Journal of Emerging Trends in Marketing and Management (reading.ac.uk)
School improvement and change are inextricably linked. According to Koch (2003, cited
in Heffernan, 2020:123) any achievement and success will fall into a 'death spiral' unable to yield the planned successes. Teachers are taught from the outset to develop a toolkit which enables them to become reflective practitioners (Learning to Teach, 2021)
with the intention of constantly refining and improving the outcomes for their pupils. Similarly, effective school leaders will use their school evaluation calendar, as part of their toolkit, to monitor the impact of their improvement plans, which, when effectively
delivered, are likely to identify faults and lead to further enhancements and change. Leading that change is often challenging and chaotic. (Hussain et al., 2018) Despite many school leaders being bright and powerful people, some are unable to identify and
augment key change agents skilfully to fully deliver on their core purpose, which, according to Gibb, N., (2015) is 'to grow our economy and nurture our culture', then their schools will fail to thrive. (Waters, Marzano and McNulty, 2003)
or MATs fail to deliver their core purpose this can result in them being judged by Ofsted as in one of their 3 failing categories or, equally as damning, a list of poor key performance indicators, such as poor academic standards or poor staff and pupil attendance
or conduct. Conversely, embracing the synergy of motivation that leaders must fully deliver on their core purpose built alongside a wealth of knowledge of and skills to implement change management plans, the organisation is more likely to succeed.
with most school leaders during their early career development solely focusing on being novice leaders of learning and rarely having the opportunity to learn the necessary knowledge, skills and behaviours to enable them to become an expert portfolio or project
manager, they find it difficult to aspire to be successful leaders of institutions (Bergmark, et al; 2018). Some of those novice leaders of learning do grow the ambition of becoming a leader, but it could be argued that if that aspirant MAT leader has not
been able to take advantage of learning and implementing strategic management tools, such as those documented on MBA and NPQEL programmes, then they are less likely to be able to improve the MAT at the necessary pace, (Ismail et al, 2020).
will aim to further present an argument of how to effectively lead sustainability and change management plans. It will attempt to describe some of the risk factors that leaders, including those in schools, may face when innovating and provide an insight into
some strategies which may mitigate some of those associated risks. Whilst many of the management plans can be applied across all businesses, this essay will largely centre on schools, as evaluating both schools and other businesses’ strategies is beyond
the scope of this essay.
With the argument for embracing change made, it is necessary to explore and critically evaluate how change management plans can be implemented effectively. With project management being about finding the right projects and portfolio
management being about doing the right projects, (Nine Feet Tall, 2014) then it could be construed that when projects and portfolios are managed effectively, progress is likely to be both maintained and developed.
However, (Atmar, et al, 2019) conclude
that often organisations don’t always know exactly which aspects of their business creates the most value to help them identify their uniqueness or their niche in the market. This, (Atmar, et al, 2019) claim, is a 'critical step', since being cognisant
of their uniqueness and which areas create the most value determines not only the knowledge on how to design an effective operating model, but also where and how to allocate resources, such as successfully implementing their talent mapping plans with the intention
of securing sustainability. With up to 42% of start-up businesses in the UK failing because ' there’s no market need for their services or products', (Kepka, 2021) this is a necessary action. When leaders know how to augment and best allocate resources,
they can maximise their outputs. (Mathieu, Gilson and Ruddy, 2006) or, in the case of schools, improve their key performance indicators, such as pupil outcomes.
Even when there is an understanding of which areas create the most values and projects and
portfolios management lines have been discussed and planned for action, if the vision and key communications are clumsily delivered the projects' effectiveness remain at risk of being unsuccessful. Heckleman (2017) states 5 categorised reported reasons for
'organisational change failure':
1. Not creating a simple, compelling organizational vision for change.
2. Not changing individual beliefs.
3. Poor planning and/or execution of the change effort.
4. Inadequate leadership, including
a lack of leader involvement, preparation, and capability.
