Manage Change from Goals to Actions
Reviewed by Sherry Drake
If there is one certainty in education, it’s that it is always changing. Change happens at the national, state, and local level, and it impacts everyone involved. Benson’s publication, 10 Steps to Managing Change in Schools, is a succinct book for helping leadership teams move from initiatives to lasting improvement. In less than 50 pages, Benson summarizes best practices and suggests how we can incorporate them in sustainable ways.
Throughout the book the theme of change being a process, not an event, is reiterated in the steps described. Throughout my many courses on leadership, I learned the principles of creating a good action plan. However, this book helps lay the foundation for the necessary steps and conversations that must take place before we write the plan itself (step nine).
All of us know how difficult it is to initiate a change and how daunting a task it is to keep the change process alive in our schools. The author, a veteran administrator and consultant to public and private schools, discusses his own positive and negative experiences in the introduction and the encore.
An efficient blueprint
What I liked about this short publication is that it an efficient blueprint for teams to manage change. It forces the leader and/or the leadership team to think critically about the change and how it will impact the school. The 10 steps are designed specifically for indepth team discussions where diverse opinions are considered.
Most steps include checklists to center the discussions and visuals to keep the team focused during the implementation of the plan. After working through the checklists and visuals, teams should achieve unity at a level that offers a sense of validity for the process.
One of the biggest change challenges is keeping everyone involved accountable for their part in school improvement. The process set forth in this book does just that. Benson includes examples that give the reader an anchor when working on each step.
Unfortunately, most of my experiences when attempting to implement change have been negative. The changes are mandated, there is no discussion with the staff, and there is no clear plan. With this book as a guide, the pitfalls associated with change can be lessened greatly.
A significant time commitment
The process set forth in this book will require a great deal of commitment and time from a thoughtful team willing to address each step completely. The team involved will also have to meet regularly throughout the implementation of the action plan.
The 10 Steps are not for the faint of heart. Those who engage in this process need to be steadfast. The time consideration is intensive, but a sustainable improvement in a school does not happen haphazardly. Many of us have experienced enough haphazard change to understand this.
The process requires a systematic approach, as Benson outlines in his 10 Steps. I compare this to building a new house. You need to have a well-designed plan with input from diverse sources so all those involved know what is expected and know what the final outcome should look like. You wouldn’t just start building without precise blueprints.
This is a resource I plan to share with my leadership team. We are currently considering some significant changes to improve the functioning of the school as a whole. If the leadership team wants the support of the school and stakeholders during implementation, we will need a clear sense of purpose and a blueprint everyone can rally around. Benson’s process is a great way to get the support and commitment of the staff when considering a major change or initiative that a school wants to be a lasting one.
Sherry Drake has been in education for 23 years. She has been involved with instruction in regular and special education in kindergarten through grade 12 and instructional leadership at the elementary, middle, and high school levels in several states. She is currently involved with special education at the secondary level. She is working on her Educational Specialist Degree in Instructional Leadership.