As individuals that care about our organizations and making a positive impact in our community, we constantly try to improve our work. We are always attempting to make changes to our organizations that will keep us up-to-date with current research and best practices. Having this constant desire to improve prevents us from becoming stagnated and falling behind, and it allows our organizations to be positive contributing members of our communities. The warning we must heed in this constant state of improvement is how fast we ask for change.
As the school leader, I ask for changes to happen at my school. I want our school to be one of the best in the county, and there are always places for school improvement. I have worked with the faculty to change a number of expectations from unit maps to evaluations and professional development to help support the growth of the school. As we have made these changes, I have had to keep in mind the rate at which we implement each change.
I believe it is important to have a plan or long-term goal before implementing any change. We need to know the end result before we can take the first step. We consider the options and figure out what we want our end result to look like. Then we begin implementing the changes necessary to get to that end result. Recently, our school began implementing more mobile technology into the classrooms. We purchased Chromebooks and began transitioning to Google Apps for Education. Operating within Google Apps for Education, we have access to calendars, shared cloud folders, class websites, and a multitude of other wonderful apps that can enhance and streamline our instruction. The difficulty is that I can see where we could be with the new technology and want to jump ahead ten steps and see it fully implemented. I have to remember that we need to go one step at a time. I need to make sure the teachers are comfortable with the new Chromebooks and Google operating system before I can ask for the next step.
Noted leadership experts Heifetz and Linsky1 discuss the importance of controlling the rate of change. When we are asking for change, we see an increase in anxiety. We become comfortable with the way things are done, and the change causes us to become uncomfortable. We get anxious about how to do it the new way. As the leader asking for the change, we need to be mindful and present to the signs of this anxiety. If we continue to push changes when the anxiety level is too high, we will inevitably fail. We have to control the rate of change to make sure the organization can handle the anxiety.
Our school recently started using new standardized testing software. The benefits of the software significantly outweigh our old testing program, but the new system is overwhelming. Initially, I attempted to implement the entire program at once. As I implemented the program, I began to see the signs of increased stress and anxiety. I decided to cut back on our implementation goal for the school year and only ask for a small portion of the program that was similar to our old testing program to be used. This allowed the faculty to begin to get comfortable with the change before asking for the next step. Although I want to be at the finish line already and can see the benefits of being there, taking one step at a time is allowing the school to engage in the process to a deeper and richer level. When we reach the finish line after a few more steps, we will have a greater comfort with the new testing software and a greater ownership by all stakeholders of the benefits that it can provide.
It is not easy to slow down change, but if we want that change to last, it is imperative. We need to allow those in our organizations to grow with the changes that we expect. When we are able to keep the change at a pace that individuals can swallow, we will see the greatest sustained growth. If we ask for too much, we will lose the change to the old way of doing things.
1 Heifetz, R. A. & Linsky, M. (2002). Leadership on the line: Staying alive through the dangers of leading. Boston: Harvard Business Review Press.