So what’s the purpose of this post? That’s an easy one. The purpose of this post is to talk about managing the complexities of both change and transition in an international school environment.
Change and Transition
Have you ever heard people say:
“I wish we would just slow down.”
Maybe you’ve even said some of these yourself. Do you feel like the only constant in your organization’s life is change itself? Well, you’re not alone. Welcome to the 21st Century! One of the most challenging issues in organizations and business today is change. Typically, we either make change happen so quickly that people don’t have time to get on board and make it happen effectively, or we’re not given enough time to do what it takes to see change occur when it needs to. Some people love change and others hate it. But one thing is for sure, change happens.
“…to make a shift from one to another”
First, we believe, as the following story suggests, that it is important to understand that change and transition are absolutely connected and inseparable.
Our Struggle with Loss
“Change implies making … an essential difference, often amounting to a loss of original identity” (Webster’s Dictionary). If you notice, in this definition of change, the concept of loss is introduced. When change occurs, loss also occurs. Unless we allow opportunity for people to deal with the losses associated with change (transition), the change never really is implemented effectively. In other words, "change" is the what and "transition" is the how.
Okay, so now we know the difference between change and transition. So What? What can/should we do as leaders to help ensure that both the change and the transition go as smoothly as possible?
In order to be effective leaders, we need to involve the people affected by the change (students, teachers, parents, staff, etc.) in the change process. We need to allow a process to occur which deals with people’s emotions. There needs to be intentional efforts made to allow people to experience their losses and deal with their emotions.
Implementing Change in International Schools
We would strongly recommend that based on the complexities that come with both individual and cultural differences in how people react to and deal with loss, that international schools view change from a strategic perspective and only introduce those changes which are necessary in any given time period and only after a thorough process/period of preparation has been employed.
We would also strongly recommend that international schools use one of the many “facilitative” processes out there for leading change and transition. By involving all those who will be impacted by the change from the very beginning, you will increase the likelihood of both buy-in and support for the change and will reduce the negative affect of the transition process on the school as whole. Given the transitory nature of the international school staff, it is critical that throughout the process, leadership must be alongside the staff to ensure that staff will receive assistance as needed.