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Presence of the core
concepts does not
guarantee success,
but their absence
ensures failure


he history of slowed down by knowledge of change. namely moral purpose. Moral purpose
educational It takes time to address this knowl- in educational change is about
reform and edge — even though, ironically, they improving society through improving
innovation is are eventually slowed down even more educational systems and thus the
replete with by failed implementation. learning of all citizens.
good ideas or In the past 20 years, we have In education, moral purpose
policies that fail learned a great deal about innovative involves committing to raise the bar
to get implemented or that are suc- processes that work and those that and close the gap in student achieve-
cessful in one situation but not in don’t. We are using this knowledge to ment — for example, increasing litera-
another. A missing ingredient in most bring about system change across the cy for all, with special attention to
failed cases is appreciation and use of three levels of school and community, those most disadvantaged. There is a
what we call change knowledge: district and state (Barber & Fullan, wide gap, particularly in some coun-
understanding and insight about the 2005). In particular, eight drivers are tries, between groups at the bottom
process of change and the key drivers keys to create effective and lasting and those at the top. Schools need to
that make for successful change in change. “raise the floor” by figuring out how to
practice. The presence of change speed up the learning of those who are
knowledge does not guarantee success, 1. Engaging people’s moral at the bottom, those for whom the
but its absence ensures failure. purposes. school system has been less effective.
It is not easy to rectify this deficit. The first overriding principle is Improving overall literacy achieve-
Policy makers do not want to be knowledge about the why of change, ment is directly associated with a

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country’s economic productivity. In districts, and whole systems must learning, sounds general but means
countries where the gap between high increase their capacity as groups. something specific in establishing the
and low student performance is Building group capacity is difficult conditions for success. Developing a
reduced, citizens’ health and well- because it involves working together culture for learning involves a set of
being are measurably better. in new ways. strategies designed for people to learn
In change knowledge, moral pur- Capacity must be evident in prac- from each other (the knowledge
pose is not just a goal but a process of tice and be ongoing. Front-end train- dimension) and become collectively
engaging educators, community lead- ing is insufficient. It does not trans- committed to improvement (the
ers, and society as a whole in the moral late into improvements in the daily affective dimension).
purpose of reform. If moral purpose is cultures of how people need to work Successful change involves learn-
front and center, the remaining seven in new ways. ing during implementation. One of
drivers become additional forces for the most powerful drivers of change
enacting moral purpose. 3. Understanding the change involves learning from peers, especial-
process. ly those who are further along in
2. Building capacity. Understanding the change process implementing new ideas. We can
The second driver is building is a big driver because such under- think of such learning inside the
capacity, which involves policies, standing cuts across all elements. The school and local community, and
strategies, resources, and actions process of change is also difficult and across schools or jurisdictions. Within
designed to increase people’s collective frustrating to grasp because it requires the school, there is a great deal of
power to move the system forward leaders to take into account factors practical research that demonstrates
(schools, districts, states). Building that they would rather not have to the necessity and power of profession-
capacity involves developing new stop and deal with. They would rather al learning communities (Dufour,
knowledge, skills, and competencies; lay out the purpose and plan and get Eaker, & Dufour, 2005).
new resources (time, ideas, materials); on with it. Change doesn’t work that Fred Newmann and his colleagues
and new shared identity and motiva- way. (Newmann, King, & Youngs, 2000)
tion to work together for greater Making change work requires the identified five components of change
change. energy, ideas, commitment, and own- capacity within the school, including
In addition to individual and col- ership of all those implementing developing new knowledge and skills,
lective capacity as defined by improvements. The urgency of many establishing professional learning
increased knowledge, resources, and problems, however, does not allow for communities, building program
motivation, organizational capacity long-term “ownership development.” coherence, accessing new resources,
involves improving the infrastructure. (In fact, more leisurely strategies do and developing principal/school lead-
The infrastructure consists of agencies not produce greater ownership any- ership. Schools and their communities
at the local, regional, and state levels way.) must develop new cultures of learning
that can deliver new capacity in the Ownership is not something avail- in order to improve.
system, such as training, consulting, able at the beginning of a change When school systems establish
and other support. process, but something created cultures of learning, they constantly
Capacity often is the missing ele- through a quality change process. Put seek and develop teachers’ knowledge
ment, even when people agree on the differently, shared vision and owner- and skills required to create effective
need for change. For example, to ship are more the outcome of a quali-
improve literacy, teachers and princi- ty change process than they are a pre- MICHAEL FULLAN is professor of education at the Ontario
Institute for Studies in Education of the University of Toronto
pals must develop new skills and condition. and special education adviser to the premier of Ontario and
increased commitment in the face of The change process is about estab- the minister of education. You can contact him at OISE,
inevitable obstacles (see the third driv- lishing the condition for continuous University of Toronto, 252 Bloor St. West, 12th Floor, Toronto,
Ontario, Canada M5S IV6, (416) 923-6641 ext. 3239, fax (416)
er). Similarly, in the case of new tech- improvement in order to persist and
489-0895, e-mail:
nologies, not only must educators overcome inevitable barriers to
CLAUDIA CUTTRESS is development manager at Michael
acquire new skills and understandings, reform. It is about innovativeness, not Fullan Enterprises. You can contact her at 56 Dartmouth
they must integrate technology into just innovation. Crescent, St. Albert, Alberta, Canada T8N 6V8, (780) 418-
curriculum, teaching, learning, and 5520, fax (780) 418-1721, e-mail:

