When Change Happens
For this assignment, I interviewed four colleagues, each in a different role within a K-12 public school district in British Columbia. While each of them described varying change events, common themes could be seen amongst their answers. Considering their four perspectives, research on change theory and models, and my own experiences and philosophy, the following brief synthesis is what culminated.
For ease of explanation, I will use the change event of COVID-19 forcing students and educators into digital learning spaces. This particular change event happened without time for reflection (Castelli, 2015) or delving into the organization’s readiness (Weiner, 2009). However, what COVID-19 did allow for in K-19 education and digital learning was a forced unfreezing as explained by Lewin’s 3-step method (Al-Haddad & Kotnour, 2015).
Please reference the Change Graphic Below as I discuss the following concerning my K-12 public school district.
The antecedent event that moved all BC students and educators into digital learning spaces was a global pandemic. Stakeholder decisions were made at a provincial level, with data and information coming from the Centre for Disease Control, the BC Ministry of Education, in conjunction with the Provincial Health Officer. At this level, it was decided to close schools and deliver learning from a distance. At this point, the Ministry of Education disseminated information to middle management (superintendents and other district staff), which had the arduous task of making the swift change work for their specific and uniquely different districts. With little preparation and no time to reflect or review the literature on, ‘best practices for teaching during a pandemic’, these folks did the best they could. The middle management now needed to train their leaders on the ground. Principals, vice-principals and other support staff were quickly and often not effectively told of new protocols and guidelines. They were shown new digital tools and platforms while also navigating a global pandemic for themselves and their own families. That brings us to implementation throughout the organization.
In looking back at this rapid shift my colleagues and I made this last year, I am in awe of how well we are doing. Despite being thrown into approximately step five of Biech’s (2007), six-step CHANGE Model (p. 4.), my colleagues had some optimistic things to say about change in our organization. I have added some quotes from my interviews with them. The colours of the quotes represent where they would fall on the Change Graphic above. I did not interview anyone who fell within the green category
Said about leaders during change:
“There were many, many long hours and problem solving in real-time.”
“…provided the time and people…”
“…provide the support to the staff as they start … transitions.”
Said about their approach to change:
“I’m more open now to learning about new programs as I’ve seen how versatile and useful, they can be”
“I have realized that change is not only inevitable but necessary to help today’s youth survive and thrive in the present world.”
“I would say our approach has a greater awareness of wellness, but that also the people in the organization have also demonstrated an openness to embrace the changes.”
Said about challenges to overcome:
“…establishing appropriate boundaries for connecting [digitally].”
“Budgets and priorities have shifted, exposing many cracks in the system where families that are struggling are struggling even further in many cases. The divide is getting larger, and many cling to the hope of normalcy returning soon.”
Al-Haddad, S., & Kotnour, T. (2015). Integrating the organizational change literature: A model for successful change. Journal of Organizational Change Management, 28(2), 234–262. https://doi.org/10.1108/JOCM-11-2013-0215
Biech, E. (2007). Thriving Through Change: A Leader’s Practical Guide to Change Mastery. https://ezproxy.royalroads.ca/sso/skillport?context=22651
Castelli, P. A. (2016). Reflective leadership review: a framework for improving organisational performance. Journal of Management Development, 35(2), 217–236. https://doi.org/10.1108/JMD-08-2015-0112
Weiner, B. J. (2009). A theory of organizational readiness for change. Implementation Science, 4(67), 1–9. https://doi.org/10.1186/1748-5908-4-67