Many apologies for taking so long to finish this series. Despite the lockdown I’ve been busier than ever (but a lot of what I have been busy with should make worthwhile blog posts in the next few weeks – and hopefully the busiest phase should be over). This is the fourth and last post in this series. The introduction is here, post 1 can be viewed here and post 2 here.
We’ve reached the end of Kotter’s model (as they are steps, I guess we’ve reached the top of the stairs. But I’m quite sure we’ll have more steps to climb). This is the broad stage referred to by Kotter as “implementing and sustaining for change” with steps 7 and 8 – build on the change; and make it stick.
Step 7: Build on the Change (these days I often see it as “sustain acceleration”, but I feel that is probably not the right descriptor for us here and now). The trouble with this step in our situation is that we may not be convinced that we want to build on this change. That is if the change is purely about doing all of our teaching online. But there were other less tangible, but no less important changes that we went through.
We’ve succeeded in putting together this emergency remote teaching system which may have its flaws, but is OK as a temporary stopgap. At least that’s what we hope. If online learning is how we have to operate for many months to come (and, let’s face it, that’s possible), then we will need to build on what we have done so far. I’ll leave that for the experts in online learning.
I think though, as well, and maybe even more usefully there is a value in thinking about what was achieved and how flexible and open we all had to be to get where we are now. And by we all, I mean all. Academic managers, principals, teachers, student support staff, students, parents, everyone. I hope what we can build on is the openness and communication that had to happen at this time. I hope, too, that part of what happened is that communication and creativity was multidirectional, and voices of those who were most involved in this emergency remote teaching were heard and paid attention to. While the decision to stop face to face teaching was probably one of the most top down possible (in most cases being mandated by governments), the approach and way forward from that point onwards were, hopefully, worked on by all. So, where we can build on the change, assuming that some form of face to face teaching and learning will be returning at some point this year, is to keep those lines of communication and trust open and active. It’s the organisational change that needs to be sustained rather than the actual nuts and bolts of the hopefully temporary way of doing what we do.
So, reflect on what you were able to do, think about how people’s energy and engagement was harnessed and how people were given a voice. How can you build on that? How can you make your organisation a more open and more creative place in the future, based on what you have already managed?
One of the key motivators for all of us is purpose (see Drive, by Daniel Pink, among other sources). This crisis allowed us to remind ourselves of our purpose – as nothing was routine any more, the role that we all saw was “how can we best help our students?” (To a very real extent this was a business necessity too, but I think there was a genuine desire among all of us in LTOs to find the best ways of supporting and providing the best possible education for our students under the circumstances). How can you keep hold of that sense of purpose?
Step 8: Make it stick (or sometimes “anchor change in the culture”). I think this cuts both ways. I think we need to be looking at anchoring the change in organisational responsiveness and communication in the way we do things, retaining that sense of togetherness and purpose that I mentioned above, but also thinking about how we can retain something of what we’ve learned about remote teaching and learning through the process. As I said in an earlier post, I think what many of us are finding is that we can do a surprising amount online, but paradoxically we are also realising more and more the value of face to face teaching. Where can we strike the balance in future, when we’re allowed back into the classroom? What will our students be asking of us? How can we use what we’ve gone through to build a more open, more creative, more flexible, more effective organisation that promotes teaching and learning in the most successful way that meets the needs of everyone, learners, teachers, parents, admin staff, managers, customers, and student support staff?
This wasn’t a traditional planned, carefully thought-out change. It was urgent and intense and challenging and engaging and filled with lessons. Let’s try not to forget those lessons as things slowly revert to the way they were.