assessing learning. 4. Developing cultures ANN KILCHER is an independent consultant and president of
the Paideia Consulting Group. You can contact her at 6020
Capacity building is a collective for learning. Binney St., Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada B3H 2C1, (902) 429-
phenomenon. Whole schools, whole The fourth driver, cultures for 3282, fax (902) 492-2144, e-mail:

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new learning experiences for students. people learn from each other within the previous two points in order
In addition to school and community and across units, and being preoccu- to make improvements; and
learning, a powerful new strategy is pied with turning good knowledge • Being able to articulate and dis-
evolving which we call “lateral capaci- into action, is essential. Turning infor- cuss performance with parents
ty building,” involving strategies in mation into actionable knowledge is a and external groups.
which schools and communities learn social process. Thus, developing learn- When schools and school systems
from each other within a given dis- ing cultures is crucial. Good policies increase their collective capacity to
trict or region and beyond. Learning and ideas take off in learning cultures, engage in ongoing assessment for
from others widens the pool of ideas but they go nowhere in cultures of learning, they achieve major improve-
and also enhances a greater “we-we” isolation. ments. Several other aspects of evalua-
identity beyond one school (Fullan, tion cultures are important, including:
2005). 5. Developing cultures school-based self-appraisal, meaning-
Knowledge sharing and collective of evaluation. ful use of external accountability data,
identity are powerful forces for posi- A culture of evaluation must be and what Jim Collins (2001) found in
tive change, and they form a core coupled with a culture of learning for “great” organizations, namely a com-
component of our change knowledge. schools to sort out promising from mitment to “confronting the brutal
We need to value these aspects and not-so-promising ideas and especially facts” and establishing a culture of
know how to put them into action. to deepen the meaning of what is disciplined inquiry.
Jeffrey Pfeffer and Robert Sutton rein- learned. One of the highest yield Cultures of evaluation serve exter-
force this conclusion in their analysis strategies for educational change nal accountability as well as internal
of The Knowing-Doing Gap (Harvard recently developed is assessment for data processing purposes. They pro-
Business School Press, 2000). They learning (not just assessment of learn- duce data on an ongoing basis that
claim that we should embed more of ing). Assessment for learning incorpo- enables groups to use information for
the process of acquiring new knowl- rates: action planning as well as for external
edge in the actual doing of the task • Accessing/gathering data on stu- accounting (see Black, Harrison, Lee,
and less in formal training programs dent learning; Marshall, & Wiliam, 2003; Stiggins,
that are frequently ineffective (p. 27). • Disaggregating data for more 2001).
Change knowledge has a bias for detailed understanding; One other matter: Technology has
action. Developing a climate where • Developing action plans based on become an enormously necessary and

