Monday, May 31, 2010

Secrets of Change: Secret 2

I have now finished the second secret in Michael Fullan's book, The Six Secrets of Change. This chapter is on Secret 2: Connecting Peers with Purpose. In my new position as CIO I have a vision of an integrated Library and Technology Departments into one Information Department. Right now in theory, we are all housed under the guise of "information services", but in reality each department functions independently of the other. When I was reading this chapter, I tried to envision how to utilize what was said in the effort to unite the two information families into one united information hub.

Initially in the opening statement for this chapter, Fullan talks about the nuance of connecting peers with purpose. "The nuance is that connecting peers with purpose does not require less leadership at the top, but rather more -- more of a different kind. (Fullan, 2008, pg.41) This, much like secret one, does not see exceptional leadership as top-down, rather with the leader being able to skillfully navigate the potentially choppy waters of interpersonal interactions.

Fullan does set forth three conditions that positive purposeful peer interaction effectively occurs with:
1) When the larger values of the organization and those of individuals and groups mesh.
In our school environment I feel that everyone in the information services department loves the school, and that was a strong draw for me to take this job. When everyone is there for the good of the students and the good of the school, you will have step one in the bag. Not having to create a foundation is a plus, though if this step is not already in place, a good leader must start from scratch. The way that I look at it is, if step one is not in place, you will need to examine what each of your group's members have in common and build coherency around like elements.

2) When information and knowledge about effective practices are widely and openly shared.
This is something that I feel happens among members of PLN's but within schools this is something that is at times reticent to happen. I am not sure why, but I find that those that work in schools are most apt to keep their cards close to their vests when it comes to things that might gain accolades. What everyone needs to know is that best practices and sharing of knowledge and information raises the bar and standards for every member of the team and the team as a whole. When step 1 is in place and people begin to feel responsibility for the school, the team and themselves, everyone wins!

3) When monitoring mechanisms are in place to detect and address ineffective actions while also identifying and consolidating effective practices.
Step 3 can only happen when steps 1 and 2 are solidly in place. There is also the underlying need for trust. If a team does not trust it's leader then monitoring mechanisms and efforts to unite best practices will be met with animosity and second guessing. If you are at the point where step 3 is in the queue and you are setting up monitoring mechanisms, you should also have the trust of your team. Remember, these mechanisms cannot and should not be developed in a vacuum and not only should a good leader be transparent, but a team should be united by best practice to collectively create and use the monitoring mechanisms to continually evolve.

While Peer to Peer purposeful interaction can be used as a common thread within a team, it is much more than simply that. Beyond purposeful, there needs to be higher level interactions that can align a team to continue along those paths indefinitely.

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