5. Insufficient or confusing communication.
Suggesting that without the right skills and behaviours to manage the systems and corral people into thinking unilaterally, the projects are
likely to fail. (Stone, 2021). Once organisations have garnered a clear vision and mitigated the risks above and developed the capacity to drive and monitor the systems to progress the project, is the project likely to be more successful? Not necessarily.
Those systems by Heckleman (2017) are essentially the hard elements or process driven aspects according to the Mckinsey's 7-S-Model (Stone, 2021). What is missing are the soft elements, which is the capacity to develop the people, harness their values and
skills and evolve the culture and the projects.
Working alongside leaders I observe strategy development and implementation of it frequently, particularly if the school is on a rapid improvement journey or is being preparing a significant change of
its core offer. For example, adopting a 14-place specialist resource provision (SRP) for pupils with complex or additional needs. In each case when change was effectively implemented it was because it was well executed using project planning maps akin to the
Mckinsey's 7-S model or similar. By incorporating the 'hard elements' such as strategy, structure and systems, which overlay on the organisation's values, their mission and with keen knowledge of their people or the 'soft elements', they were able to maintain
and progress their core purpose more readily, which lent momentum to the ecosystem of teaching and learning. In the case of the school which adopted an SRP, in order it:
Reviewed its values and purpose.
⦁ Consulted internal school leaders on if they had the necessary capacity to run an SRP.
Identified the possible impact of both the soft (answering all the whys - part of its core mission was to be an inclusive school) and the hard elements (when, where and how).
Mapped the staff talents and ambitions to different aspects of the project.
⦁ Undertook further scenario planning activities with selected external stakeholders, such as local
headteachers, further answering all the whys, (being mindful of which stakeholders needed to be involved in the early stages of planning and which ones didn't).
These steps were all completed prior to progressing the plans with key agents and consulting
with all known stakeholders, including those in the wider community, such as local nurseries. By assigning different people to different aspects of the project the senior leaders were able to further diversify the skills, knowledge and behaviours of their
wider staff team while progressing the other elements of their school development plans such as developing their phonics programme. Skilfully implementing a business-as-usual style, leaders were able to demonstrate a compelling picture that the organisation
was capable of additional project management, enabling their staff to realise and have confidence in the organisation's strength and capacity to weather the proposed changes. (Stone, 2021).
However, an unintended consequence of the implementation materialised
when several of the aspirant middle leaders' roles were impacted by the change. As one of the team was promoted to lead the SRP and replaced with someone who soon displayed competency and capability concerns. The team came under pressure and were unable to
fulfil their roles as effectively as previously. Whilst this was managed well over time within the school systems and processes, it did impact the moral and confidence of the team, resulting in one staff member leaving and most of them questioning how, if
the impact of change was be on them, they could be more involved in the processes, including taking a lead in the recruitment for members of their team.
Earlier it was mentioned that managing the plans for school improvement is challenging. Rarely
can schools in a failing Local Authority or Trust's or Ofsted category apportion their leaders to effectively portfolio manage, while progressing towards a good Ofsted judgment. This is largely due to limited access to suitable funds. With approximately
33% of start-up businesses failing because of a lack of funds (Kepka, 2021) having ease of access to the money for improvement and sustainability plans is essential. Further, these schools are more likely to suffer from higher staff and governor turnover,
hence a diminishing leadership capability to develop the successful culture which could bring about the necessary change (Ofsted, 2020). It could be argued therefore that schools or MATs judged as good or better, have a monopoly in the portfolio management
world as they are more likely to possess the capability to lean into it as they have all the necessary facets, including funding, to expedite these necessary projects.