POWER PRINCIPLES MBA programs, captures this The second element of to happen. As the eight drivers
idea precisely: understanding change dynamics of change operate in concert,
o push as hard as the
T process will allow while
increasing the chances for suc-
“Strategy is an interactive
process, not a two-step
is realizing that large-scale
reform requires combining and
pressure and support, in effect,
start to get built in to the ongo-
sequence; it requires continual integrating pressure and sup- ing culture of interaction.
cess, understand that:
feedback between thought and port. Knowledge of the implementa-
Strategizing will help us evolve action. … Strategists have to be Social systems include a tion dip can reduce the
and reshape ideas and actions. in touch; they have to know great deal of inertia, which awkwardness of the learning
Change agents often are what they are strategizing means they require new forces period.
tempted to develop a complete about; they have to respond to change direction. These new The third aspect of under-
strategic plan and then allocate and react and adjust, often forces involve the judicious use standing the change process is
mechanisms of accountability allowing strategies to emerge, of pressure and support. to understand the finding that
and support to implement it. step-by-step. In a word, they Pressure means ambitious all eventual successful change
The first lesson in the change have to learn” (p. 55). targets, transparent evaluation proceeds through an implemen-
process: The strategic plan is an Effective change is more and monitoring, calling upon tation dip (Fullan, 2001).
innovation; it is not innovative- about strategizing, which is a moral purpose, and the like. Since change involves grap-
ness. process, than it is about strate- Support involves developing pling with new beliefs and
We need strategy and gy. The more that leaders prac- new competencies, access to understandings, and new skills,
strategic ideas, but above all we tice strategizing, the more they new ideas, more time for learn- competencies, and behaviors,
need to think of the evolution hone their scientific and intu- ing, and collaboration. changes will not go smoothly in
of change plans as a process of itive knowledge of change. The more that pressure and the early stages of implementa-
shaping and reshaping ideas Pressure means ambitious tar- support become seamless, the tion (even if there has been pre-
and actions. Henry Mintzberg, gets. Support involves devel- more effective the change
in his 2004 critique of existing oping new competencies. process will be at getting things Continued on p. 57

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powerful tool in our work on assess- “intense professional will.” Collins system. There is no other driver as
ment as it makes it possible to access talks about the importance of leader- essential as leadership for sustainable
and analyze student achievement data ship that “builds enduring greatness” reform.
on an ongoing basis, take corrective in the organization, rather than focus-
action, and share best solutions. ing on short-term results. 7. Fostering coherence making.
Developing cultures of evaluation and The main mark of a school princi- When innovation runs amok,
capacity to use technology for pal at the end of his or her tenure is even if driven by moral purpose, the
improvement must go hand-in-hand; not just that individual’s impact on result is overload and fragmentation.
both are seriously underdeveloped in student achievement, but rather how To a certain extent, this is normal in
most systems. many leaders are left behind who can complex systems.
go even further. Henry Mintzberg Change knowledge is required to
6. Focusing on leadership (2004) makes the same point: render overload into greater coher-
for change. “Successful managing is not about ence. Creating coherence is a never-
One of the most powerful lessons one’s own success but about fostering ending proposition that involves
for change involves leadership. Here success in others” (p. 16) ... “While alignment, connecting the dots, being
change knowledge consists of knowing managers have to make decisions, far clear about how the big picture fits
what kind of leadership is best for lead- more important, especially in large together. Above all, coherence making
ing productive change. High-flying, networked organizations of knowl- involves investing in capacity building
charismatic leaders look like powerful edge works, is what they do to so that cultures of learning and evalu-
change agents but are actually bad for enhance decision-making capabilities ation through the proliferation of
business because too much revolves of others” (p. 38). leadership can create their own coher-
around the individuals themselves. Change knowledge, then, means ence on the ground.
Leadership, to be effective, must seeking leaders who represent innova- Change knowledge is not about
spread throughout the organization. tiveness — the capacity to develop developing the greatest number of
Collins (2001) found that charismatic leadership in others on an ongoing innovations, but rather about achiev-
leaders were negatively associated with basis. We need to produce a critical ing new patterns of coherence that
sustainability. Leaders of the so-called mass of leaders who have change enable people to focus more deeply
“great” organizations were character- knowledge. Such leaders produce and on how strategies for effective learning
ized by “deep personal humility” and feed on other leadership through the interconnect.

Continued from p. 56 half that time. This obviously Mastering implementation is even when the direction is clear.
depends on the starting condi- necessary to overcome the The clearer the new vision, the
implementation preparation). tions and complexity of the fear of change. more immobilized people
This applies to any individual, change, but the point is that The fear of change is classi- become. Why?
but is much more complex without knowledge of the cal change knowledge. People Their answer: “The clearer
when many people simultane- implementation dip, problems need to know that at the begin- the new vision, the easier it is
ously are involved. persist and people give up with- ning of the change process, the for people to see all the specific
Knowing about the imple- out giving the idea a chance. losses are specific and tangible ways in which they will be
mentation dip helps in working Shorter implementation (it is clear what is being left incompetent and look stupid.
with change initiatives. First, it dips are more tolerable, and behind), but gains are theoreti- Many prefer to be competent at
has brought out into the open once gains start to be made cal and distant. This is so by the [old] wrong thing than
the fact that all changes worth earlier, motivation increases. definition. One cannot realize incompetent at the [new] right
their salt involve a somewhat Note that motivation is increas- the gains without mastering thing” (p. 70).
awkward learning period. ing (or not) during the imple- implementation, and this takes In other words, an addition-
Second, such knowledge has mentation process. This is a sign time. In addition, those making al element of change process
resulted in us being able to of a quality (or poor) change changes don’t necessarily have knowledge involves realizing
reduce the period of awkward- process. confidence that the gains will that clear, even inspiring, visions
ness. By being aware of the The next two elements of be attained. It is a theoretical are insufficient. People need the
problem, we are able to use understanding the change proposition. right combinations of pressure
strategies (support, training, process — the fear of change, Stewart Black and Hal and support to become adept
etc.) that reduce the implemen- and technical vs. adaptive chal- Gregersen (2002) talk about and comfortable with “the new
tation dip from (in the case of lenges — delve deeper into the “brain barriers,” such as the fail- right way.”
school change) three years to implementation dip. ure to move in new directions
Continued on p. 58

