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Managing Complex Change


With the current changing landscape, frameworks to help our thinking are useful

broken image

Even though reality never fits into neat boxes,

especially in the radical state of the world,

this model is a useful starting point.

I'm cutting straight to it - you're all doing an immense job. I would never normally send you some thinking models during or near to school holidays, but this was never going to be a normal holiday time! Many school leaders have let me know their brains are ON and doing some forecasting for Term 2. I'm hoping this model and some of my take on it will also help you.

The model above was created by Professor Timothy Knoster in the 1990s to help education institutes navigate complex change. The premise is that we need to cover the 5 areas of Vision, Skills, Incentives, Resources and Action Plans for successful change.

More current research and practice experience would also point to the need for psychological safety and buy-in to be in the mix as well to ensure connection for people to each other and the work. If we connect to all of these with our heads and hearts (cognitive and emotion), buy-in follows.

Here are some things to reflect on looking at this model:


In amongst the unknown of the COVID19 environment, leaders who provide a clear vision for where the work is heading help with building certainty and a sense of the collective work. Even if this vision is where we will be at the end of next week. = Connecting to our vision through stories and evidence helps people have optimism for the outcomes of the hard work. Communicating it with inspiration, compassion and realism is a tricky line, but needed to help all see what is possible. Pragmatic inspiration is what many teachers are looking for currently. One of my Principal clients shared with me an inspirational video he sent to his students, asking them to not only make a 'to do' list, but also a 'to be' list. He shared his own (his role as a husband and dad, a calm and balanced leader) and asked all his students to step into this time together with pride and contribution as a part of their family unit. It was wonderful to watch.


Talk about REALLY having to be LIFELONG LEARNERS! Alvin Toffler would be so impressed with the educators all over the globe UNLEARNING and RELEARNING to make sure that education is accessible to students no matter what. All of us are having to step into the unknown with many things - and it will make us so much better learners. Our growth mindset is on show to each other.

I spoke to a friend of mine today who works at a regional primary school. They are all set for their online scenarios for Term 2. The people taking the lead? An Acting Leading Teacher and a first year out graduate. Both experts with skills in the required space, stepping up to help others lift their capacity. Supported, of course, by the leadership team. But sometimes - we actually need to GET OUT of the WAY!

It's here that your school's LEARNING CULTURE abilities are in the spotlight and INTENSIFIED (The Buzz of course). Those schools with strong learning cultures will be thriving in this new learning zone of uncertainty and possibility. Hard sure, but the mindset is of possibility and innovation, not doom and gloom. What skill support do your people need? How can you normalise failures, mistakes, stuff-ups? Sharing our own is the first step in making public learning OK and something to be proud of. For those of you who have undertaken The Buzz Diagnostic, which of the three pillars, Mindset, Environment or Dialogue, is your strength? Which might be your Achilles heel?


Societies incentives in this circumstance can hover down Maslow's hierarchy at survival. That is the only reason I can think of for the outbreak of toilet paper hoarding! Seriously though, we are in the grip of something we have never seen before and many people are so fearful that survival is their main focus. For some schools, many of their families are in the grips of this. The incentive right now for many educators is deep purpose. It is an internal incentive. Strong moral purpose is a big driver for many of us. Keeping the opportunity for learning and growth accessible for students by whatever means we need to do it. For some though, we need to continue to understand what motivates individuals and what holds them back, and tailor incentives accordingly.


Goes without saying that without resources, frustration is the outcome. A couple of tweaks can help here - innovative ways of getting to the outcome, tapping into the resources within your team, realigning your vision with your available resources, advocating upwards for support. Collaborating with other schools, industries, and communities is going to one of the future ways of increasing resources. Think James Dyson of vacuuming fame making ventilators, GAP making masks and scrubs for hospitals, authors reading their books on Facebook Live for children at home.


Even if you can only see until the end of next week, have a plan, communicate the plan and get input into the plan. Certainty amidst uncertainty is the steadfast place of the ferocious warmth leader. An agile plan that flexes with the daily shifts and iterations. Everyone is on a massive learning curve. There is only so much control we can have, but knowing where our action plan is at and letting people be aware of it is critical.

Doing all of this with connection, compassion and conversation - the elements of trust. I wrote about these in my last newsletter which you can find here, as well as free downloads of The Buzz and Glue.


Could you get on the phone and talk with someone on a walk around the block rather than sit at your desk online with them? Or just hop off very regularly to give your brain a break? The pomodoro technique is an interesting way to work - 25 minutes on, 5 minutes break.

Here are some other wise words from my colleague Donna McGeorge - an expert in virtual teams and meetings. Article: Hour-by Hour: How to structure the perfect workday from work

Stay safe my friends. Let me know if I can be of any help in this crazy time. Happy just to listen to your thinking things through.