Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Sustain your Change

This past year, many organizations throughout the nation implemented a lot of changes to meet the needs of kids and as a result had improvement in student learning. As we return this year, it is very important that we continue to grow as educators and leaders of learning. For that to occur, we must focus on sustaining the changes that we have made in the previous year.

Diets fail because their purpose is solely to change you with little emphasis on sustaining change once it's made. In order for a diet to be effective, it must become permanent in how you live your life. You must make the changes become your new lifestyle, and we do that by committing to the behaviors and actions that helped you reach your goal.

In your organization, change is no different than the diet illustration above. In order to S.U.S.T.A.I.N the changes that you make, you should follow these steps:

Solidify your Mission, Vision, Values & Goals

Organizations think we have already have them, so we don't need to revisit them. Wrong! This is your core, why you exist. You must revisit, reflect and recommit. Focus on how the organization can be even better at living up to your Mission, Vision and Values in order to reach your SMART Goals.

Use Data to Understand the Reality of the Change you Implemented

It is important to reflect on data that your currently have. Using tools from SMART Goal experts like Terry Morganti-Fisher and Anne E. Conzemius will help you extract quantitative and qualitative data to guide your team through the process of reflection.  Organizations that are successful pull many data points from many data sources over a long period of time to effective gauge their current reality.

Simplify Productive Practices

Utilizing the data reflection process, identify practices that are effective and find ways that your team can be even more efficient at doing them. Again, SMART Goals authors, Morganti & Conzemius have great tools to choose from.  Your questions should be answered based on the trends that you extract from your trend data.

Terminate Counterproductive Practices

Taking things off the plate is hard to do, but data can help you identify practices and activities that are a waste of time. You will find things that you like to do which are counterproductive. Terminate those things if you want to be more productive. Sustaining change is more about being committed than being comfortable.

Action Plan

You've identified what you need to do, now make your plan of activities and strategies that your team will commit to in order to sustain the change. Identify the key people responsible for leading these strategies to improve clarity of responsibility and remove confusion. Using the SMART Goal process will help your team be clear in defining your specific and strategic plans to reach your goals.

Implement your Monitoring Plan

If you want to continue to improve, you must be willing to make a plan of what you will monitor and how frequently you will monitor it. Monitoring learning is important, but so is monitoring your action plan. It helps your team hold themselves accountable for staying committed to the action plan. As you identify gaps in learning, you can use data from monitoring your action plan to evaluate if your team is failing to follow the strategies that you outlined in your action plan.

Norm Your Behaviors Again

Last and most important, teams must norm how they will work together to follow the plan. Include norms for when to meet, how to meet, contribute, collaborate and support one another. Remove useless or confusing norms and collectively add new norms that will make your team more cohesive, efficient and collaborative.

Change is easy because you can see results quickly, but failure to sustain the change is where organizations fail and go back to their original state. This occurs because they never took the time to see what worked, what their current reality is and what they must do next to make themselves even better.

Sustaining change is hard work, but with a unified team, committed leaders and commitment to follow a detailed plan of action, organizations can solidify change into the organization's lifestyle and make learning for all a reality.


  1. I dig this, John. Really think that it's useful for school leaders to recognize that there IS a tangible process that they need to work through when introducing change to their buildings.

    Sometimes I think principals believe that as long as they announce a change, it will come off without a hitch.

    There's more to changing culture than simply deciding that you want to change your culture!

    Just added your blog to my feed reader. Looking forward to following your continuing thoughts.

    Rock on,

    (As an aside, I'd LOVE it if you'd add "Name/URL" to your "Comment As" options. While your current settings cut back on spam, they also require me to be signed in at another service before I can leave a comment on your blog. That extra step sometimes results in a lost comment!)

  2. Bill, made the change on accessing the comments. Thank you for your comments and for following my blog. I'm just starting out with this new venture, and I appreciate the feedback to help me get better at my own thinking and leadership.

    I agree that change is more than making an announcement. Making a detailed plan of action and playing an active and supportive role in the change is critical.

    Thanks again,