Understanding how to lead for successful change

A common complaint that we hear from school leaders is that new initiatives stall before they are embedded in the culture of the organization. From teachers we hear that schools apply changes like ‘baubles on a Christmas tree’ and nothing seems to stay the course. We believe that there is a better way to manage the phases of introducing, including and infusing an initiative into the culture and practices of a school.

In our work leading schools, we have come to believe there is a set of conditions for change that must be cultivated for any initiative to be successfully implemented. Without targeted leadership, some initiatives will take hold and progress, most won’t. We have designated 3 conditions for change that leaders should target throughout the stages. Read this table for more details about these.

We believe that effective leaders shepherd initiatives through to infusion because they attend to critical aspects of action. These aspects are often observable to some degree, but it is the explicit attention to them during each phase from introduction, through inclusion to infusion upon which effective change is built. 

Aspects of Action For Leaders


The Sender, Recipient, Context, and Delivery Method are key elements to consider in evaluating effectiveness of any message.  While mishandling one element may not derail the message, a well-crafted message maximises the impact of each element. This topic can provide sufficient material for an entire workshop, so we will conclude our overview with the simple statement that the elements must be attended to in effective communication.
To find out more about using the Aspect of Communication to enlist support, CLICK HERE.

Resource Allocation

In resource allocation, adequacy is the key concept. Assessing adequacy  is dependent on the scale of the change and the preparedness of those implementing the change. Evaluating non-traditional resources before starting the allocation of dollars and materials may make the overall implementation more successful. Consider what is an adequate allocation of time for information to be disseminated and assimilated to all critical personnel. Consider the adequate provision of training to key personnel and change activators within the team. Determine the adequate allocation of targeted data to prepare a defence for potential blockers of the project. The allocation of these resources requires planning and care and can reduce the costs and scale of traditional resource allocation during implementation.
Find out more about maximising the benefit of Resource Allocation. CLICK HERE.

Coherence Making

Making coherence is all about creating a narrative. Human beings are inherently consumers of stories as they build understanding. The role of the leader is to build a memorable, conceptual framework which underpins the change. This is most commonly undertaken as a narrative which combines personal stories with empirical data. This combination connects the personal and the professional and is most likely to engage the individual.

Michael Fullan’s work is probably the best known in this area, and we understand that it would be far more effective to refer you directly to Fullan’s work than to paraphrase him. But if you are comfortable with our version of strategies for Coherence Making, CLICK HERE.

Engagement & Ownership

I recently read of a study into change management by Price Waterhouse Coopers which showed that 75% of planned and implemented change-focussed projects failed. And worryingly, the major deficiency was insufficient development of support to sustain positive momentum.

Engagement can be developed through effective application of the aspects of Communication and Coherence Making, but Ownership stands slightly apart and must be considered separately. Ownership is not delegation; it is much more of a two-way street. Ownership commences where commitment ends. Once a degree of commitment has been secured, and the personal needs for information have been satisfied, then a transaction can occur where ownership is transferred from the leader to a new owner. This transaction, of course, is reliant on the leader being able to let go of control slip and the follower being able to take on the ownership.

How can you tell the difference between delegated responsibility and Ownership? Try this simple test. CLICK HERE.


The embedding of policies and procedures which create an organization-wide approach is often the least-appealing part of change. It is where attention to detail comes to the fore and where the seeds of long term, sustained improvement flourish or are destined to wither.

For a change to be infused into the practices, policies and culture of an organisation, it is essential that matters of consequence are embedded in the routines. This systemization must be observed in many different places, and is rarely completed in a single pass, but it is the glue which makes a change “stick”.

Find where should you look for Systemization opportunities, CLICK HERE.

Celebration & Recognition

It is the explicit inclusion of traditions, symbols and celebrations which turns a change into the “new normal”. You will have come into workplaces where the culture is obvious from the first moment. Where the physical environment shouts what the community believes in, and where you see the beliefs and values on display in a thousand ways. And then, you have probably had the jarring experience where there is clear dissonance between what is said and what is done. The second set of places have not given sufficient attention to recognising what they value and celebrating them to reinforce and clarify. Celebration in this context does not mean a party for every item that aligns with values, but it does mean explicitly noticing what is in alignment and what should be challenged or discarded. It does mean being comfortable in displaying values in physical form and it does mean that symbols of beliefs should be displayed.

Change is messy and leaders have a lot to confront if they are to be effective. By creating conditions for change, the organization adopts a disposition of continuous improvement. Knowing that an initiative passes through introducing, including and infusing phases helps explain what success looks like during the process of change. By attending to all aspects of action a leader can embed an initiative in the school.

We hope that our dissection of the i2i framework has been helpful to our colleagues who are undertaking the vital role of renewing and invigorating schools across the world.

If you are leading or implementing change, we can help. We offer a FREE audit service to help maximise your effectiveness as you take your school from introduction to infused change. Click here for more details.

Matt Merritt has been a teacher and curriculum director across international and national schools. His insights into the conditions for change in teaching and learning have made him an influential mentor and school leader. Matt now works in Schrole providing training and advice to school leaders across the globe.
Greg Smith has been a teacher, principal and head of school who now works in Schrole, the company he co founded with business partner, Rob Graham. Greg is committed to the idea of building capacity in school leaders and helped to develop the i2i model with Matt to support the continuous improvement of schools.