"Things do not change; we change." Thoreau
"It's not that some people have willpower and some don't. It's that some people are ready to change and others are not." James Gordon, M.D.
"Change has a considerable psychological impact on the human mind. To the fearful it is threatening because it means that things may get worse. To the hopeful it is encouraging because things may get better. To the confident it is inspiring because the challenge exists to make things better." King Whitney Jr.
As a year of helping districts and schools manage change comes to a close, I understand more than ever that leading a successful change effort is a hands-on, fully engaged job. One which often kept me from doing other things I love. It has been two months since my last blog post. I have missed blogging and reflecting here with you- because my personal path for change and growth comes from sharing, reflecting and constructing knowledge here with you.
I have learned a lot this year, but what stands out most clearly is that to change an organization, its people must see their roles in it differently. If we focus on the people, and how they change themselves, organizations change more quickly.
CHANGE IS GENERALIZABLE
Some of you know I bought a house this year. Pretty big change for me and mine. Then I got this crazy idea that I would remodel the home. So we gutted the kitchen, den, and dining room. Knocking down walls and starting at scratch. It has been a time of renewal. The other day it occured to me that the frustration, redefining, and hard work I am experiencing through this process (which has been going on since February- change takes time) is generalizable to the organizational and personal change efforts Will and I have been leading with PLP.
Preparing for Change
For change to take hold and redefine people and the places they live and grow there needs to be a time of inquiry, reflection, and visioning.
When I moved into this house I knew I wanted to change it. I started with imagery. I started looking at possible images and examples of what I wanted this house to become; scourging the Web, my networks and books and magazines for stories of others who had transformed their homes into more updated and functional spaces. Because I understood the culture of our family I was instinctively drawn to options that would work for us. Interestingly enough many of the changes I wanted to make came from a schematic building of ideas I had been collecting since childhood. Some of the changes were for fun and "cool" factor, some were to make the home more functional and relevant, some were to create a sense of beauty and well being and some were to support the social aspects of my life and to connect to the future- my children and their children.
Once I had some basic ideas I began to reflect and think and share. I would sit in a room quietly and observe, vision, and play with concepts. Then I would bring others in the room and elaborate my vision and ask for their opinions and ideas. I asked lots of questions. Then I took the new information and reworked my plans incorporating the ideas I liked best. Constantly, I was using the "wisdom of the crowd" to shape and reshape my vision. I brought family members into the planning to garner buy-in and collaboratively we created a shared vision. Every time there was a disagreement and a storm of ideas and opinions colliding I reminded myself this was part of the process and that out of diversity would come innovation.
Once I had a clearer vision of what the principled changes needed to be to make this home more relevant in our lives, now and in the future, I committed it to paper. In some cases where I knew I had limited knowledge, like the landscaping, I hired an expert designer to actually draw up some plans to follow. I worked for weeks with the designer to make sure the options we chose were the ones that would fit best with the needs of our family. It is important that as you are reculturing you consider best fit and how lives will be impacted in the most positive way from the changes you are about to make.
Getting the Right People on the Bus
Finding the right people is important. I needed to have a team that was willing to take risks. One that was not daunted easily. One that didn't mind learning new things and being innovative. I needed a team that would not bend and give me what I thought I wanted in a time of weakness but rather would hold true to the vision. I needed team members with skill and expertise who were networked and could bring in other experts to help us deliver. I needed a team that was in it for the long haul and who would pay attention to detail. I wanted team members who understood this project was going to be transformational and as a result joined me in pursuing excellence.
I needed to make sure I had not only the right people on my team but enough people to get the job done in a timely manner.
Keeping the Momentum Up and Not Giving Up
The toughest part of the change process with this house has been keeping the momentum and the dream of the transformation alive. I have had contractors in my house since February. Dust, debris clutter, noise, parking issues, inconveniences are all part of the messiness of change. Dealing with the ambiguity has been tough too. There are times I wanted to throw in the towel and thought as outdated as the home was at least there was peace and comfort. I questioned if I did the right thing. And in the demolition phase I reminded myself of the implementation dip- that things will look worse before they get better, and that the end result will not be chaos, but rather peace and improved and better for all.
Fear is a big part of it too. Especially in these tough economic times. Am I spending money that should be allocated somewhere else? Should I be saving this money for a "just in-case" moment or is what I am investing going to payoff? Trust is another issue. Do the experts I have hired to make these changes a reality have the know how and wisdom to make it all happen- or was it just talk? When all around me looks overwhelming, can they lead us out of the chaos and confusion into the shared vision we have developed?
It was the talking, visioning, revisioning, and reflecting that kept this change project alive and moving forward. It was interesting to me that as one task of the mission was completed, the next change needed would become obvious. Change motivates and reveals the need for more change.
When one group fails to perform their piece of the change process it sets everyone back.
Relationships need to be negotiated along the way.
Resources need to be examined closely and also negotiated creatively.
Risks need to be considered and in some cases pieces of the plan need to be abandoned while others move on to phase 2.
Celebrate and document the progress and changes along the way. Recognize those who are working hard. Reward and credit those who deserve it. Nurture those who need help.
Not everyone on your team has pure motives for change. Some see the change as an opportunity for wealth and power rather than the goal of helping those who will be living out the change. Deal with this diplomatically.
This experience has reminded me of a reality TV show at times- intense with drama and life. It is almost surreal. But change produces movement and turbulence. And turbulence is life force. It is opportunity.
So as I wrote about the change process with my home I could clearly see the comparison to the changes organizations and individuals go through with 21st Century reform. Can you? I would love for us to discover them together here in the comments. Please share your ideas- how does what I describe above compare?