Managing change as a project

Royden Gothelf, director of RightICT, breaks down how to tackle a big change in technology when it inevitably comes

The school is a busy place – every day is timetabled and carefully planned, and every day something happens that is not planned and needs to be dealt with. There is little scope to take on additional work within the staff group because all of them are working at capacity; yet, day-in, day-out, academics and leaders in education are demonstrating how effective use of technology has the potential to significantly reduce the administrative workload in schools, freeing up time for teaching.

What I see in schools is that the platform to make use of these technologies – the infrastructure – has to be improved to realise the benefits. I have written previously on the way to cost-justify these changes; this feature is about how to deliver these changes in a busy workplace – the school – starting at the point that the headteacher and the leadership team endorse a proposal to introduce the new technology.

How to execute the action

What if it were you, introducing the change in your weekly leadership team meeting? You now have an action that is going to result in a change that will probably impact all the staff, directly or indirectly impact all of the students and, in some way, the whole school community. There are many books written on how to make change happen, and there are many stories of successful change – as well as statistics show that many technology changes fail. There can be a multitude of reasons but two common mistakes are to see this as a technical change and not engage or include the people impacted or to set the scope as overly ambitious and set unrealistic time frames. Here are some points to follow to improve the likelihood of success.

Take a project management approach, rather than just treat this as another action from the SLT meeting. Seeing an action as project is helpful, as a project has a start and end date, a clear deliverable and its own set of dedicated resources – part time or full time.

Identify dedicated resources because people are busy doing what they think needs doing – and what they see as important is unlikely to include what you may need them to do for your project. To get their help you need to be very clear on what you need done, when you need it by and, most importantly, why you need them to do it.

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It’s best to define this ‘why’ as something that is beneficial to them. If we can’t see the value in doing something, we may not do it. Also, it’s important to make sure that the person you are asking is able to do the task; if they do not have the skill to do it then, most likely, they will put it off, take a long time doing it, or not do it properly. The project approach is about what needs doing and who is skilled and able to do it.

A case study for you – this term one of the schools we work with decided to implement a cloud-based, online classroom and homework solution. This was to be used by all of the one hundred teachers and by every student in Years 7 to 13. Planning for this started in May and was led by a member of the senior leadership team, whilst the IT manager, the SBM and a project manager made up a core project team.

Importantly, the member of SLT was part of the teaching staff with no responsibility for ITand the SBM was not the leader as we wanted someone who taught. We then invited three others to join the project team, all of whom had previously used the new solution in another school or were already using it for their own classes.

These teachers were able to put together, and deliver, short training for their colleagues. Let’s not forget that teachers are excellent at creating learning materials and could relate to their colleagues using INSET sessions to train the other teachers. Students were taught how to use the online homework as part of their normal lessons.

Best practice in bringing in a new change is to be clear on what the benefit of the change is, who is impacted by the change and what needs to be done. Taking a project approach keeps things well-defined and focused, giving each person clear role in delivering the successful transition.

Royden Gothelf is an expert in strategic IT planning and reducing costs at RightIC: www.rightict.com .

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