How do we change something?


Every once in a while you hear something that makes you think “Ah! That’s how it is.” I thought that when I heard Mick Waters, former head of the QCDA speak to a group of Birmingham Deputy Heads last year. He left me with the memory of a quadrant graph (pictured above) of the four main ways he sees being used in schools to change things.


Schools have to change things. It’s inevitable. But how they choose to manage the change when it occurs varies from school to school.


Reference Control is when people say “We’ve got to do this because _________ says so.” The blank could be the Government, Ofsted, the Governors, the headteacher, the senior management, whoever – just someone else that you make reference to, without taking any responsibility yourself. A bit like when I said it was Mick Waters who gave me all this stuff – that way I’m not actually taking responsibility for this post myself 😉


People Pleasing is putting your staff first. Any change is couched in such a way that it makes staff feel completely happy and positive about it – making sure conditions continue to be as comfortable as possible for the teachers. It’s a laudable aim, but one that should be held in tension with the needs of the students. You can’t always please everyone.


Commanding speaks for itself. Changes are ordered and expected to be followed. Great in a crisis, but can reduce staff’s ability to think for themselves.


Carefully Reasoned Argument is when leaders use logic and reason to argue why change is necessary and how it should take place.


All four have their place – and it could be argued that a well balanced organisation would use all four at different points in its life, or during the course of a year, or term. But you should watch out if one becomes dominant. Because if it does, it is likely that everyone will start speaking that way. The headteacher to the other leaders. The leaders to the teachers. The teachers to the students.


It strikes me that one thing in common with all four is that they all involve conversation. Talk. Dialogue. Change can only happen if the changers talk to each other.


So how do we change something?


One conversation at a time, using a balance of arguments.

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