Designing for success

Do you recognise any of these scenarios?

  • “The current system is very difficult. There is one person whose main job is to maintain it but they are the ‘font of all knowledge’ and the technology is not embedded. A new head of school has joined who advocates strongly for a competing product. How will this be navigated?”

  • “The current system is mostly effective. The pastoral team requires more sophisticated data protection and privacy. This wasn’t considered when the current system was implemented. Do they adopt a new system just for the pastoral team or find another way?”

  • “The current system is deeply unpopular, but everyone knows how to use it. There are several competing options and each one has a member of staff who champions it. A new IT Director was brought in specifically to modernise the architecture. Which direction will they go?”

The limited success of many change efforts in schools is partly due to their organisational structure.

Schools are not tidy, efficient, coordinated structures. Instead, they comprise many sub-organisations which can be added, removed or changed with very little overall effect on the organisation (Weick, 1976). The internal stability of these sub-organisations means school-wide innovations often do not succeed at changing practices within each silo.

Furthermore, as described by Fullan (2001), many change efforts fail due to a lack of planning prior to the commencement of an innovation, the misconception that off-the-shelf solutions will work (as opposed to those which take cultural context into account), unrealistic or undefined timeframes, and a lack of sensitivity towards those who are apparently rejecting or resisting the change.

Another problem many schools come up against during times of change is that there is not enough time. This is usually because of lack of planning.

Plan for your technology innovation to succeed by:

  • Understanding the problem

  • Building the vision, mission, and strategy

  • Setting realistic time frames

  • Tailoring innovations to your school context

  • Finding a way to save many people’s most precious resource: time

  • Prioritising collaboration

  • Delineating milestones

  • Supporting those who are struggling with change

These steps will allow you to:

  • Convert doubt into decision

  • Convert uncertainty into vision

  • Convert resistance into strategy

  • Convert waste into cohesion

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