A Guide to Action for Initiative Implementation

A Guide to Action for Initiative Implementation
In Learning By Doing: A Handbook for Professional Learning Communities at Work, authors DuFour, DuFour,
Eaker, and Many (2010) assert that leaders who call upon others to engage in new work, achieve new
standards, and accomplish new goals have a responsibility to develop the capacity of those they lead to be
successful in meeting these challenges. They contend that leaders have an obligation to provide others with
the rationale, resources, training, and support that lead to success. The information below is adapted from
this resource and can serve as a guide for the implementation of any initiative.
The following three factors significantly impact leadership implementation efforts:
1. Build the Support of a Guiding Coalition. Launch an improvement initiative by building the support
of a guiding coalition. Building such a team is an essential part of the early stages of any effort. A guiding
coalition is a powerful tool in the process. This can be composed of existing structures (such as a school
improvement committee) or a new structure (such as a task force convened for the purpose of leading an
improvement process). Work through the issues with a small group of key staff and secure them as allies
before engaging an entire group. Build consensus one small group at a time.
2. Build Shared Knowledge. Work together to answer questions and resolve issues by building shared
knowledge. When everyone has access to the same information, it increases the likelihood that they will
arrive at similar conclusions. Spend time up front building shared knowledge, which will result in faster,
more effective, and more committed action later in the improvement process. Predictable questions that
arise when people are engaging in new work include:
 Why questions/Mission.
Clarify the purpose, rationale, evidence and research, and explanation for why to engage in
the work.
Present a compelling argument that implementation of the initiative will benefit students
and educators alike as a more effective, gratifying way to approach the work.
Collect and share information that is needed to come to an understanding of our current
 What questions/Vision.
Develop a common vocabulary.
Develop a consistent understanding of key concepts.
Build shared knowledge on the specific practices and characteristics you are seeking. Then
ask others to describe what they hope to create.
Clarify the resources, tools, templates, materials, and examples to assist in the work.
 Who questions/Commitments.
Take purposeful steps to demonstrate that achieving the goal is the collective responsibility
of every person.
 How questions/Commitments.
Clarify how the initiative will proceed and the steps and processes that will be used.
Initiate structures and systems to foster what you’re trying to create. When something is
truly a priority, people do not hope it happens; they develop and implement systematic
plans to ensure it happens.
Determine the commitments necessary from each person involved in making the initiative a
Leaders can model a willingness to make commitments by identifying the specific things
they will do to support the effort.
 Quality questions/Goals.
Determine the criteria that will be used to judge the quality of the work.
Identify the benchmarks of success at different time frames (six months, a year, three years,
for example).
Create processes to monitor critical conditions and important goals. What gets monitored
gets done. A critical step in moving from rhetoric to reality is to establish the indicators of
progress to be monitored, the process for monitoring them, and the means of sharing
results throughout the organization.
Key components of why, what, who, how, and how will we know if this makes a difference are
summarized below:
• The purpose
• The compelling
• The accompanying
• The targets and
• Answers what
• Answers who and
• Answers how will
we know if this
makes a difference
• Answers why
• Clarifies priorities
and sharpens
• Gives direction
• Guides the work
and outlines how
every person
• Establishes
Additional questions to address in building shared understanding involve the following:
 When questions.
Determine the time for when the work will be done.
Clarify the task completion dates and the timeline.
 Guiding questions.
Be clear about the questions we are attempting to answer and the questions that will help
us stay focused on the right work.
 Assurance questions.
Offer suggestions and cautions that increase the likelihood of success.
Specify where to receive support and assistance.
3. Take Specific Leadership Actions That Convey Commitment to the Initiative. Implementing
the specific leadership actions below convey commitment to the initiative:
 Practice “reciprocal accountability” – For every increment of performance that is demanded, an equal
responsibility exists to provide the capacity to meet that expectation. Likewise, for every investment
made in one’s skill and knowledge, a reciprocal responsibility exists to demonstrate some new
increment in performance (Elmore, 2006).
 Reallocate resources to support the proclaimed priorities. Money and time talk.
 Pose the right questions. The questions posed and the effort and energy spent in the pursuit of
answers communicate priorities and set direction.
 Model what is valued. Demonstrate commitment by focusing on the priority and keeping the issue
constantly before others. Leaders must model the approach they want others to embrace.
 Celebrate progress toward goal attainment. Frequent public acknowledgments for a job well done and
a wide distribution of small symbolic gestures of appreciation are powerful tools for communicating
priorities and values (see handout for incorporating celebrations)
 Confront violations of commitments. An unwillingness to confront these violations puts the initiative
at risk.
 Reject the fixed mindset that attributes accomplishments to innate ability or dispositions that cannot
be enhanced. Embrace the growth mindset, which is the belief that students can cultivate their ability
and talent through their own effort and the support of their educators (Dweck, 2006).
 Move quickly to action.
 Identify existing practices that should be eliminated.
 Translate the vision into a teachable point of view (TPOV), which is a succinct explanation of the effort
that can be illustrated through stories that engage others emotionally and intellectually (Tichy, 1997).
 Communicate that the process is nonlinear, and discuss the concepts of experiencing disequilibrium
and tolerating ambiguity as normal aspects of the change process. It is the dialogue about and the
struggle with the initiative at the school and district level that result in the deepest learning and
greatest commitment.
Adapted from: DuFour, R., DuFour, R., Eaker, R., & Many, T. (2010). Learning by doing: A handbook for
professional learning communities at work (2nd ed.). Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree Press.
See also: www.allthingsplc.info and go.solution-tree.com/PLCbooks