From Research

Leadership can be defined as providing vision, direction, and support toward a different and preferred state - suggesting change. Thus, leadership and change are closely related, and some would say they are two sides of the same coin (Manasse, 1984). It could be said that leaders are change-makers, and the studies that follow provide insights about what they do to make change happen. Results from Louis and Miles' case studies of five high school change efforts (1990) and Hord and Huling-Austin's synthesis of facilitation activities in nine elementary school stories of change (1986) have been reviewed. The actions of the leaders in these two sets of reports were highly similar, and have been integrated into a concise set of actions recommended for consideration by potential change leaders (see Facilitative Leadership: The Imperative For Change, Hord, 1992).

Articulating a shared vision. Louis and Miles reported that successful change leaders in the high school study consistently articulated a vision for their schools so that everyone understood the vision; and second, they shared influence, authority, responsibility, and accountability with the staff in shaping the vision so that shared ownership of the vision occurred. Since the studies reported by Hord and Huling-Austin were specifically designed to identify strategies necessary to support implementation of change, the starting point of their studies began after the vision had been developed and established. Thus, no attention to vision building was included.

Planning and providing resources. Hord and Huling-Austin identified hundreds of facilitators' actions across three years of implementation and organized them in a framework of categories. The first of these was "Developing Supportive Organizational Arrangements," a category that included planning, managing, providing materials, resources, space, etc. Louis and Miles also reported that effective high school leaders engaged in planning. They used an evolutionary kind of planning, based not on an extensive blueprint, but guided by the school's development. Thus, the leaders adapted plans as a result of the school's experiences of what was working toward the vision and what was not. Additionally, Louis and Miles stated that leaders scrutinized the school's environment in order to access both material and human resources. They did not hesitate to reallocate time, people, equipment, and assistance, and to continually search for new information to share.

Investing in professional development and training. Hord and Huling-Austin specified "Training" as a second implementation category. Training included teaching, reviewing, and clarifying new knowledge and skills necessary for implementing the change. Carefully designed staff development and inservice were sometimes delivered by the leaders. At other times, leaders arranged for consultants or specialists to provide training. Louis and Miles included training with the prior category, planning and providing resources.

Checking or assessing progress. "Monitoring and Evaluation" was the third category or set of actions identified by Hord and Huling-Austin. These actions represented leaders' continual efforts to "touch base" with implementors, seek input about their needs, and assess implementation progress in a formative mode. Further, these actions also involved more formal data collection, analysis, reporting and transferring data, and included summative evaluation purposes.

Continuing to give assistance. "Providing Consultation and Reinforcement" was a fourth group of actions reported by Hord and Huling-Austin; these actions focused on promoting implementation through coaching, problem solving, and technical assistance to individual users. Louis and Miles related to this category by describing leaders' coping skills for resolving emerging problems. Leaders coordinated and orchestrated the change effort, exhibiting enormous persistence, tenacity, and willingness to live with risks. Such individuals, observed Louis and Miles, required a high tolerance for complexity and ambiguity. However, experience with coping led to better coping skills, Louis and Miles assessed, lending encouragement to those school leaders developing their own understandings for guiding change in their schools.

Creating a context conducive to change. The importance of this strategy has been emerging over the past ten years. In both the corporate world (Senge, 1990) and education context (Rosenholtz, 1989), it has been clear that engaging staff in continuous learning opportunities, and in decision making and other authority-sharing practices, increases staff commitment to change. A context that supports the change process has two dimensions identified by Boyd (1992): the "physical" features of the school and district, including facilities, resources, policies, and others; and "people" factors that include staff norms, attitudes, relationships, to cite a few. When trust between the administrator(s) and teachers, and trust among teachers, is present, this context supports a high level of quality by the staff that increases their effectiveness and leads to students' increased successful learning. Staffs in such contexts value change and seek change to enhance their efficacy with students.

Among all these categories, Hord and Huling-Austin found that more facilitation activities occurred in "Developing Supportive Organizational Arrangements" (planning and providing resources) than in any other. Implementation also involved a large amount of "Providing Consultation and Reinforcement" (continuing to give assistance) by the change leaders. In the first two years of implementation, one-fourth to one-third of the total leaders' actions were in this consultation category. This category proved to be essential to successful change implementation. Another important category was "Monitoring and Evaluation" (checking progress); the number of monitoring activities correlated significantly with teachers' degree of implementation of the change. While leaders' actions in the "Training" category occurred less frequently, they tended to be of longer duration and more complex in design and delivery.

While the studies reviewed above focused on actions by school and district level facilitators, Fullan (1991) cited actions required specifically of district level staff for effective change. He noted (p.198) that district staff test the need for and priority of a change and determine the potential appropriateness of a particular innovation for addressing the need. Effective district facilitators clarify, support, and insist on the role of principals and other administrators as central to implementation. They ensure that direct implementation support is provided in the form of available quality materials, in-service training, one-to-one technical help, and opportunity for peer interaction, while they allow for certain redefinition and adaptation of the innovation to local needs. Further, the district staff communicate with and maintain the support of parents and the school board; set up an information-gathering system to monitor and correct implementation problems; and project a realistic time perspective. While the single school is the center for change, it is nested in a district context, making the actions, or lack of actions, of district implementation facilitators highly influential at the school level.

There are strong parallels in the results of the elementary, high school, and district level studies cited above. Clarifying the vision, acquiring resources, providing training and professional development, monitoring systematically and regularly, and supplying follow-up assistance were typically supplied by the change leaders, persons who understood and were skillful in operationalizing their leadership for change role. More recent studies have pointed to the significant strategy of cultivating a context where change is valued.

Providing these six major categories of activities is quite a task, but is precisely what effective schools and districts do. How do these six sets of activities look in a district trying to improve its educational program for students at-risk? This paper concludes with a description.

Next Page: From Practice

Published in Issues ...about Change Volume 1, Number 2, Leadership: An Imperative for Successful Change (2000)