There is no denial that today’s state of education requires a sense of urgency to discover practices that will yield significant and meaningful outcomes. By it’s nature, the state of urgency tends to force the application of multiple quick fix solutions. These solutions produce fast results, but typically are not sustainable by human or financial capacity, thus promoting an ongoing cycle of change comparable to riding a stationary bike in hopes of reaching a destination but merely racking up miles, not distance. Not surprising, this approach often leads to burnout and frustration. And more than that, it has left employees with a bitter taste about change, forcing them to build walls of resistance to even positive change in the workplace.
As you look to inspire innovation and engage your team in a long-term solution, consider this five-step approach to making change in the workplace.
Define Root Cause. School culture is dynamic and ever changing. Challenges don’t exist in isolation but rather as part of a highly complex web of known truths unique to each student. True innovation looks beyond the individual challenges and seeks to find solutions that address the whole. Consider using the Six Sigma strategy to dig deeper and find a better understanding of the root cause to your greatest challenge.
Create a Vision Story. Education is a field in which there really isn’t an end in which you can say you’ve won the game, making the process of creating a vision story so important. Change is hard. Change without knowing and believing in what you are changing for is impossible. A vision story is far more than a vision statement. It’s a story that embraces all of the senses and evokes emotion. It’s a story that motivates each individual to push forward when things get hard.
Create Focus. Defining a specific root cause and focusing all efforts on one solution to address the cause is risky. Yet, if a team is not able to fully emerge into an activity, keeping just one critical focus area, they will never emerge with more than the current status quo. When implementing sustainable change, it is critical that the team members are given the freedom to focus on the new practices in order to assess the strategy, problem-solve along the way and assess when the risk no longer offers a positive return. Focus requires intentional resource allocation, both financial and human, to ensure that resources are adequate for implementation.
Manage the Turbulence. Innovation requires time, patience and commitment. The best well laid out plan and intentions will not prevent unforeseen obstacles to implementation. Planning for sustainable change in the workplace must include proactive strategies to manage the turbulent times. Provide safety belts for your team to feel secure when instant results are not realized, promote patience by remembering the thrill of the destination, and remember that it’s temporary.
Embrace Kindness. Change is hard. Embracing kindness to one another throughout the process of change can be monumental in creating a strong, sustainable culture. Teach and model kindness and empathy. Be understanding as challenges arise along the way and willing to pick one another up as you manage the turbulence as a team. Remember that while educators are superheroes, kindness fuels their powers.
Does your school have a vision story? Tell us your story!