Where to Start with Systematic Change and the Role of Alignment

In our fast paced world we want and expect things instantaneously. One of my good friends calls this the “Drive-Thru Syndrome”. Couple this expectation of instant gratification to the high pressure demands of rapid improvement and you end up with a disastrous plan for systematic implementation and growth that likely will not stick.

There are four key areas to consider when evaluating where to start with systematic change. Each element needs to be addressed, starting with the top with emphasis on vision and mindset and instructional practices, and layering in structures and resources to support the work.


Here are some ideas to consider when evaluating where you are in the process of preparing for systematic change.


Assembling the right team, knowing where you are going and why you are going there is the first step. Once the intent is clearly defined then ensuring that the team is aligned, ready and willing to do the work follows closely behind.

  • Have we clearly identified the vision and communicated it widely?
  • Can the key team members easily talk about the vision with confidence?
  • Are all of the key members in agreement that moving toward the vision is both necessary and attainable with perseverance?


I want to include a caution here because this is often an area that blocks the work. Many times changes in structures are the first place people start, and changes are made only to realize that they were not the right changes – thus delivering the team into a continues cycle of constant change and never getting to the real work. Structures will be addressed continually based on clearly identified needs, but they should not be the main focus of the work.

  • Are there easy to solve changes that can be made to structures that will allow the work to begin? (Note: this is not a final solution only the necessary beginning.)
  • If these changes are not made, will the work not be able to start?
  • Can your team including your office staff, the first line to the public, easily explain the change in structures and the WHY behind them?


This is the heart and soul of implementation. These are highly focused, intentional practices that teachers will do to build learner skills, develop student agency and ownership. Ultimately these intentional practices are the scaffolded support that will build students into future ready leaders.

  • What instructional practices are already happening that supports the work?
  • What can teachers intentionally do to develop student skills to reach the vision?
  • How will the intentional practices gradually release students to ownership?


These combined with structures are often where people like to start, but prove to be misplaced efforts. The idea of “just by changing this or using this resources we will get to our vision” is misguided. Resources layered alongside the implementation of instructional practices is a powerful combination and can be added at the same time as long as the tool does not become the driving force behind the work.

  • Is there a tool that will involve students at a deep level and make their strengths struggles visible to help with goal setting?
  • Is there a resource that will streamline the work and prove to be a timesaver and allow for multiple people to interact with the information?
  • Does the tool allow for student choice and the development of ownership of their learning?

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