The wisdom is out there. Simon Sinek advises us to Start With Why before we move forward with an initiative. Leadership expert John Kotter, in his book Leading Change, tells to include important elements such as establishing a sense of urgency, creating a Guiding Coalition, and developing a vision.
The Why, Urgency, Guiding Coalition, and Vision are all essential to maximizing ROI and doing a rollout the “right way.” More often than not, we see the opposite. We have extra dollars so we purchase “stuff” first. Then we might offer training or professional development. Oh, later on we will figure out “the Why.” Sound familiar? It’s what I like to call “reverse implementation” where we buy first then figure out the Why later.
I’m reminded of interactive whiteboards or a multitude of instructional initiatives that sound good but were only purchased or implemented to meet grant requirements or expend extra dollars. What if we just took a breath and hit the pause button? There is a right way to do this.
Any time we rollout new technology or a new initiative, we need to be reminded this affects people. Administrators are accountable. Teachers are responsible. Students are the recipients. In my experiences, there is a “right way” to implement something new that can smooth the uneasiness and anxious feelings that come with what ultimately is change.
Take these points into consideration…
1) Create Awareness – Start the conversation. Let folks know what’s coming. Ideally, create a space and opportunity for learning about the new technology or initiative that’s going to be implemented. Not training, but information. Consider having a teacher leader present if possible. Follow up through email, newsletter, or other form of communication. This will allow for staff members to reflect and ask questions prior to rollout.
2) Find Early Adopters – Seek out those “high flyers” who want to get involved early to establish that “proof of concept.” Work side-by-side, supporting them in finding what works and what doesn’t. This feedback will help pave the way as you prepare to Zoom Out.
3) Zoom Out – Use your early adopters to share examples from their “proof of concept” work.
4) Co-teach/Coaching – This is the piece that seems to get overlooked and undervalued the most. Don’t fool yourself into thinking everyone will “just figure it out.” Research is clear that coaching is, by far, the most effective form of professional development to transfer learning to practice. It’s mission critical to have someone (or hire someone if you don’t have a coach) get into classrooms to see that the technology or instructional practice is integrated properly to effectively support learning. If we’re talking technology, let’s make sure it’s connected to instruction and not just acting as a shiny new tool.
5) Follow up – Certainly the coach can assist with this. However, this is something leadership should do as well. Simply circle back around to staff, ask questions and engage in conversation. There’s always value in your presence. It shows that you care and that whatever is being implemented is important.
6) Collect Feedback – Ask this question: How do we know what we have implemented (technology, instructional practice, etc.) is making a difference? This isn’t just measured in standardized test scores. There are other measures such as student engagement, classroom culture, and creating new learning opportunities. Feedback can be collected through survey, observation, student artifacts, and more. Consider using a consultant or third party to assist with this.
7) Reflect and Revise – You most likely won’t get things right the first time. Use the feedback you collected in Step #6 to see what needs to stick and what needs to be shifted.
A new semester is a great time to refresh a struggling approach to an initiative or to begin thinking about how to effectively roll out a new initiative the following school year! Five Star’s team of experts is ready to help – contact us today to learn more about our project and leadership services!
Written by Nathan Davidson