A Recipe for Success; Let’s Try to Improve rather than Change

Over the last few days there has been a lot of chatter on Twitter about success and failure. While I myself blogged about how failure leads to success, as @amandacdykes put it “sometimes we need to experience success once in a while”. Perhaps some of us experience failure because we want to change the world and we set our goals too high. I remembered an earlier blog post I wrote in September and I thought that I would post it here as well.

I just finished reading “The Six Secrets of Change” by Michael Fullan. Before that I read “Who Killed Change” by Ken Blanchard. If you look at my bookshelves you will find books about leadership, education, and change. I would say that one of my goals is to be an educational leader focused on being a change agent. I am not sure if that is the correct title but I think you get my drift.

One of my first administrative positions was in a small Jewish Day school in Calgary Alberta. I was young and relatively new to administration and I wanted to come in and leave my mark on the school. As a staff project we read and discussed the book “Who moved my Cheese”, I thought that by reading that I could help them cope and understand the value to the changes I wanted to make. Now almost 10 years later I have learned that change is difficult and it takes more than reading a book together to even begin the process.

Here are Fullan’s Six Secrets for Change

1. Love your employees
2. Connect peers with purpose
3. Capacity Building prevails
4. Learning is work
5.Transparency Rules
6. Systems learn

Based on this list I would like to offer a slight variation for educators. I will call my list

“Six Improvements we can make as educators”

1. Teachers need to love their students and administrators need to show teachers that they care about them
2. Everyone in the school needs to know the mission and vision of the school and buy into it
3. All stakeholders need to be motivated to work together for the ultimate good (meeting the needs of our students)
4. We should always be improving. We wouldn’t want a surgeon using 20 year old techniques so why should we be using 20 year old techniques in the classroom
5. Teachers need to be open and honest with students. It is OK for a teacher not to know something. We need to do away with the top down approach to rules in the classroom. Administrators need to be open and honest with teachers.
6. We need to create a school culture that is focused on learning and the culture defines the organization regardless of who the current leader is.

Truth be told I didn’t change very much of Fullan’s six secrets but just boiled them down a bit to be more practical.

If you look closer there is one important difference. I used the word improvement rather than change. If you ask someone do you want to improve at something the overwhelming majority of people would like to improve who wouldn’t? To use a sports analogy who wouldn’t want to improve their batting average by 200 points.

However ask if you want to change you get a very different answer. Ask the same baseball player does he want to change his swing even though it will improve his batting average you will probably get a very different response.

What if we used the word IMPROVE  instead of Change?
I believe these Six improvements are all doable and if we  would focus on them, then perhaps we could not only achieve significant improvement but also feel success as well.



  1. Love this concept! Will try to work into my jargon that we’re making improvements, not changes! As a new AP, there is a lot that my principal wants to tag along with me as being new, so we’re making changes while we have the inertia…this will be a great what to phrase it for the spring!

    #4 is also a great key statement. I have a strong campus who is very successful at what they do…it just doesn’t always seem the most engaging for the students. (I happen to think we can accomplish both!) and will try that line to see what they think about that, 🙂

    December 24, 2010
    • Amber,
      Thanks for the comment.
      I have been the new guy before and I wish you much success. The other thing that is important to remember is that you need to get faculty buy in to what ever type of improvement you want to do.
      Please let me know how things work out.
      Thanks for the comment and good luck!

      December 26, 2010

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