Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Six Secrets of Change

Fullan's latest book published 2008.Only 140 pages long it expresses a powerful message to leaders

It is understood that successful organisations have to be able to adjust quickly to change but for all this understanding why do so many organisations fail to do so. And why are schools the slowest at becoming learning organisations?

Fullan provides the 'secrets' for organisations to make deep and lasting changes drawing on his work assisting national school systems. The six 'secrets', if put into practice by leaders, would develop organisations that are constantly learning, growing and changing.

Fullan's goal is to change whole systems so as to allow all involved in to invest the passion and energy to get results.

The six secrets are, in themselves, unremarkable. But each is not as simple, as it first seems, to action, and all need to work together to ensure success. The 'secrets', once introduced, would act a guide to monitor your leadership and 'your' school's success.

1 Love your employees. 'The quality of the education system cannot exceed the quality of its teachers'. Systems that put the learner first ( e.g UK League Tables) create in teachers fatigue and a lack of appreciation. 'Top down' reforms fail because this has not been appreciated. All people involved in any organisation have to be equally treated with respect - principals, teachers, students and parents. It is the total culture that counts - everybody needs to feel proud of what is being achieved. Developing an inspiring purpose that all can rally around is vital; enthusiasm is contagious.

2 Connect peers with purpose. One of the problems organisations face is how to develop cohesion and focus in an otherwise fragmented environment. Purposeful peer interaction is the secret. This can only happen when: the larger values of the organisation and those of the individuals mesh; when information about effective practices are widely and openly shared; and when monitoring is in place to detect and address ineffective practice while consolidating effective ones. Working in teams is better than 'managing down'. Positive peer interaction, sharing ideas through collaborative team work, provides the necessary social and intellectual 'glue' to develop 'professional learning communities'.

3 Capacity building prevails. Capacity building concerns competencies and motivation. People high on capacity are committed to getting important things done and are collectively and continually learning. Helping people develop capacity by being non judgemental is the key. If you don't learn from failure, you fail to learn. Forgive and remember. Let pressure do its work through the interaction of positive peers and the interactions of the six secrets; 'good people working with other good people get better'. Leaders need to ask, 'what would attract good people to work here'?

4 Learning is the work. The challenge is to strike a balance between consistency and innovation/creativity. There is a need to address core goals relentlessly while at the same time learning continuously. Such focus on a few core teaching beliefs frees energy for creativity. There is a need to: identify critical knowledge; to ensure all are educated in doing the right thing; and verify learning and success - forever. Successes are recognised and challenges addressed. Learning comes from observation of others, coaching, and learning through reflective action.

5 Transparency works. Transparency is measuring what has been agreed by all as agreed as important. 'Measurements' should be guides to direct behaviour and not so powerful and not substitutes for judgement and wisdom. Transparency of measurement helps all involved develop 'trust' in the organisation if it is a positive pressure for improvement. Everyone needs to be held accountable to putting into action what is agreed by all.

( Transparency in school systems has been distorted by a international 'top down' narrowing focus on literacy and numeracy. The 'new' New Zealand Curriculum emphasizes assessing future 'key competencies' ( 'new basics') in realistic contexts.)

6 System's learn. The first task of secret six is to enact the first five secrets. Systems learn, in times of complexity, by cultivating leaders who are both confident and humble at the same time. Leaders need confidence 'in advance of the battle' and advice to followers is not to put blind faith in leaders. Leaders need to take action and then learn from experience. They need to visualize the whole while working on individual part. They need to look for patterns and relationships aways searching for better solutions; valuing both mastery and originality.

Reflective leadership throughout the organisation is required to achieve the agreed purpose, and it needs to be a purpose able to inspiring all to continual action and learning.

Fullan's advice is to capitalize on the synergy provided by the six secrets. By employing all the secrets accountability is inbuilt. A powerful quote about wisdom required for leadership, from Fullan's book is,' the ability to act with knowledge, while doubting what you know'.

'Leaders who thrive and survive are people who know that they don't know - are crucial to enabling others'. Finding the balance between guidance and listening, between directing and learning, are the roles of future leaders. Leadership is about creating an atmosphere where people constantly learn; it is about energizing other people to make good decisions and to learn from them; it is about releasing the positive energy that exists naturally within people.It is 'about improving the lot of people around us'.

Leadership is creating the conditions for other to find happiness through being involved a worthwhile purpose.

As Fullan concludes his book, 'go for it!'

For a summary of an earlier book on school change by Fullan


Anonymous said...

Thanks Bruce. Good advice from Fullan but, as he says, not easy to implement. I can see why it appeals to you!

Ironic that schools are not seen as 'learning organisations'!

Your point about the distorting effects of narrow accountability is right on!

Anonymous said...

I love the first secret !

It is so true - we teachers have had a challenging time over the last years. Far too much change and absurd expectations and requirements from external sources.

A frazzled and stressed teacher won't be creative or able to deal with energetic children !

All teachers - have a re-creative holiday !!

Bruce Hammonds said...

You would think, after decades of 'top down' change, somebody would realize that, unless those who do the real work see the point of it, or better still are inspired by the thought of contributing to something they think worthwhile, imposed changes will always fail or fade away.

Teachers, exhausted in the attempt to make such impossible ideas work, await the next bright idea with cynicism while those, well insulated from the reality of the classroom, think of new 'silver bullets' to fire at tired teachers.

Anonymous said...

Wow bruce,

You are so amazing. Your points are top knotch and i think you should get honorary degrees from Oxford and Cambridge universities for you indepth work.

By the way weren't you suposed to go to Pukekura Park and take some close up photos of the plants were certain peoples ashes were or were not scattered?

Bruce Hammonds said...

Wow!to yourself in London!
I once went to Oxford and Cambridge Universities for the day but I didn't pick up any degrees.

Will take the photos in Pukekura Park when the azaleas are in flower!

Hope you are fit and well and enjoying early Spring?