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Create Your Coalition: Driving Positive Change

Get the right people on board early.

We talked about John Kotter’s 8-step change model back in May, offering some advice around the fourth step in the process: communicating the vision for change with persistence and celebration. This month, we’re rewinding to focus on the second step—building a guiding coalition—and all of the considerations that will go into that task, particularly in the context of education in Aotearoa.

Creating the guiding coalition for your desired change is not about putting together the team that will do the legwork to implement it; that comes later. In this phase, you are gathering support from the right people, the ones who will lead the change effectively. You are also seeking input, perspective, and advice from the voices that need to be heard.


The basics

Kotter’s own website calls Step Two “build a guiding coalition”, while this comprehensive guide from Mindtools calls it “form a powerful coalition”. Whatever the words used, the idea stands: bring together an array of people with different perspectives and strengths who will make effective change leaders.

Some coalition members may be there to serve a “guiding” function, offering necessary insight. Others may serve a leadership function, helping to build urgency and momentum around the change process.

Diversity of all kinds is key to a good coalition. A variety of perspectives should be represented—although depending on your context, not all will carry the same weight.

Kotter and Rogers: working together

In our last blog post we described how Rogers’ Diffusion of Innovation theory could be used to make the change process smoother and more successful. The theory describes five groups of people with different attitudes to a specific change and how new ideas might spread through them. It works well with Kotter’s change model, particularly in step 2.

When creating your guiding (or powerful!) coalition, you’ll want to pay attention to Rogers’ groupings and ensure that you are getting the right type of people on the team. We mentioned that the Innovators are not the loudest voices for change—rather, you want people like the Early or even Late Majority who are more cautious in their acceptance of change. Often, the general population are likely to trust their measured judgement in a case of “if they’re OK with it, it must be good!”

The Early Adopters are another group to watch as you finetune and solidify your vision. The mixture of open-mindedness to new things plus a bit of caution that separates them from Innovators helps them to find and champion ideas with great potential.


In Aotearoa

Our unique context adds a few specific considerations to the mix. Any change made in the education sector must be viewed with a bicultural lens and implemented (or not) in accordance with the articles of te Tiriti.

This means that the voices of tangata whenua (as a tiriti partner) will be heard and incorporated. Additionally, as schools are community-based, the mana whenua are the local authority and should have the opportunity for input.

In this blog post, we described the concept of kanohi kitea (the seen or known face) and the importance of relationship in te ao Māori. As Māori voices should always be heard and tikanga incorporated into changes within the education system, meaningful engagement and relationship building is a foundational aspect of building a sufficient guiding coalition. As we wrote in the earlier blog, change leaders must “go back regularly. Keep showing up. Become kanohi kitea. Listen quietly. Learn.”

Schools can seek input from manawhenua through existing connections, through listening and taking into account perspectives of students’ whānau, and from local marae and similar organisations. They should be prepared to engage, not just consult.

With that foundation in place and at the centre, change leaders can consider achieving diverse input from different genders, cultures, knowledge specialties, and other groups.

A strong, diverse guiding coalition is crucial to effective change management. Having an influential group ready to board and guide the new idea from conception to implementation and to be champions of the change will give the process momentum.

Get in touch with Think e-Learning to find out more about how we can help with professional development for ICT leaders and support your change journey.


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