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Handout 1.

The three stages of the change process


Besides understanding the change process, educators also need to become more skilled in its use.
As Miles (1986) and Fullan (1991) have demonstrated, the change process consists of a series of
three overlapping phases: initiation, implementation, and institutionalisation (see figure below).
Although these phases often co-exist in practice, there are some advantages in describing them
separately as we did in School Improvement in an Era of Change (for more detail see Hopkins et al.,
1994: 36-8). It is particularly important to understand what happens during each phase and what
behaviours within each phase make for success.
The initiation phase is about deciding to embark on innovation, and of developing commitment
towards the process. The key activities in the initiation phase are the decision to start, and a review of
the school's current state as regards the particular change. Matthew Miles (1986) made an analysis of
the various stages of school improvement. This is a list of factors that Miles believes make for
successful initiation:
 the innovation should be tied to a local agenda and high profile local need
 a clear, well-structured approach to change
 an active advocate or champion who understands the innovation and supports it
 active initiation to start the innovation (top-down is OK under certain conditions)
 good quality innovation.
Implementation is the phase of the process that has received the most attention. It is the phase of
attempted use of the innovation. The key activities occurring during implementation are the carrying
out of action plans, the developing and sustaining of commitment, the checking of progress and over-
coming problems. The key factors making for success at this stage, according to Miles (1986), are:
 clear responsibility for orchestration/co-ordination (head, coordinator, external consultant)
 shared control over implementation (top-down is not OK); good cross-hierarchical work and
relations; empowerment of both individuals and the school
 mix of pressure, insistence on `doing it right', and support
 adequate and sustained staff development and in-service training
 rewards for teachers early in the process (empowerment, collegiality, meeting needs,
classroom help, load reduction, supply cover, expenses, resources).

Figure: The three overlapping phases of the change process (Miles et al., 1987)

Institutionalisation is the phase when innovation and change stop being regarded as something new
and become part of the school's usual way of doing things. The move from implementation to
institutionalisation often involves the transformation of a pilot project, to a school-wide initiative, often
without the advantage of the previously available funding. Key activities at this stage according to
Miles (1986) are:
 an emphasis on `embedding' the change within the school's structures, its organisation and
resources
 the elimination of competing or contradictory practices
 strong and purposeful links to other change efforts, the curriculum and classroom teaching
 widespread use in the school and local area
 an adequate bank of local facilitators, (e.g., advisory teachers) for skills training.
Many change efforts fail to progress beyond early implementation because those involved do not
realise that each of these phases have different characteristics and require different strategies for
success to be achieved.

On the difficulty of managing multiple changes in times of flux


Differentiating between the three phases of initiation, implementation and institutionalisation is very
helpful, as is the articulation of the appropriate activities at each stage. Nowadays however one is
rarely involved with just one innovation. A school can be going through a number of change cycles at
any one time. This places great stress on the organisational capacity of the school and the confidence
and maturity of those leading the change process. How to build this capacity and confidence is the
key challenge for authentic school improvement efforts.
In the early phases of a school improvement effort, the process of initiation, implementation and
institutionalisation will be going on on at least two levels. The first is at the classroom level - putting
into practice a change in curriculum and instruction. At the level of the school, the cycle of initiation,
implementation and institutionalization is concerned with capacity building – the process of learning
how to change. In particular, the way in which in-service activities, planning and enquiry are organised
in order to support authentic school improvement.
Once a school has developed the `capacity to change' then successive cycles of innovation become
much easier. In the early stages of a school improvement effort where the schools' organisation is not
well attuned to change, more effort needs to be given initially to building capacity and possibility
limiting the amount of classroom change (see chapter 8). Once the capacity is in place then managing
multiple cycles of innovation become both possible and desirable.
A second issue raised by the initiation, implementation and institutionalisation analysis, are the skills
required of change agents. Besides the specific activities required during each of the phases, there
are also a series of `cross cutting' or generic skill clusters that characterise the behaviours of
effective change agents. There are a number of reviews of change agent skills: for example, from
the organisation development literature (Schmuck and Runkel, 1985); from accounts of school
improvement (Hopkins et al., 1996: chapter 7); and the research on change agents themselves (Miles
et al., 1988). A review of this research and experience suggests the following abilities to be the most
important:
 to generate trust
 to understand and diagnose the state of the school's organisation
 to plan into the medium term and to see the bigger picture
 to work productively in groups
 to access the required technical resources and advice be it research, good practice, or
specifications of teaching and learning
 to give people the confidence to continue.
There is however another key skill needed for managing the contemporary process of change. It is the
ability to deal with complexity. Traditional mindsets based on rational approaches to school
improvement will not work in the current climate, and if employed will probably make matters worse. It
is not that educational change is irrational, but as Patterson et al. (1986) noted, it is often non-rational
and does not respect normative logical conventions.
Michael Fullan has over the years been at the cutting edge of thinking about educational change. His
most recent work, in particular the Change Forces Trilogy, has reflected on the dialectic between
rationality and chaos. The tension between top-down versus bottom-up change in a situation where
change is multi-dimensional and pervasive, was a major theme in the first volume, Change Forces. In
this book, Fullan identified `eight basic lessons of the new paradigm of change' (Fullan, 1993: 21-2).
These lessons provide an appropriate summary of this review of educational change for the purposes
of authentic school improvement. They resonate with what has already been written; and examples of
how they work in practice are seen on the pages that follow. As Fullan warns, however, each lesson is
something of a paradox (which should be no surprise), and they should be regarded as a complete
set, each benefiting from the wisdom of the other seven (see table below).

Table: Fullan's eight basic lessons of the new paradigm of change

Lesson 1 You can't mandate what matters. (The more complex the change the less you can force
it.)
Lesson 2 Change is a journey not a blueprint. (Change is non-linear, loaded with uncertainty and
excitement and sometimes perverse.)
Lesson 3 Problems are our friends. (Problems are inevitable and you can't learn without them.)
Lesson 4 Vision and strategic planning come later. (Premature visions and planning blind.)
Lesson 5 Individualism and collectivism must have equal power. (There are no one-sided
solutions to isolation and group-think.)
Lesson 6 Neither centralisation nor decentralisation works. (Both top-down and bottom-up
strategies are necessary.)
Lesson 7 Connection with the wider environment is critical for success. (The best organisations
learn externally as well as internally.)
Lesson 8 Every person is a change agent. (Change is too important to leave to the experts, personal
mind set and mastery is the ultimate protection.)

Source: Fullan, 1993; 21-2