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8. Cultivating trilevel where the tacit assumption is that if THE IMPORTANCE OF CHANGE
development. we change enough individuals, then KNOWLEDGE
The eighth and final driver lies in the system will change. In such cases, Enough research on implementa-
the realization that we are talking change won’t happen. We need to tion has been done in the past 35
about system transformation at three change systems at the same time. To years for us to say that if you don’t
levels. We are not talking just about change individuals and systems simul- know the eight guiding
changing individuals, but also about taneously, we must provide more principles/drivers of change (in the
changing systems — what we call the “learning in context” — that is, learn- sense of being able to use them for
trilevel model. ing in the actual situations we want to insight and action), even the best
Here is a trilevel lens on a prob- change. Mintzberg (2004) focuses on ideas will not take hold. Without
lem: this when he says, change knowledge, you get failure.
• What has to happen at the school “Leadership is as much about To achieve the goal, we must
and community level? doing in order to think as thinking in develop leaders who have greater
• What has to happen at the district order to do” (p. 10). ... “We need pro- change knowledge and who can, in
level? grams designed to educate practicing turn, develop leadership in others.
• What has to happen at the state managers in context” (p. 193). ... These developments do not involve
level? “Leadership has to be learned … not just identifying and memorizing the
We need to change individuals, just by doing it, but by being able to knowledge base. Knowing is insuffi-
but also to change contexts. We need gain conceptual insight while doing cient; only knowing-by-doing, reflect-
to develop better individuals while we it” (p. 200). ing, and re-doing will move us for-
simultaneously develop better organi- In any case, trilevel development ward.
zations and systems. Such work is eas- involves focusing on all three levels of Once people grasp the nature of
ier said than done and involves what the system and their interrelation- change knowledge and appreciate its
we have recently called developing ships, and giving people wider learn- centrality to success, we have a chance
“system thinkers in action” (Fullan, ing opportunities within these con- of developing it further in practice.
2005). texts as a route to changing the very We must go beyond superficial
For our purposes, we need only contexts within which people work.
say “beware of the individualistic bias” Continued on p. 64

Continued from p. 57 • Adaptive challenges demand come the inevitable chal- pushing ahead without being
a response beyond our current lenges. rigid, regrouping despite set-
It is necessary to identify the
repertoire. The final aspect of under- backs, and not being discour-
distinction between technical
• Adaptive work to narrow the standing change as a process is aged when progress is slow.
problems and adaptive chal-
gap between our aspirations a kind of retrospective overlay Persistence and resilience
and current reality requires diffi- of the previous five compo- are important because people
The fifth element comes
cult learning. nents. often start with grand inten-
from Ron Heifetz and Marty
• The people with the problem Engaging others in the tions and aspirations, but gradu-
Linsky’s (2002) distinction
are the problem — and the solu- process of change requires per- ally lower them over time in the
between technical problems and
tion. sistence in order to overcome face of obstacles. In the end,
adaptive challenges.
the inevitable challenges — to then, they achieve very little.
Technical problems are • Adaptive work generates dise-
keep going despite setbacks — Armed with change knowledge,
those in which current knowl- quilibrium and avoidance.
but it also involves adaptation education leaders should
edge is sufficient to address the • Adaptive work takes time. and problem solving through approach the change process
problem. Technical problems are Most of the big moral pur- being flexible enough to incor- with a commitment to maintain
still difficult, and people will pose goals we aspire to these porate new ideas into strategiz- or even increase high standards
experience the usual implemen- days tend to be adaptive chal- ing. and aspirations. Obstacles
tation dip, but they are solvable lenges. Change knowledge, Both focus and flexibility should be seen as problems to
in terms of what we know. then, involves strategizing with are needed. be resolved to achieve high tar-
Adaptive challenges are Heifetz’s five assumptions in The concept that captures gets rather than reasons for
more complex, and the solu- mind to set up a more realistic persistence and flexibility is consciously or unconsciously
lowering aspirations. n
tions go beyond what we know. change process. resilience. Because change is
Heifetz and Linsky (2002) iden-
complex, difficult, and frustrat-
tify these properties of adaptive Engaging others in change ing, the change process requires
challenges: requires persistence to over-

