School leaders play a decisive role at a school or educational institution, with the task at hand. With the task of getting people on board in a sustainable improvement culture that no longer stops. In order for this improvement culture to succeed, as a school leader you are an exemplary figure who gives direction and is able to mobilize people from distance. Someone who is constantly developing and supports the development of others and the organization and makes time and space for teachers to work on educational improvement.
Leading change in education
You are a school leader. You read the articles on Melbado and then you decide that you want to further improve the level of education at school. But at the same time, you see that your team is suffering from enormous work pressure. That a lot has to be done from outside. That your colleagues are often alone in the classroom. This can be done differently. There are schools that break through this. Where teacher teams take control together. How do you get this done at your school?
What happens at school if:
- Students are very involved
- Teachers learn from each other
- Students see where they are going and have an influence on it
- Teachers don’t complain but talk about education (even) more
- The team of teachers makes and implements choices together
- Meetings are short and energizing
- Giving students feedback to their teachers
- Teachers take action themselves, instead of asking you
- Students take ownership of their learning
In such a school it is fun to work and learn, for everyone. Including the school leader!
How can you achieve this?
This blog is about what you can do as a school leader to create a culture of ‘a little better every day together’ in your school. I do this on the basis of a simple model about how to get a team on board. For each of the four steps from that model, I first take you to a company (e.g. Philips and Bol.com) that already works with ‘continuous improvement’. Then I give you 3 concrete tips per step that you can immediately get started with.
The four steps from the change model:
- Create conviction
- Lead by example
- Set up the systems and processes
- Create the necessary skills
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Step 1. Create conviction
We start in Drachten, in the Philips shaver factory. There they started 5 or 6 years ago with the introduction of ‘Lean’. That’s what continuous improvement is called there. How did that go? Glossy presentations by external parties? No, they started with one production line with a few operators. And those operators asked them ‘what can we do to make your job easier’?
At first, the operators just couldn’t believe it. This had never happened before! They were listened to. Solutions to their problems were sought and found. Simple adjustments to the production line.
After a few months, those operators were asked if they wanted to switch to a different production line, to let other operators experience this way of working. They refused. They didn’t want to go back to the old way of working.
Step 2. Lead by example
I will take you to OMRON, which is a small factory in Den Bosch where they produce electronic sensors, for example for a roller coaster or in a car. Those sensors have to work, otherwise, there will be accidents. We met the director, Carin Hendriksen. We met her in the middle of the factory. Where her desk was.
In the beginning, Carin had an executive office. Far from the operators on the production lines. She didn’t like that, she lifted her desk and sat down in the middle of the production floor. Her team leaders said ‘but Carin, soon you will know more about the production than we do!’ Carin smiled. Three months later, all team leaders were on the production floor.
Carin not only talked about what she thinks is important but also started doing it. She voted on her feet about what she thinks is important. On the floor, it happens. There you hear what is going well and what is not. There you can help operators do their work even better.
Step 3. Set up the systems and processes
We arrived in Zoeterwoude. We are in a Heineken factory. It’s half past ten in the morning. We would like to speak to a team leader. What? That is not allowed? Absurd! We came here to learn from your continuous improvement approach. Why can’t we speak to a team leader?
Fictitious? No, in Zoeterwoude no one is allowed to make an appointment with a team leader between 09:00 and 11:00. Not human resources, not the maintenance manager, and not the management. Why? Because the team leader is working with his team every morning. For example, at the start of the day for the improvement board: ‘What went well yesterday, what didn’t? What can we learn from this?
Step 4. Create the necessary skills
We are in Utrecht at Bol.com. We visit a team of IT people. In this team, you will meet a ‘scrum master’. That is not a manager, but someone from the team itself, who guides the improvement process. He makes sure that there is a daily board session with the team, that they look back every two weeks on what can be improved, and at the same time schedule the next two weeks. Bol.com invests so much time and money in improving. Waste? No, they swear by it and wouldn’t want it any other way.