Tony Gurr

Posts Tagged ‘herding cats’

“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!

“Herding Cats” and Change 3.0 (Part 2)

In Educational Leadership, Quality & Institutional Effectiveness, The Paradigm Debate on 07/11/2011 at 9:17 pm

I sat down this morning and began to think about how I would begin Part Two of the little mini-series I began yesterday. It was tough…and three cups of coffee later, I still had no idea of how to start.

True – I had mapped out a diatribe (of sorts) yesterday morning (but realised I’d have to use over 5k of lexis to get it all “on screen” – so decided to split it up). The problem was that last night I got a couple of “notes” that made me thunkone was quite funny. It accused me of a form of “digital penis-envy” and suggested that I had invented the phrase “Change 3.0” just to play catch up with all the techies and their Web 3.0’sfunny, because it was kinda true!

A couple of people got me some quotes – one I had never seen before was from the comic strip “Over the hedge” (penned by Michael Fry and Tom Lewis):

The more things change, the more they remain… insane.

Could there be more than a grain of truth in such tongue-in-cheek one-liners?

My perspective on “change” has always been a bit more “hopeful“, more “optimistic” – like that of Margaret Mead:

As I said yesterday, I like to believe that I “eat change for breakfast” and do not always “get” why so many people cringe when the “word” is mentioned  or why they run for the hills when its big brother – TRANSFORMATION – is placed on the table.

I tried running over these notes and comments (and my scribbles from yesterday) – desperate for inspiration – and up popped a tweet… @TeachersJourney to the rescue:

You can’t put students “first” if you put teachers “last”.

Those 54 characters (and how the hell most normal human beings are supposed to convey a decent idea in 140 characters is still beyond me) captured the paradox that is so often hard-wired into Change 1.0 and Change 2.0 initiatives…

And, taking my lead from @TeachersJourney – I started to think about a couple more questions:

Do we really put students “first” – really, really?

If we do, do we have to put teachers “last” – or can both come “first”?

 

The problem is I cannot really answer these questions with the self-imposed word limit I try to keep for each post – this one will have to go to a Part 3…but here goes!

I said yesterday that the main issues with Change 1.0 were:

  • the focus on change-as-an-event
  • the preference for command-and-control approaches to improvement
  • putting the organization before the people who “live” in it and those it is designed to “serve”

Change 2.0 did address these issues and sought to:

  • acknowledge that organisational change is, in fact, a “process” of “changing people”
  • recognise that these people need to be “motivated” to change
  • pay greater attention to best practices, planning and management

Surely, this type of conceptualisation is enough – process, people, planning! Loading the dice in this way has gotta work…

 

Sorry, but I think it’s time to burst that little “bubble”…

  • We cannot “change” peopleand anyone who has this as her “goal” is just plain “dumb”
  • We cannot “motivate” anyoneand the sooner we drop this “myth about carrots and bloody sticks” the better
  • The truth is…..and I need some images (and a few words) to convey this:

 

Number 1

I’ve talked a fair bit about “best practice” in earlier posts. Looking to best practices is not a bad thing in itself; we can learn a great deal from them and they can help along institutions wishing to reinvent themselves.

The problem is that many best practices are “old news – and “old news” developed to help solve someone else’s problems. If best practices are uncritically adopted and grafted (or should I say cut n’ pasted) onto another organisational culture – we can end up with an even bigger headache than we started with.

This is why perhaps so many, like Bill Monro, view imitation as the “sincerest form of collective stupidity” – and remind us that “looking back” is hardly the best way to create “next practice” that is both fit-for-purpose and useful

 

Number 2

OK – who can disagree with a maxim that tells us “Failing to plan is planning to fail” (and we do not even need our 140 characters to get that idea out there)?

Of course, we need to “plan” – but there’s other stuff we all know to be true; the best-laid plans of mice and men, life is what happens to us while we are busy making other plans and something about Zeus getting a bit of a kick out of pissing all over the plans of “mortal men” (and women, too).

