Making Sense of School Climate - Part 4: How to Organize, Implement and Coordinate Your Efforts

January 5 2015


In this 5-part series we are laying out a clear and compelling climate roadmap for schools to successfully implement school climate transformation. Part 3 focused on gaining buy-in from various stakeholder groups. Here in Part 4, we’ll explore how to effectively organize, implement and coordinate school climate initiatives.

One thing for sure is that there is no shortage of plans, lists of to do’s or action steps to be taken when it comes to improving our schools. However, too often those plans don’t ever reach their intended or desired end results. Somewhere between the plan and execution, things break down.

Why? In the 15 plus years we have been assisting schools in school safety and school climate change, we’ve identified the following critical missteps:

  • Leadership is not fully committed to school climate reform and do not invest in real systemic change thinking. Too often, decision makers are reactive and looking for quick fixes to systemic problems. They do not commit the resources needed to establish their vision, engage their constituents and oversee the change process from beginning to end.
  • School leaders do not recognize the value of creating engagement and then empowering their staffs to “own” their school climate efforts. Ensuring that stakeholders feel included and see the “WIIFM”- the “what’s-in-it-for-me” - goes a long way toward building buy-in. A sound strategy is to establish a school climate committee and give them the resources and authority to drive the initiative from beginning to end.

Schools would do well to look at how successful businesses manage big initiatives over time. Here is a checklist provided by Mitchell Nash, principal consultant and leader of Linkage’s Change and Transition Leadership practice. The checklist is applicable to education and provides a set of actions that when managed well can achieve successful outcomes, and maximize buy-in from all stakeholders.

  1. Identify: Your first step is to identify what is being changed or what needs to be changed.
  2. Business case: Next, create your business case to justify the need for this change. This is critical and should also describe what the consequences would be if you don’t make the change.
  3. Communicate: Make sure that everyone understands the case and the need for change. Communicate a clear and consistent message from all members of the executive team.
  4. Enlist stakeholders: Ask and answer the following questions: Who are the people who will be directly and indirectly impacted by this change? Are they aware that the change is needed? Are they going to be directly involved in the change implementation?
  5. Put together a change team: This is the team that will help develop the change program and ensure its success. This team should include a mix of people from across the organization and does NOT need to be run by a member of your executive team.
  6. Communicate/paint the picture for change: This step occurs throughout the change process and it is one of the most important. Let people in the organization know what is happening. We emphasize communication so much because it’s absolutely critical to any successful change initiative.
  7. Training: Are there training or development opportunities that can be included in this process? If people are being moved around and new responsibilities are being assigned, offer training to these people.
  8. Communicate, Communicate, Communicate: By keeping people in the loop, you reduce the fear of the unknown and put people in a much more receptive place.
  9. Change: That’s the whole point, right? Make the change happen while communicating with your employees. An open dialogue will help make the process smoother.
  10. Check in: How is the change process going in the organization? Get a pulse for your people, your business, and your surroundings.
  11. Follow through: Many organizations start a change, begin to implement it, and then lose momentum as other tasks take priority. If this happens too often, people stop getting behind change because they think they will be wasting their effort.
  12. Reinforce the change: Don’t forget to remind your people of how far they have come and what has been accomplished. Recognizing and celebrating what’s been accomplished is critical to sustain the momentum.

Carefully reviewing these elements, adopting and adapting them, and finally applying them to district and and site school climate change plans will go a long way toward effective and sustainable improvements in educational outcomes. In our next blog, Part 5 of the series, we’ll focus on the importance of measurement, the collection of data and the reporting of progress.

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