When Our Best Plans Fail

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Today on the blog we have a post by our very own Dr. Steven Rippe. Steven is the Director of the Hope Survey and Organization Development. In this post, Steven points out that growth and change don’t take linear paths and offers a few tips for evaluating ideas and projects in school environments.

Dr. Steven J. Rippe has over 20 years of experience working with educators and school leaders designing and implementing innovative schools and programs throughout the United States. A successful teacher, principal and University administrator, Steven has worked with passionate educators to create nationally recognized schools and works with struggling schools to reinvent themselves into high performing, dynamic learning organizations.


When Our Best Plans Fail

By Dr. Steven J. Rippe

When the first months of school have passed, I often step back and reflect on all the ideas we had as a team over the summer and how they were implemented at the start of the school year. I am often surprised when I look at what I thought was such a great plan and when we went to implement, the work struggled. As a team we often have to rework great ideas, apply band-aids or abandon the idea totally. Over time I have gotten used to the idea that when we team, the collective work we develop often has to go through a phase of “continuous improvement” before we get to a process that really matches our intent and school culture.

I have also learned to honor the reality that for most teams, whenever we are trying to learn something new, we will experience an “implementation dip” as we move to implementation. In other words, the first attempts look pretty ugly and clumsy.

Michael Fullan (2001) states that all successful schools experience implementation dips as they implement new ideas, observable with a literal dip in performance.

Before I kick new ideas to the curb during the implantation dip, I like to stop and review of the work of Knoster (1991) and Ambrose (1987) on the Factors of Managing Complex Change. This work has been extremely useful in helping teams identify the missing components needed to be successful. Review the graphic below and facilitate a discussion with your team before you abandon new ideas/innovation. The essential question:  as we moved to implement XYZ do we need to revisit and strengthen any of these areas (Vision, Skills, Incentives, Resources and Action Plan)?

Education in the United States needs to be fueled with new ideas and innovation.  Being aware of the “Implementation Dip” and the Factors in Managing Complex Change can be very useful in helping take great ideas into sustainable best practices.  If you would like help facilitating this discussion with your team or more information on our professional development services, contact us at coaching@edvisions.org.