This is actually where Change 1.0 (and Change 2.0) really falls flat on its face – sure we can draw up a “wish-list” of our 12-step action plan for change but “hit shappens”. Even if we stand on the shoulders of giants like John Kotter and follow his advice to the letter, not going with the flow of unanticipated outcomes or failing to fully exploit emerging practices or evolving capabilities can mean “failure”, too – and a bigger failure than just not being able to tick off items on the “change checklist”.

On-going improvisation” can sometimes be a change agent’s best friend – a kanka, even! More people need to recognise this…

 

Number 3

Now, this is the one that gets me in so much trouble – even though many educational “managers” do not have anywhere near enough “management training”, they do love the idea of “management processes”. It’s something about the way those words collocate so smoothly with words like order, efficiency, and mission.

I like my processes, too – but (and to quote Covey) “Management works in the system; Leadership works on the system”. “Management” works just fine when the “system” works just fine…

But…

Change is about working on somethingto make it better – and that’s why we need more “leaders” (both formal and informal). However, not “leaders” that prize their “seats” (and systems) more than they do the people that keep them in these seats.

As Tom Peters reminds us “Management is about arranging and telling. Leadership is about nurturing and enhancing”. This is the crux of the matter allthingschange in education.

Now, you see why I needed that 5k of lexis!

 

But, before I elaborate on this – I guess I have to jump back a space or two. As I noted yesterday, what often ruffles my feathers is the fact that many educational leaders (and, even moreso – politicians) still keep on talking about “herding” and asking the question:

  • How do we motivate our people to change?

And, by “people” – they frequently mean “them” or “those buggars“. Guess what – teachers “know” this and are not easily conned by a carrot or two

 

Let’s be very clear – this question is very much one created in the back rooms of a “managerial mindset”; an approach to change that focusses on “arranging”, “telling” and “herding”.

Management is not enough – especially if that management that fails to walk-its-talk or is based on tradition and folklore.

Tolstoy had it right when he said “…everyone wants to change the world, but no one thinks of changing himself”. His words prompt another question – could it be that many of the difficulties we still face with “change in education” are actually “caused” by those who see themselves as being “charged with managing change”?

Could it be that the core questions they ask – are just “wrong”?

But, I’ve just realised I have gone over my word limit – time to “plan” for Part 3…..me thinks.

“Herding Cats” and Change 3.0 (Part 1)

In Educational Leadership, Quality & Institutional Effectiveness, The Paradigm Debate on 06/11/2011 at 12:07 pm

As a young teacher I never really liked the metaphor “herding cats” (you have to watch this video BTW) – perhaps I just did not relish the idea that I was being seen as a “feline” that needed to be “managed” or “broken. I think much of this came from the fact that I always felt that I “ate change for breakfast” – and sometimes for dinner, too!

Perhaps, I am just more of a “dog kinda person”!

 

Anyways, one day (many, many moons ago) I was fortunate enough to get the chance to chat to one of my first “bosses” at lunch (we did not see him a great deal and I did not really know him that well – besides he was a bit “scary”). We got chatting about “change” and the large number of “change initiatives” the school was introducing – and he used “the phrase”!

I outlined my feelings about the notion of “herding” (very diplomatically). He thought for a minute and said:

Tony (he knew my name, cool) – we are “failing” as a school. Half of our department heads “haven’t got a clue”…probably more than half of our teachers do not really want to be here…and most of our kids are not learning. What would you do in my position?

OK – so my first thought was “Are his numbers correct”? My second thought was about the “staff meeting” a couple of weeks before – a staff meeting in which we’d been told that we were a “great bunch of teachers” working with an “even greater bunch of young people” (!)

But, I did not feel brave enough to mention either and simply said maybe we should just “ask the kids first…” – I remember he said something about “herding kids” being even more difficult than “herding teachers” – and I think he took his pudding away with him to his office.

