Monday, 3 June 2013


A colleague asked me recently how we started with the challenges we faced at Education Leeds and I told him he should read a great book by James Belasco...

Reading 'Teaching the Elephant to Dance' taught me such a lot about the management of change: and that changing organisations and structures and cultures is possible. However, it also made me realise that changing anything is a complex task and that is where I learned so much about cultural change, learning leadership, beautiful systems and intelligent accountability.

If you read 'Teaching the Elephant to Dance', you'll learn that organisations are like elephants--slow to change. That empowered and trusted people create change and that strong and determined leadership is needed to create the future. That change requires a powerful and compelling vision that focuses and energises people to embrace that new vision for the future. That participation empowers change and beautiful systems are needed to reinforce the vision and most importantly that actions matter!

Importantly, as experience and hard knocks teach you, in the world of change management you have to anticipate the obstacles...
  • Obstacle 1--It always takes longer that you think
  • Obstacle 2--Exaggerated expectations...... everyone wants everything, now!
  • Obstacle 3--Carping skeptics are everywhere
  • Obstacle 4--Procrastination is endemic
  • Obstacle 5--Perfect solutions don't exist
We face enormous challenges in education and it's important that we create the future together rather than simply allowing things to happen to us. We need to understand that people are the key to achieving anything and that culture matters... put simply culture is everything! We need...
  • To mark the passing of the old way of doing things
  • Develop shared activities built around the new vision
  • Develop shared sayings around the new vision
  • Use stories about colleagues who using the new vision
  • Handle difficult issues using the new vision
Importantly, the last twenty years have taught me time and time again that we can change things for the better and that elephants can learn to dance!

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