penned by management teams, task forces and (all too infrequently) teachers and students. These groups (or the wiser of them) have grown used to framing and drawing up their change initiatives in line with the conventional wisdom of Change 2.0best practice, planning and management techniques.

These, as we noted, are just NOT enough.


When change agents (or “teams” of change agents) get busy with best practice, planning and management techniques (or systems), they do recognise that “others” are involved – and, as a result, they also look for ways to motivate these “others” (heard the phrase “get them on board” much, lately?)…

You CANNOT, as we said earlier, “motivate” anyone – and, it is just plain “dumb” to assume that “others” can be “changed” and that the best laid motivational “carrots” will get you what you want.

…and that those very same people will give your change initiatives the finger – for a multiplicity of reasons! Trust me on that one…


Change agents of the “Change 2.0 varietysimply forget that:

…or perhaps they have not LEARNed that:

In all my years as a teacher, a teacher trainerand even as a “manager” I have not once heard a teacher or lecturer say one of the following:

  • Strategic plans are really sexy!
  • Those new change initiatives really turn me on!
  • I can’t wait to see how we evaluate the success of this improvement project!

This because best practice, planning and management techniques are, essentially, the tools of “incrementalism” – and not very “hot”. OK – these things may be a huge “turn-on” to managers and supervisors but that’s usually because they know they will be “evaluated” on the success of their plans, initiatives and projects. 

Don’t believe me? Try gathering a group of teachers (hey, and a few students, too) and ask them the following: 

  • What really matters to you as a teacher – what should really matter to us as a school? 
  • What should we do to really make a difference to lives of our students? 
  • If you could change one thing to improve student learning and success, what would it be? 


The vast majority of educators are in the “game for something elseand it sure ain’t the money! For them…it’s about purpose, service…and something that just makes it worth it getting out bed in the morning even when we have the “class from hell” on Monday morning!

Teachers (as a “species”) have got to feel it’s all worth it – we’ve got to be inspired by what we are doing (and how we do it) and this means we need leadership that makes a real difference to the lives of our students – and, in turn, our lives!

The problem in education today is…and I just know someone is gonna put a “hit” out on me soonnot all “educational managers” are terribly well-endowed in the leadership stakes, and not “all of the others” appreciate that their managers just ain’t been able to work this out and do something about it!


What does real leadership “look like”?

Probably, the best description does not come from education at allnot that we like to admit this:

Even a “hard-nosed” business guru, like Tom Peters, gets this…try giving this list to a bunch of teachers and then tell me how many of them disagree! I’ll bet you all the money I make from this blog (!) – you won’t find many.


That’s because most teachers already know thatit’s not only the planning, it’s not only the systems and its not the management…that really “matter”!

They also know…(in addition to the fact that this Tolstoy guy is a pretty smart cookie – for such a scary-looking dude):


It’s not only teachers that know this stuff…many great “educational leaders” (especially those who do not park their bums in high-ranking, formal “chairs”) just “know” how important it is to:

These people just get that when an organisation says “Our mission is to teach to world-class standards” – not many of those “others” are going to be jumping around in their seats…worse even – they simply will not “believe” the hot air that is wrapped up with that last bit of the sentence.

They know that authenticity, honesty and “usefulness” – are the keys to successful community-building and meaningful improvement.

Indeed, you might say their internal “self-talk” or mantra is:

and they walk-this-mantra…everyday!

What’s more they know how to look in the mirror before they leave for work every morning and ask Tolstoy’s (first) questiontwice a day!


Hey, you had to have guessed “this” would be on the cards.

After the last few paragraphs (and piccies) a few of you have probably begun to thunk:

 “All right, Tony, all this stuff might work in educational-la-la-land – but what about the real world. I have teachers that are nothing short of lazy bums or rotten apples – not only are they not interested or engageable, but they actively work to undermine all the good stuff we are trying to do”!

Yes, it is true – we probably all have some staff that should be “motivated” out of the organisation. But, we need to put challenges like this in perspective…they probably constitute less than 10-12% of your staff (even in a worse-case scenario).


But, here’s the deal…the one thing I really love about great teachers is they do not consider themselves “quitters” – they do not give up on even the most seemingly-hopeless of cases. And, when the “care” and “usefulness” really kick in – we can move mountains!

Educational leaders need to remember that they are first-and-foremost teachers, too – and this is a “talent” we should never forget! Besises – this is why we get the “big bucks” (LOL)…

The trick is, as Tom Amca reminds us:

OK – I’m very close to my self-imposed word limit (again)…and Dexter needs his “walkies”. I’m asking myself if I have said enough to outline exactly what Change 3.0 is really all about.


I guess I’ll have to leave that to you – to judge!

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