He leaned up from behind and said softly, "We're not doing that." I gave a strange look to my colleague sitting next to me and went back to the presentation. Our math department chair sat behind us and in front of us, our principal was explaining the next new initiative designed to change the world. It was an elaborate showing of PowerPoint slides, data charts, and data binders. Whatever it was she was talking about, and I can't remember, she was confident this was going to be what changed our school and moved us forward.
I was beginning the second semester of my first year teaching mathematics. We were all sitting at staff meeting in the library of our large (6,500+ students), challenged, urban high school just north of Los Angeles, CA. As a year-round high school, we rarely, if ever, met as an entire staff and our principal did the best she could to keep everyone together and on the same page, but many times I felt out of the loop and uninformed. Today was an exception, however. She had pulled the entire staff into one meeting, paid for substitute teachers and ever fed us breakfast and lunch in an effort to keep us engaged. That is how important this new initiative was to her.
After staff meeting, we moved to department meetings to discuss implementation of the new initiative. "We're not doing it," our department head repeated to everyone. Some uncomfortable silence ensued. "You know my policy. We will wait six months. If she is still talking about it in six months we will jump on board and do whatever it is she asks. This way, we won't waste our time and efforts on another new trend which isn't going to last. In six months, we will do whatever she wants the very best we can." He paused for dramatic effect. "But only if she is still talking about it."
Do we really have a choice? I said to myself. I was excited about what she was saying and thinking the ideas she presented could really benefit my students. Though a bit troubled about it, I also knew I had enough to deal with preparing for and teaching the 220 or so students who came in and out of my classroom each day. I chose to participate in the math department boycott.
Six months came and went.
As predicted, there was not another word spoken about the initiative, not even by our principal. It was like the whole thing had never happened. Sure, we didn't "waste our time", but I couldn't help wondering, were we also the cause of the failure? Had we gotten on board and given it our best efforts, would the initiative have changed our school or our department for the better? We'll never know.
- Have you seen this play out in your organization?
- How long are your employees waiting to implement?
- When you launch a new process, procedure, or change initiative do your employees eagerly jump on board?
- Have you given your employees reason for a waiting period?
One of the determining factors for the success of any change initiative, no matter the size, is monitoring and accountability planning. Without clear methods for evaluating effectiveness and holding employees responsible for implementation, our best ideas can and will fall flat.
A few things to consider before you launch your next change:
- Where will my employees turn when they have additional questions?
- What avenues do we have to continue to talk about this change during the next 6 months?
- When will my check-in points be to evaluate the effectiveness of this change?
- How will my managers hold employees accountable for implementation of the change?
- What incentives (think beyond monetary) can I provide employees who are successful?
- How will I report the effectiveness of this change to my employees?