Understanding Transformation and Change

We’re talking about a change in the culture of schools and a change in the culture of teaching. – Michael Fullan

Successfully leading transformation and change in organizations requires understanding how change is experienced, and knowledge of strategies to optimize success and sustainability. John Kotter’s list of eight steps in transforming organizations was first published in 1995. You may recognize in the list factors that are at work in transformation in your schools and some that may be missing.

Eight Steps in Transforming Your Organization*

  1. Establishing a Sense of Urgency
    • Examining market and competitive realities
    • Identifying and discussing crises, potential crises, or major opportunities
  2. Forming a Powerful Guiding Coalition
    • Assembling a group with enough power to lead the change effort
    • Encouraging the group to work together as a team
  3. Creating a Vision
    • Creating a vision to help direct the change effort
    • Developing strategies for achieving the vision
  4. Communicating the Vision
    • Using every vehicle possible to communicate the new vision and strategies
    • Teaching new behaviors by the example of the guiding coalition
  5. Empowering Others to Act on the Vision
    • Getting rid of obstacles to change
    • Changing systems or structures that seriously undermine the vision
    • Encouraging risk taking and nontraditional ideas, activities, and actions
  6. Planning for and Creation of Short-Term Winslanning for visible performance improvements
    • Creating those improvements
    • Recognizing and rewarding employees involved in improvements
  7. Consolidating Improvement and Producing Still More Changes
    • Using increased creditability to change systems, structures, and policies that don’t fit the vision
    • Reinvigorating the process with new projects, themes, and change agents
  8. Institutionalizing New Approaches
    • Articulating the connections between the new behaviors and corporate success
    • Developing the means to ensure leadership development and succession

Michael Fullan has published numerous books and articles on change in schools. In Fullan’s list below you may recognize lessons learned about change in schools.

Do any of these lessons describe the experience of your school?

  • Conflict is a necessary part of change
  • New behavior must be learned
  • Team building must extend to the entire school
  • Process and content are interrelated (interpersonal dynamics and sound ideas must go together)
  • Finding time for change enhances the prospects for success
  • A big vision with small building blocks can create consensus and progress
  • Manageable initial projects with wide involvement and visible concrete results sustain the restructuring process
  • Facilitators, along with opportunities for training and for retreats, are critical components of success restructuring efforts

Also see JSD Interview with Michael Fullan: Change Agent
Journal of Staff Development, Winter 2003 (Vol.24 No. 1)


* From Leading Change: Why Transformation Efforts Fail, by John P. Kotter, in Harvard Business Review on Leading Though Change