Change Management Strategies to Successfully Lead School Culture Improvement

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One of the most important roles of a leader is to provide their teams the support, resources, and tools they need to have the greatest possible impact in their jobs. While this is no small task for leaders in any industry, the role of a school leader in supporting their teachers requires a particularly adept and vast set of skills, given the impact teachers aim to make on the lives of their students.

One of the most important roles of a leader is to provide their teams the support, resources, and tools they need to have the greatest possible impact in their jobs. While this is no small task for leaders in any industry, the role of a school leader in supporting their teachers requires a particularly adept and vast set of skills, given the impact teachers aim to make on the lives of their students.

In my first few years as an educator, I heard a few striking comparisons between the job of a teacher and other highly complex professions that have always stuck with me. The first is a comparison between teachers and air traffic controllers — both roles require rapid decision making, managing large amounts of information simultaneously, and extensive foresight. One key difference is that teachers do this all while on their feet for upwards of 8 hours a day.

The second comparison is between teachers and brain surgeons. Both jobs involve a highly complex understanding of the impact of actions and decisions one makes, and it has been reported that teachers are pressed to multitask and make far more in-the-moment decisions in a given day than a brain surgeon typically ever faces.

→ Change your school culture and climate with our PBIS Toolkit

While not many educators have likely had the direct experiences to compare teaching to jobs as air traffic controllers or brain surgeons, any educator can tell you that working in schools requires extreme flexibility, adaptability, and relative comfort maneuvering change and ambiguity. As leaders, we cannot plan for or control the thousands of moments a day our teachers need to adapt and adjust, but we can be intentional about supporting our teachers by effectively managing change when introducing new products or initiatives. 

For leaders preparing to implement a schoolwide program for improving school culture, taking the time to plan for change and clearly communicate this plan to your teams are key investments toward the successful implementation that will lead to strong returns for your staff, students, and families.

We recommend following the process below to lead successful school culture change:

Navigate perspectives and weigh options

  • Gain insight from trusted colleagues with diverse perspectives
  • Anticipate challenges and benefits
  • Test new tools with a pilot group of users
  • Gather data and feedback on the user experience of pilot group
  • Reflect on unanticipated consequences and blindspots you may have in leading this change at scale with your whole team

Draft a plan 

  • What will be the same about your systems and routines from before using Kickboard?
  • What will be different?
  • What are the intended benefits and impact?
  • How will people be supported in successfully engaging in this change?
  • What resources are needed to implement this change?

Communicate the draft plan

  • Share the what, why, and how for both how decisions were made and how the roll-out will be implemented
  • Get feedback from key stakeholders. Consider both early adopters and those who may struggle with change and/or using new technology
  • Adjust and finalize the plan

Communicate and launch the revised plan

  • Share the what, why, and how multiple ways and multiple times
  • Make sure everyone has the support they need to meet expectations
  • Keep an open door and ears to the ground to modify support to ensure successful adoption by all team members

Reflect and adjust

  • Plan opportunities to gather data and feedback after 30, 60, and 90 days of implementation
  • Reflect on data and feedback throughout the implementation
    • What’s working?
    • What challenges are we facing?
  • Celebrate wins and acknowledge effort
  • Make adjustments to meet current needs and continue to strive toward implementation and impact goals
  • Communicate and re-launch adjusted plan

With a strong plan to manage and communicate through change, schools can more efficiently and effectively focus on the implementation and impact of the shift rather than the change itself.

Need help with implementing school culture change? Kickboard offers in-person planning and support. A School Culture Coach can guide you to develop the schoolwide systems and practices necessary to achieve your school culture goals. Click here to learn more.