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  • Writer's pictureDr. Patrick E. Crawford

Managing Change

Leadership Thoughts | Issue #86

Although there may be little difference between leading change and managing change in some people’s minds, I believe there is a significant difference, and both are necessary. Like the double helix used to describe the physical structure of DNA, leadership and management are the two linked strands that wind around each other like a twisted ladder. The vertical rails of the ladder represent leadership; these leadership rails are connected by horizontal rungs representing management. The double helix illustration demonstrates the importance of leading and managing change in any organization or school.

My thought is supported by a document written by Michael Horn, How Leaders Can Successfully Manage Change in Colleges and Universities. He co-founded the Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation, a non-profit think tank that focuses on the future of education and work. He has written several books, but Disrupting Class is his premier work. In this article, Horn provides tools for managing change and leading change. Although colleges and universities appear in the title, the ideas associated with managing change apply to schools also.

Tools of Cooperation

After the leader can clearly explain the change they seek, they have to convince others who will be involved in the transition. Michael Horn is confident that motivational speeches or command-and-control use to get cooperation often does not work. The first important task is calibrating the stakeholder's relative position regarding the proposed change.

To borrow an advertising slogan, you must determine where you want to go and how to get there. Horn’s chart below explains. To help decide where the organization’s members fall within the chart is an essential step in managing change. The left-hand side of the graph represents the agreement on the goal (change). The bottom of the chart represents an agreement on how to achieve the organization’s goals.

The upper right quadrant represents an agreement of stakeholders to what they want to achieve and how to get there. In contrast, the lower left quadrant represents stakeholders who disagree on what they want and how to get there. The other two quadrants either indicate an agreement or goals and not on the process or an agreement on the process but not goals. Within each of the four quadrants are tools that can improve the congruency between goals and strategies.

Leadership Tools

In the upper-left quadrant are tools that align with getting results instead of focusing on the process. The leader manages with an inspiring vision, not by telling people how to achieve the vision.

Management Tools

When the organization stakeholders fall into this quadrant, they are deep into the process. They may not agree on the goal or the why, but they emerge in the process.

Culture Tools

Placement into the upper-right quadrant occurs because the stakeholder agrees on both the goals and the processes. There is a consensus on priorities, and people hold to achieve results. They have a strong culture that is both stabilizing and empowering.

Power Tools

Authority and coercion are used to get other people to fall into place with the plan you’ve created (without their input or buy-in). This requires a high level of skill in delivering the power tool without causing harm to the relationship and culture. When none of this works, use the “tool of separation.”

When there is little agreement on the goals and the process, it may become necessary to use the “power tools.” Authority and coercion are power tools. Power tools are distasteful to leaders who prefer to “empower” instead of power over people. Another tool does not appear on the matrix but might be the best option for this quadrant. It is called the Tool of Separation.

Tools of Separation

This tool allows people to remain with the status quo or participate in the new initiative. A new culture can be developed for those participating in the change to facilitate a smoother transition. The following chart describes tools and when they should be applied.

As change leaders, we would like for all the members of our organization to be within the upper-right quadrant, where there is agreement on the goals and the process to achieve the goals and where there is a culture of cooperation and determination. The article left me with the impression that it is better to work with people where they are on the matrix instead of attempting to move everyone to another quadrant. That movement may occur, but it won’t be because of the leader; it only happens when an individual decides to make a move. Although I see the drawback to the Tool of Separation, I also know the value when an organization is stuck in no or low agreement on goals and processes.

Michael Horn triggered my thinking and provided a view of change that I had not considered. Change isn’t a more linear process; it is multi-dimensional, so a strong leader must have management skills to assist others as they move towards a goal regardless of where there is agreement on organizational goals and processes.


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