Stephen Mitchell

Change Management

Life in schools can be viewed one of continual change.  Every term I seem to find myself saying to my teams that things will calm down soon, but the ride just seems to get faster and faster, with change being an ever present, and the rate of it increasing.   How change is managed is key to whether change is successful, or causes chaos in an organisation.  

It is helpful to understand change management from a more conceptual point of view – it really does allow your thinking to be clearer about how to approach and manage change.  Change can be viewed from three different dimensions and it is worth considering all of them when planning change.

I know that I often jump straight to the third step of this, and I would be much better served by stepping back and reviewing the situation.   

A review of context will show there is rarely only one trigger point for change, and its worth considering both internal and external environments to see what other points may be pushing the change agenda in the issues you’re faced with.

There is, unfortunately, a culture, and a context of trying to change things just to be different, not necessarily better.  One of the world’s most successful companies, Apple, has a long history of fighting against this tendency. Jony Ive discusses their approach at length in this article (

In education though, change, and the need for it can often by stymied by isomorphism – the paralysis that descends as everyone tends towards the accepted norm of practice, and to deviate away from it is seen as too risky.  We see this a lot in the sector with schools doing what the school down the road is doing, with pressures against change being introduced from legislation and professional expectations.  These pressures are categorised as Coercive, Mimetic and Normative.  Why people can’t use common sense expressions is beyond me, so I’ve made table below to summarise them.  Do this ring any bells as to pressures that stop you driving change that would be beneficial to your children?

Knowing what the change is that you want to create is key – and they’ll largely either fall into Strategic or Operational change.   Identifying exactly what the change is, and the expected outcomes of the change gives you metrics by which to be able to measure success, and know that your change programme is being successful.

The process of change is the really important part – and there are great academic models to help you manage a change process.  Stepping back and considering the three steps before you start is important.  John Kotter is held up as the guru of change management, and his approach is widely lauded, and is best demonstrated by this graphic.

Taken in turn these steps give a momentum and clarity over the change, and then facilitate a process for seeing change take hold and lock it in.