[Leading change] in ten principles

How do you create sufficient support for this change?  How do you create a positive dynamic to make this change successful?
School leader during a two-day retreat within the framework of a reorganisation

Our educational system is changing and will continue to do so for a long time to come. That’s okay, because it is the only way to ensure that education can continue to realise its own ambitions in a world that is moving faster than ever. The domain of development and education of children and young people must be approached differently now than 20 or 10 years ago. And will have to be done differently again in 2028 and 2038.

If you are a director, chances are that you have adopted the mindset of ‘permanent change’ by now. At the same time, there is a good chance that you find it difficult to get this mindset across to your team. You ask yourself questions about how you can lead change in your school. If you give a one-size-fits-all answer to that question, you are overlooking the complexity of the school as a system of connections between people.

As a school leader in a context of change, you can let yourself be guided by ten important principles that originate from the so-called “developmental approach to change”. This approach assumes that a change will only inspire people when they can give meaning and purpose to that change. In addition, it is above all in interaction with others that meaning and purpose are most easily achieved.

By composing together, we end up in a world that no one could have imagined by themselves. 

– Tom Barman-

What are these ten principles?

  1. Design each change process in your school according to what is needed to realise the ambitions for the proposed change.
  2. Integrate aspects of project-based work (goals, intermediate goals, phasing, project follow-up, …) in the design of the change process.
  3. Choose for an integral approach in which you make connections between vision, leadership, structure, procedures, processes, culture and the daily interactions at your school.
  4. Assume that change takes time. This does not mean that you should delay in taking the first steps and achieving the first results quickly. Encourage your colleagues to experiment.
  5. Use a broad time frame. Where does your school come from? What history does it carry? Where is the school going?
  6. Motivation for change only arises when you start from existing competences in teachers and other people involved, when you appeal to their autonomy and their connections with each other and with the school.
  7. Monitor and activate commitment. Inform your colleagues regularly and be transparent.
  8. Connect to already present positive forces. Without ignoring shortcomings and uncertainties.
  9. Take power relations into account and be aware of the micro-politics in your school: of the fact that various kinds of professional interests are at stake (self-interests, material interests, organisational interests, socio-professional interests and cultural-ideological interests). Integrate all interests.
  10. Develop co-creative leadership as the most powerful form of leadership in development and change (i.e. also the strongest form of shared leadership). In addition, try to develop a co-creative attitude in all those involved.

The effective translation of these 10 principles into a concrete change process (with phasing, questioning, meetings, decision-making, etc.) depends entirely on the intended change. Usually, there are several ways to realise the intended change. We have found that it is very effective to have a steering group assisting you in the design and implementation of a change process. This group of teachers and other colleagues can also take on the ambassadorship for the change towards the colleagues.

Yves Larock