Being unable to project manage when in a failing school can be illustrated further
by 479 primary schools (DfE, 2016) being labelled as coasting. Coasting was the DfE's term for schools being unable to make adequate progress and attain a specific data set, i.e., 85% of pupils at the end of KS2 attaining Level 4 in Reading and sustaining
this over a 3-year period between 2014 and 2016, (DfE, 2016). The schools, which were demonstrating they were unable to yet extricate themselves from the legacy of poor outcomes and standards were offered only one system of support and that was to be sponsored
by a MAT. But that is not what all the 479 heads always wanted. (Belger, 2021) Some wanted alternatives, i.e., temporary school to school support, like Trust support, but without the permanency. Yet going into a MAT doesn't always result in success either
despite the MAT's portfolio capability, as hundreds of schools must be rebrokered into different Trusts each year. Typically, in 2019, 307 schools had to be rebrokered costing the DfE millions (Allen-Kinross, 2019), largely because they focussed on short term
wins and not the long game and therefore didn't build the capacity. (Carter, 2020:94)
By 2019 the term coasting was scrapped, (a-DfE, 2019), but over 3000 state funded schools were in a failing category and all were subject to an academisation
order or some were ‘forced’ into a MAT (b-DfE, 2019), and as already presented this is not what all leaders had intended or wanted. Unless they could build the project management capability, they were unlikely to make the necessary progress (Carter,
What needs to be done to progress the necessary change is simply make people re-think or re-analyse the core of the organization and motivate them towards change (GraduateWay, 2021). Yet if understanding people’s behaviours were
simple and easily changed, surely it would follow that building formulas for change management would also be simple. Thompson (2018: p. xv.) states,
'In our desperate search for simplicity, people want success to work like a garage door opener, where
a four-digit code springs the lock. But culture is not a keypad and people are not doors. Our codes are ever changing in reaction to our environment.'
So, in recognising that the organisation cannot effectively make the necessary transitions without
the people changing too (What is Change Management? 2021) when introducing any changes to processes, managing people must be intrinsic to the plans. (Schwartz, 2018).
In my roles I am party to a variety of leadership models and observe and comment on
behaviours, skills and knowledge with the intention of improving outcomes and enabling the organisation to deliver on their core purpose. Historically I have observed the impact of a coercive style of people management from central team members on several
occasions, proffering similar results, such as high staff turnover, which itself can lead employees to endure poor job satisfaction, and for the organisation to suffer from low productivity and an inability to gain traction to drive and sustain the necessary
progress. (Surji, 2014). Being cognisant that not all staff turnover has a negative impact helps leaders to better understand the nuances of their organisations, which can lead to progress. For example, if an unproductive staff leaves or one that uses a coercive
style of leadership leaves, then productivity and reputation can improve. This could be acknowledged as positive. (Lau and Albright, 2011). Nissan’s brand, which is worth millions of dollars, (Wayland, 2021) was at stake when it was revealed that their
CEO had been arrested on charges of financial misconduct (Factbox, 2020). Senior board members intervened to prevent the brand of car being tarnished (McCurry, 2018). Within days of Goshn’s arrest, the board had voted unanimously to dismiss him, appoint
a new CEO and release a statement which they felt would reconfirm and strengthen their pledge to their values and those of their stakeholders. This response seemingly helped safeguard their vision and values and Nissan generated an operating profit of $921
million ahead of its initial target (Wayland, 2021). Demonstrating that even when long standing members leave, if the change management plans are robust and carefully implemented, progress can be made. Understanding that people management alongside effective
project and portfolio management skills are likely to better engineer and sustain change should be a key aspect of all organisations' toolkits.
The next part of the essay will explore disruptive innovation and how it can be transpired into the ecosystem
of education and development using innovative ideas I have witnessed, but on a smaller scale. Harvard Business Review, (2015) describes disruptive innovation as ‘a small enterprise targeting overlooked customers with a novel but modest offering and gradually
moving upmarket to challenge the industry leaders.’ Poundland, a renowned British low-end single priced essential household items store started with a £50,000 start-up fund and was sold to one of its larger competitors in 2002 for £50,000,000.
(Wikipedia, 2021) It essentially created a new market for low-end essential items and reshaped the existing market. This is an example of a disruptive innovator. Translating this into the world of education could be a MAT with eight schools offering
a service that a larger Trust, one with, for example, 28 schools is not currently offering. With the larger Trust focussing on sustaining their status quo, the smaller Trust, in this case the disrupter, marries the synergy of its entrepreneurial behaviours
with its sustainability plans and by the time the incumbent, or larger Trust, notices the disrupter has already taken more than the larger Trust had anticipated of its share of the market or its share of the services.
