The Myth of “One-Size-Fits-Most”

There’s no doubt that “one-size-fits-all” doesn’t really exist in hats, gloves or learning – so how does “one-size-fits-most” exist in preparing for organizational transformation?

For a very long time we have been applying a “one-size-fits-all” l or “one-size-fits-most” approach to student learning.  Thank goodness we have moved away from this model where we wait for students to fail and then provide interventions as necessary when learning breaks down.  We have learned a lot about individual needs, and we have started to place value on the unique skills and background knowledge that students bring to their learning. This background knowledge is essential to capitalize on each students talents and goals and to adjust the initial phases of instruction for earlier success.  

This change in understanding and the way we approach learning has paved the way for the personalized learning movement that is sweeping the nation.  But how does this translate to the professional development that is being used to prepare these leaders and teachers? How are we accommodating them and preparing them for personalized learning?  

Ask yourself these questions. As a leader…

  • Are you still employing a “one-size-fits-all” or “one-size-fits-most” model of professional development?  
  • Are you individualizing – allowing each educator to choose their own path for professional development?  
  • Are you establishing a process to co-create the vision, where there are opportunities to develop member ownership and agency for a systematic yet personalized approach to transformation?  

As leaders, it is easy to fall into the “one-size-fits-all” pattern of implementation and professional development because we are often driven by mandates and words such as “fidelity” and “accountability.”  But our schools and staff members are as unique as our students.  Believing that “one-size-fits-most” for transformation is a myth.   On the flip side, it is easy to open the floodgates and let members individualize their own professional development in an attempt to meet everyone’s needs, but then you risk having members each take their learning in different directions, thus straying from the overall vision of the organization.  

So how do you create systematic change with a common vision while still honoring members’ personal needs, voice and choice?  You must begin by forming a shared commitment, then place value, and then act on where each staff member is in their understanding, connection and implementation.  

In the Harvard Business Review (Jan. 2007) John P. Kotter states, “Transformation is a process, not an event.  It advances through stages that build on each other.  Skipping steps produces the illusion of speed, but never produces lasting results.”

The path from aspiration to transformation must be systematic, connected, relevant and purposeful to each member if it is to become embodied as part of the school culture.  

There are seven steps that we have identified necessary for creating this culture and providing professional learning opportunities that match the needs of the organization as a whole and the needs of the individual members to ensure that it is a perfect fit every time.

The Path from Aspiration to Transformation
Adapted from Eight Steps to Transforming Your Organization
John P. Kotter Harvard Business Review (2007)


    1. Establish a sense of urgency and purpose.  Establishing a sense of purpose is paramount.  If it is not established, then it can seem like any change is just one more thing on the “To Do” list, lacking relevancy.
    2. Form a team with a shared commitment.  If each member does not fully embrace the need for change and understand how their participation will benefit the group, the system will break down.
    3. Define the vision. Each member needs to be able to clearly state and describe the vision so it is understandable to all.  This deep understanding will anchor all decisions that are made and be the defining culture that is embodied in all aspects of school.
    4. Communicate the vision. Sharing the vision on a regular basis and continually evaluating what is currently being done that aligns to the vision and celebrating where it is seen in action will bring unity and keep the momentum going.
    5. Engage and empower others. This begins with creating relevant, purposeful learning experiences by understanding the strengths and needs of each member, identifying how that aligns to the vision, setting goals and then engaging in meaningful learning opportunities to grow professionally.  This is where individual pathways are activated and agency is embraced so each member feels ownership and control of the process within the common vision.
    6. Plan and celebrate short term wins. This is a journey not a race, so add mile markers to pause and celebrate the work that is being done, readjust your route and continue down the path.
    7. Produce more change & new approaches. This step allows opportunities to evaluate and take action to engage others and determine where, how and how much to further scale and increase effectiveness.

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