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Change Management: Adopting a new MIS with minimal upheaval

/ Rory Haynes

Introduction

Change. Some embrace it and some fear it but ultimately, change is inevitable. Whether it’s a new shampoo or children flying the nest we see change, large or small, almost every single day.

In schools, change is constant. The phrase ‘no two days are the same’ really is exemplified by life in education. Take writing mediums for example, some of you may have learnt your craft with the ever-trusty chalkboard; many of you will have experienced the whiteboard (and used a permanent marker by mistake on at least a few occasions), while some of you will have been ushered into the wonderful world of teaching with a smartboard. With multiple generations and backgrounds in any one school setting, change has to be managed, both in terms of systems and people.

So, what is change management and why is it crucial to schools?

Circle of people interconnected by red curves lines. cooperation, teamwork, training. Staff, community meeting.

What is Change Management

We should start by highlighting that statistically, 60% – 70% of all change management programmes are not implemented effectively. This serves to demonstrate the difficulty behind the process.

Change management is a systematic approach which involves significant transformation or transition from the existing status quo. This can be related to an organisations technologies or goals and is ultimately geared to improve performance whilst also controlling the change, allowing seamless adaptation within your environment.

Though it may seem wordy, it really is rather simple: changing to improve without rocking the boat too much.

The more effectively you employ change management within your establishment, the more success you are likely to see, and positive outcomes will certainly outweigh the negative.

When it comes to change management in schools, there really is no room for complacency with your existing setup. Upgrades in technology allow for: greater insights into how to improve outcomes for students, innovative ways to access the curriculum and varied ways to engage the student population. Ultimately, if you are still operating with pen and paper, results are almost certainly going to suffer.

Change management also extends beyond student outcomes, it can support teacher workload, communication with the entire school network and even quicken day-to-day activities performed on electronic devices.

But it must be done correctly. Failure to do so can lead to confusion and disillusionment, with staff, students and even parents unsure about how their roles have developed.

Let’s explore the three key areas behind change management and examine practices that can maximise outcomes.

Number 1 – Structuring your Change Management Approach

Change must be scalable. Regardless of the size of your organisation – the rollout must be manageable across all different facets. In order to do this, it is essential you put together implementation and communication plans, both to assess how you would like to ‘drip-feed’ new aspects of the system into day-to-day workflows and keep everyone abreast of continuing developments.

Before you even enter the tender process, it is crucial to know what your non-negotiables are and what are the things you need established from day one. This information does not necessarily need to be widespread to begin with, but it is recommended that your SLT, School Business Managers and Key Stage/Subject Leads are aware to provide visibility on how assessment, marking, attendance and other key areas may be affected, moving forward.

This system change must be easy to implement across multiple channels and this is particularly true when it comes to large schools or multi-academy trusts. Being able to deploy your new system means all necessary stakeholders should be informed and your IT team are aware of the implications of new requirements.

Hand holding piece of wooden block puzzle to demonstrate building a change management structure

Number 2 – Communication

Communication is everything when it comes to change management. People become used to systems and they need to be reassured that, though the process may require some upheaval, the team will do the upmost to alleviate any disruption or anxiety which may be suffered consequently. You need to bring everyone along for the ride, from SENCOs to dinner staff, but do so at the right time.

There is an argument to suggest that you could make everyone aware of the planned changes from the outset for transparency. However, in many cases change management is a lengthy process and you do not want to worry people who may not see any meaningful change in their role for a number of months.

Crucially, it’s about identifying what changes will be made, whether they are acceptable and how it could potentially change individual’s roles. If, as an example, someone in your school or trust currently runs an attendance report on a Friday to hand out certificates in assembly and, with the new system, this process is now automated, there will be ramifications for that person within the role. It is therefore vital to communicate that while these changes will occur, there are new roles and responsibilities which can be adopted, and appropriate guidance is given when transitioning to a revised role.

Alongside individual communications, a communications plan should be put in place from a holistic perspective so the whole team are made aware of key chapters during the process. Clearly with schools these can be subject to change, but it should not come as a shock to anyone in your community when a new payment system or registration dashboard comes into play.

It is crucial to note that change management should not be a top-down approach. Though the vehicle is largely operated by a combination of Governors, SLT and School Business Managers, you must allow your staff an arena to voice their opinion be it positive or negative.

The final top tip for best practice is about engaging with your staff and highlighting the benefits of a change management process.

Old orange telephone rings with handset off to demonstrate communicating with staff.

Number 3: Engage with Front line Staff – What’s in it for them?

Inevitably, there will be resistance to change management. Even if someone changes the type of tea bags in the staffroom, there can be uproar.

So, in order for the process to be successful for every stakeholder you need to try and deal in positives. Clearly demonstrate how this new system can positively effect daily working patterns for all your staff, while also giving them the tools to succeed.

Firstly, hold sessions to introduce your new system. These could be part of after school meetings or even form part of inset day schedules. Highlight similarities and differences and give staff the opportunity to practice and become familiar. Bromcom’s educational consultant, Mark Lovick, who has had extensive experience in change management procedures in education once introduced a new MIS to a 700-strong primary school. He gave a ten-minute demo in the school hall showing how the new programme operated and then allowed staff to explore themselves with the on-call phone to hand to triage any problems people had in their own classrooms. This is just one example of how to gain buy-in by involving your community. Mark even commented that a year four teacher approached him and stated ‘you’ve given me my evenings back with this’. Change is often positive; it is simply how you market it.

You also need to appreciate your sceptics. It can be a default reaction to become frustrated with those who do not buy in to your new system. It may be that they are used to their current workflows or simply they do not believe the change necessary in the first place. Nonetheless these individuals or groups are often vital as they can address areas which you may not have considered and may be of benefit to the entire team. Inevitably, you are never going to address all the minutiae of such a massive project on the first attempt. By embracing this feedback your implementation could well be improved and it also allows for full and frank conversations about direction, allowing members of the team to feel valued during the process.

By respecting your staff and their opinions, you are far more inclined to receive support for your change management procedure. Identifying and building relationships with all effective groups stands you in good stead for smooth implementation.

Happy friendly woman team leader talking to employees group at office meeting

How Bromcom can support your Change Management to a new MIS

Bromcom know the importance of a smooth transition to a new MIS. Our new Rapid Rollout scheme allows you to get up and running as quickly as possible, while also providing you with the ability to adopt a change management policy which does not preclude anyone.

Our Customer Service Support team are on hand to assist you throughout the entire procedure. Coupled with this you will be assigned a Customer Success Manager whose sole responsibility centre on you maximising your cloud-based MIS and feeling adept with everything Bromcom has to offer.

Though the word rapid may seem daunting, you can implement different parts of the system at different stages to suit your needs. Is there a matter of months until the next school wide assessment? Then park this to one side while you focus on the attendance dashboards. We are here to help you with change management and, with 35 years of experience in the education sector, we know how to get an MIS up and running successfully with your staff on board from start to finish.

Here are a couple of short videos to better explain the process, narrated by our fantastic Head of Customer Services, Liz Morgan:

Primary Onboarding

Secondary Onboarding

If you’re considering change, as many are, then look no further than Bromcom to provide you a market-leading MIS and the support to action effective change management.

/ Rory Haynes