We didn’t have lunch again and nothing much changedhe left at the end of the year (probably as disappointed as all the teachers were about the fact that we were not making the difference we all wanted to make). Sad really…

 

A few years later, when I had “grown up” enough to take on a “supervisory” role myself, I did start to see that the problem (in an organisational context) is that not all change is “internal” (stuff that we decide to do ourselves, for ourselves and our own learners) – much of it, sadly, needs to be “external” (introduced and “managed” by others, for us and our learners – but not always by “bosses”) and this is really where the “fit hits the shan”… It was also around this time that I heard around 75% of organisational change initiatives “fail” – and still fail even today…

Maybe, I should have stayed in banking afterall – a mortgage rate of 2.25% wasn’t too shabby and I would have got used to “selling my soul” over the 25 years it would have taken me to pay it off!

 

Of all the issues and challenges we face in education, “change” is the one that gets most of us worked up – most of the time.

We are LEARNing professionals, we know what’s best for our “kids”……and no buggar should tell us how to run our classrooms! 

Isn’t that how it goes?

 

But, and hear me out, what about “improvement” at an organisational level. We all know that most of us can only see as far as our own experience and we all have room for improvement. Our schools, colleges and universities might have have some of the best teachers in the world in some of our classrooms.

But what about the moral (and collective) responsibility we all have to ensure that every student in every classroom, gets to become as good as they can be?

This is what change in education is really about (or should be) – and, not all of this can come about through the individual efforts of individual teachers working in individual classrooms.

Good leadership is as critical to effective TEACHing and LEARNing as it is to effective curriculum, effective assessment – and effective improvement.

The problem, however, is how “change” is conceptualised – and, perhaps more importantly, implemented. This is especially the case if we have let things go for a while – and need to address a wide range of issues at a more “systemic” level

 

Change 1.0 

The “boss” I told you about earlier operated with this approach to change. Although, he wasn’t entirely from the “my-way-or-the-highway school of change management”, he operated with a top-down model of “improvement” – often referred to as the “command-and-control model”. This normally involves an “all-knowing expert” who formulates change initiatives and hands them down to his or her “subordinates” (hate this word) to be “implemented”.

A lot has been written about this approach to change (so, I won’t say too much). What I will say is that the conceptual model behind this approach is frequently the “unfreeze-change-freeze” thinking – a type of thinking that seeks to change how the organisation “does business” and, more often than not, views such initiatives as an “event”. We “unfreeze” the institution, insert the “change” – and give ourselves a pat on the back while we “freeze” the new system or process into the new way of doing business. Mission accomplished!

The problem? 

The “cats” nod their heads, clap at the end of the general staff meeting…and go on doing exactly what they have always done!

 

Change 2.0

Seeing the weaknesses of this model of change, many educational managers (borrowing from allthingsbusiness) upgraded to Change 2.0 – they LEARNed new stuff.

Change 2.0 recognises that change is a “process” (not an “event”) – and a process that requires a number of “motivators”. This makes “total sense” because we all know that effective change needs:

…and because:

…as well as:

…don’t forget this:

…this, too:

…and, let’s remind ourselves of this one (something you might all “recognize”):

When we take a quick look at these, is it that difficult to understand why 75% of our change projects fall flat on their faces? If we take a closer look – we also see that most of the “gremlins” that get in the way of effective change are, in fact, PEOPLE

 

Change 2.0, then, was built on a decepively simple idea: we need to align our change initiatives with the holy trinity of motivation, planning and management. This, in many cases, got us results – especially when educational leaders looked to best practices and funded the various motivators.

These things actually loaded the dice in favour of changes we wanted to see…

The problem?

It ain’t worked! A lot of the challenges in education remain challenges – we haven’t even scratched the surface (in practice)…sometimes it seems that even more than 75% of our initiatives have bitten the dust.

 

So, why is this?

Why has Change 2.0 not taken us to the promised land? Why are so many of us talking about…

And, what the bloody hell is it?

 

I did say this was…Part 1. More later…