Continued from p. 72 and work for two years as a Teacher in Residence, I jumped
at it. And that job did give me different ways to contribute,
just was not available for you. Every first-year teacher is on to my own life and skill set, and to the general body of
her or his own, no matter what the administrative offices education resources available to teachers.
say. And the first three years of any job, including teaching, But when I came back, no one said, “How can we use
are the absolute roughest. Is it any wonder that teacher what you have learned?” or “How can you use what you
retention is becoming a major problem? have learned?” I wouldn’t even have cared if they had said,
Imagine if professional growth within the school sys- in a purely economic sense, “We paid for you to work
tem was encouraged and valued. there for two years — you owe us.” It isn’t that I was
Imagine a job in which you could sit down with some- ignored; it was that what I had learned was ignored. And I
one in the school system who was aware of the big picture felt very frustrated. So I looked and looked for another line
and knew what kinds of growth the school system was of work within the system until I found the new technolo-
planning. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to be seen as an asset gy job I currently have. And that was one of the most grat-
to be nurtured and developed, rather than as a body to fill ifying things in the interview I had for the new job I have
a slot? taken. The people I now work for actually saw that I had a
I look back on my own career and the changes I have great deal to offer and were willing to let me work in a new
made in the last few years. My personal thoughts of possible and different capacity.
change came as a result of At this time, teaching is viewed correctly by many
This diary entry was first published by achieving National Board young people as a no-growth profession. But that percep-
Teacher Leaders Network, a program of Certification. Completing tion could easily change if school systems saw their teachers
the Southeast Center for Teaching Quality, that process made me see and other personnel as people who have multiple skills and
and appeared at
myself differently and talents to offer. Many teachers would like to know how to
Browse more diaries at www. made me want to con- grow within the education field but are not sure how to go tribute in a different way. about it. Many teachers could use help to develop paths of
But there was no opportu- professional change and would welcome guidance.
nity available for me to Christie talks all the time about how she has to “grow
process those thoughts with anyone else. I was odd, some- her business.” Well, we in the schools should start thinking
one to be a little worried about. about growing ours as well, or we will lose the best ones
When the chance came to go to the National Board coming in, as well as some of the best we already have. n

Continued from p. 58 tainability: Systems thinkers in action.

WORK IN developing ideas for leading
Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.
change has been funded through the
knowledge of the key concepts and move Partners in Learning Initiative, Microsoft. Heifetz, R. & Linsky, M. (2002).
toward a deeper commitment to develop- Leadership on the line: Staying alive through
ing knowledge, skills, and beliefs related to the brain barrier. New York: Prentice Hall. the dangers of leading. Boston: Harvard
being change agents in collaboration with Black, P., Harrison, C., Lee, C., Business School Press.
others. Marshall, B., & Wiliam, D. (2003). Mintzberg, H. (2004). Managers not
When leaders and other participants Assessment for learning. Philadelphia: Open MBAs. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler.
have opportunities to learn more deeply in University Press. Newmann, F., King, B., & Youngs, P.
context, they have a chance of transform- Collins, J. (2001). Good to great. New (2000). Professional development that
ing the contexts that constrain them. York: HarperCollins. addresses school capacity. Paper presented
Dufour, R., Eaker, R., & Dufour, R. at the annual meeting of the American
REFERENCES (Eds.). (2005). On common ground. Educational Research Association.
Barber, M. & Fullan, M. (2005, Bloomington, IN: National Education Pfeffer, J. & Sutton, R. (2000). The
March 2). Tri-level development: Putting Service. knowing-doing gap. Boston: Harvard
systems thinking into action. Education Fullan, M. (2001). The new meaning Business School Press.
Week, 24(25), 32-35. of educational change (3rd ed.). New York: Stiggins, R. (2001). Student-involved
Black, S. & Gregersen, H. (2002). Teachers College Press. classroom assessment (3rd ed.). Columbus,
Leading strategic change: Breaking through Fullan, M. (2005). Leadership & sus- OH: Merrill Prentice Hall. n