To contextualise this further,
currently larger Trusts are likely to have a business growth plan with a focus on taking on more schools, ideally secondary ones which yield more funding enabling sustainable growth and potential, possibly taking on a teaching hub and offering a suite of leadership
improvement services (CARTER, 2020). Meanwhile the smaller Trust with 8 schools, but no teaching hub and minimal opportunities for growth opportunities of schools as the local market is already saturated, can still act as a disrupter by developing opportunities
such as offering a suite of webinars based on current trends and its success of using them, such as the Mary Myatt concept; a digital platform, designed to help schools improve their daily core offers. https://www.marymyatt.com/
With a Mary Myatt potential in each Trust the smaller Trust could develop their unique selling points nation or worldwide via an online platform. With the supply chain access accelerated in the digital world since Covid-19, it is now made easier to enter and
expedite such innovative business strategies. (McKinsey and Company, 2020)
By identifying the future challenges of education, the smaller Trust could also offer a framework for making disrupter type decisions based on mitigating these challenges. For
example, by identifying the potential outcomes of a review the disrupter could identify a niche in the market. A recent review of initial teacher training (ITT) overseen by the (DfE, 2021) by its intention is to ensure that early career teachers access 195
days in school or an equivalent course length. Knowing this leaves some leaders to speculate that there is an intention to bring all ITT provision out of universities as they generally offer 28-week courses. Alternatively, universities will have to reconsider
their HR policies, employee contracts and pay and conditions and costs of the ITT provision as this is likely to change if the course length is significantly extended. Could the disrupter offer a suite of opportunities for ITT routes, including developing
participants' basic skills and knowledge, such as fully funded GCSEs Maths/English classes and offering hands on experiences and references for those without the pre-entry qualifications?
Similarly, knowing there is an increased appetite in favour of
the government’s academy policy, ‘over half of MAT trustees (53%) reported to NGA that their board plans to increase the number of academies, (NGA, 2021) and converging this with the new schools' minister being keen to increase the number of schools
in Trusts (Carter, 2021), also suggests that there will be a move away from buying the local authority school improvement services. With more maintained schools moving into Trusts this will result in the school improvement service offered by LAs being unsustainable
as most Trusts have their own school improvement services. Could the disrupter offer a suite of school improvement or talent management and development services or online courses which are complimentary to teachers' ambitions and skillset such as blogging,
podcasting, international networking, mentoring and Challenge Partner type opportunities?
Finally, with the knowledge that good quality early years education and early life support can provide positive life-lasting outcomes (BBC, 2020)
yet several nurseries in a financial crisis or having deficits are at risk of closing, despite early years provision being a place where profits can be made, (Early Education, 2015), could the disrupter adopt a range of EYFS providers and offer services to
support families, including the elderly, building on the success of Lark Hall Elderly Village (Extracare, 2021) where the elderly and young children benefited from coming together in the community, but with a focus on climate change friendly or indigenous
outdoor and 'the arts' education? Essentially the disrupter could become an ecosystem, developing and providing services to all from cradle to grave.
So, whilst the larger Trusts are focussing on offering the government funded NPQs sessions and recovering
from the pandemic to maintain their status quo, it is possible that a smaller Trust, which has capability to innovate and realise its ambitions could set up project plans to disrupt and create new markets and reshape the larger Trusts’ plans. (HBR, 2015).
In conclusion, whilst these disrupter plans are bold, they are not impossible, as I have had the opportunity to see them in action; all delivered without a 'project building brain' (HBR, 2008), so possessing one, the possibilities and sustainability should
be even more innovative. While change is necessary to secure the organisation’s sustainability and progress their niche in the market, being aware of effective portfolio management skills and working with others in challenging circumstances is essential
if the ecosystem of education is to continue to thrive. Similarly, leaders of failing schools should carefully plan innovative strategies, including those hard and soft elements referenced in the McKinsey’s 7-S-Model and consider alternative school to
school support systems if they want to be able to deliver on their core purpose and ensure the success of their school.
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