Sustain the Process

After a break of several hours for dinner and a silly DVD, I set back to work. Once again the challenge was cutting three pages of single spaced notes down to two pages of double spaced text. At the outset I think I did better with my paraphrasing, but I seem to have fallen back on full quotes just over the course of writing this section.

Well, it’s done for now, and I’m one step closer to a draft of the Breadth portion of my KAM. This brings me to 30 pages so far, the target for this portion, so I expect it to come in around 40, meaning I’ll have plenty of room to tighten this up by another 10 pages or so. Meanwhile, here is the (draft) section on sustainability… I’m sure I’ll get to the last two sections and the conclusion later in the week, perhaps while I’m traveling.

8. Sustain the Process

Any effort a change agent puts into facilitating organizational change or overcoming resistance to change is lost of the changes, or more importantly the change process, cannot be sustained. “Sustainability,” says Fullan (2005), “is the capacity of a system to engage in the complexities of continuous improvement consistent with deep values of human purpose” (p. ix). Senge, Evans, and Fullan each had a great deal to offer on the subject of continuous improvement.

Senge (1990) suggested the concepts of openness, localness, and balance were important to sustained change initiatives. Openness was a call for leaders to invite members of the organization to participate and reflect openly (p. 276-277) in the change making process, to let go of the illusion of their own certainty (p. 281), and to “make information more transparent” (Senge et al., 1999, p. 455). Similarly, localness referred to the need for leaders to achieve control without controlling (Senge, 1990, p. 297, 292) and to give up the illusion of being in control (p. 292), by allowing decisions to occur at the lowest level of the hierarchy as possible. Balance, then, referred to the need to allow members of an organization to make healthy choices even in stressful times (Senge et al., 1999, p. 48), to at the very least end the war between work and family (Senge, 1990, p. 360).

Within these constraints, Senge (1990) recommended creating time for learning within organizational structures (p. 302-305). He also recommended establishing a pilot group in the early stages of a change initiative (Senge et al., 1999, p. 39). This would be an excellent opportunity to follow Senge et al’s (1994) steps for breaking through organizational gridlock by identifying problem symptoms, mapping quick fixes, identifying undesirable impacts, identifying fundamental solutions, mapping addictive side effects of quick fixes, finding interconnections to fundamental loops, and identifying high leverage actions (p. 169-172). Senge et al. (1999) also offer these five strategies for sustained change:

  • Don’t push too hard for growth (p. 61).
  • “Looking ahead to identify the most significant challenges facing you, the sources and nature of that resistance, and its potential impact on your group” (p. 62).
  • Think about the future today (p. 62).
  • Conduct experiments (p. 63).
  • Reset the goals by examining your mental models (p. 63).
  • Trust yourself (p. 64).

For his part, Evans (1996) recommended that “planning should not be objective, linear, and long range – but rather pragmatic, adaptable, and medium range” (p. 7). He rejects whatnhe calls hyperrational planning in favor of “pragmatic, adaptable approaches that acknowledge the nonrational, unplannable aspects of an organizational life and the importance of being ready to respond to external change” (p. 14), and he recommends that leaders rely “on experience and intuitive judgment in decision making” (p. 15). Like Senge, Evans too recommends making time for learning; he points out that it is common in business to dedicate 5% of an employee’s time to professional development, which in education “would amount to nine or ten days per teacher per year” (Evans, 1996, p. 137).

Fullan (2005) acknowledged that “centrally driven reforms can be a necessary first start… but can never carry the day of sustainability” (p. 7). Several lessons of implementation that Fullan has shared are relevant as well. For instance, professional development is key, evaluation – early and often – is critical, and accountability systems are necessary (Fullan, 2001b, p. 73). Fullan (2005) also hit on the fact that “there is no chance that large-scale reform will happen, let alone stick, unless capacity building is a central component of the strategy for improvement” (p. 10-11). Capacity building “is not just workshops and professional development for all. It is the daily habit of working together, and you can’t learn this from a workshop or course” (p. 69). Teachers need personal contact for this to happen, “one-to-one and group opportunities to receive and give help and more simply to converse about the meaning of change” (Fullan, 2001b, p. 124). Perhaps the most important part of capacity building, what Fullan (2005) calls “the essence of Leadership and Sustainability [is] the deliberate fostering of developmental leaders who act locally and beyond, all the while producing such leadership in others” (p. 51). Fullan (2001b) also concluded that coherence-making “is the key to dealing with the nonlinear fragmented demands of overloaded reform agendas” (p. xi), and he recommended the simple strategy of “win small, win early, win often” (Fullan, 2001a, p. 33).

If change agents responsible for integrating video games and simulations into educational institutions are able to implement these strategies for sustainability, they will be better able to facilitate organizational change and overcome organizational resistance in the long run. The technologies will have a better chance of being used, becoming a part of structure of future schools, and making a difference in teaching and learning.