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Doing the Work AND Preparing to Do the Work

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALast week in closing the LearningForward summer conference, Anthony Muhammed spoke on the folly of implementing technical changes (think new organization charts or schedules or processes or curriculum or …) without making cultural changes.

Muhammed likened culture—those values, beliefs and norms that permeate a system or organization—to soil. It doesn’t matter how fantastic your seeds are if you plant them in arid, depleted soil. They’ll die. So will great initiatives if a poor culture isn’t first addressed.

A question related to Muhammed’s analogy arose in my workshop on Unleashing the Positive Power of Differences the day before: “How do we convince our colleagues that we need to take the time to build our team and work on these cultural issues when there is so much pressure to implement initiatives quickly?” Borrowing Muhammed’s analogy, I have two suggestions for preparing that soil of culture so that initiatives can flourish:

  • Frame Doing the Work (the initiative) AND Preparing to Do the Work (professional development that addresses culture as well as the initiative) as a polarity. Polarities are two interdependent pursuits or ideologies that, over time, need each other. We can’t just prepare to do the work. Students’ futures depend on our constant improvement of instruction. But we can’t charge in and do the work without preparing.
  • Provide the evidence people need! Peruse the different forms of evidence people need to be convinced that they may hold an incomplete picture of reality by reviewing the differentiated coaching style descriptions. What might help your colleagues—or leaders—understand the need to PREPARE to do the work?
    • Maybe the soil analogy will be enough for some.
    • Others may need the story of an organization very much like yours that succeeded where you failed—all because they took the time to PREPARE to do the work.
    • Or, perhaps a list of failed initiatives that worked elsewhere might do the trick.
      The point is, what convinces you may be different than what someone else needs! And, leaders in general fail to provide the evidence and resources people need to be convinced that change will be worth the hard work required.

Of course, with planning, great leaders find ways to combine preparing and doing. We can create learning experiences that both change culture and provide the information needed to implement a new initiative. Use protocols for discussion with adults that they can use with their students–and focus the discussions on articles, film clips of best practices, examples of student work, and other tools that help change culture.

How are you balancing preparing and doing???

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Jane Kise

Jane Kise is a consultant and executive coach. The founder of Differentiated Coaching Associates and author of over 20 books, she works with schools and businesses worldwide to help create environments where everyone can flourish.

This Post Has 2 Comments
  1. Jane,
    After reading your post, I ended up watching Sir Ken Robinson’s 2nd TED Talk (2010) since I had just finished his “Finding Your Element” — http://goo.gl/BUED2D

    I then went to his NEW curated talks on Education — http://goo.gl/ruIuxM

    The 3rd one left me in tears: Sugata Mitra in “Build a School in the Cloud” tells how he had put computers in holes in the walls of Indian slums and discovered the SOLE model for self-organized learning. It included British grannies for the E of Encouragement. If you haven’t seen it, please take a look and let me know what you think. This is another whole view of PREPARING.

    I still have 6 more of the TED talks to go – the 10 are arranged so you can pause and then come back.
    MCB

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