Being the organisational architect 

18th Jan 2014 14:45

Succeeding in headship

  1. Start with a strategy – know the journey then plan out how I will get from A to B
  2. Examine supporting structures and systems – consider the who? and how they work to make change effective. Consider capababilities. How will I maximise on this?
  3. Decide how and when to introduce a new strategy – give realistic time frames and be timely with the introduction of it. Is there a need for rapid change or more slow and evolutionary?
  4. Reshape structure, skills and systems simultaneously, not in isolation.
  5. Evaluate – get to know the capacities and capabilities in order to further refine strategies.

I can remember when I introduced the online system for logging professional development. Not only was this a shift for the entire school, who had been conducting PM using paper but the HT who considered herself a ‘luddite’. Not that I would agree. Nevertheless, it did not stop the HT from allowing this change to happen. As much as she used my capabilities to allow this change, I also in a way, used my knowledge of her capabilities and the school’s capacities in individuals to have the drive and confidence to push this forward. It had been attempted before also, only to fall down as there was no drive behind this. I had to consider the publicity, get into the hearts and minds of people to ensure they would come with me. I had to consider the ways of old, what was liked but the benefits of the new and sell it to my colleagues, continuously using language that was appealing, compelling, influential and motivating. I became known as the ‘Blue Sky’ lady! This included aspects such as benefits in seeing everything in one place regarding their professional development.


What I recognised to be most crucial for success, was the systems of support I put in place to ensure that this did not fail. I used key individuals to support others and I had a very clear timeline and plan, firstly shared with the SLT, half of whom were totally opposed to having a fully online system in place – so winning their trust was essential. It was a system which also required technological intelligence as well as the use of performance management to ensure there was an understanding about how to make school improvement by setting specific, impact measurable objectives. I think I did use the 5 steps clearly and it was successful as this system is still in use and in fact has moved on.

Organisational alignment 

These questions are key:

What does alignment of strategy and resources look like?
How do leaders change the culture of the organisation?
How does the change take place and how does a leader effect this change to make the school move where it wants it to?

Some useful tips courtesy of

The First 90 Days – Chapter Summaries:

– The actions you take in your first three months in a new job will largely determine whether you succeed or fail.

1. Promote Yourself: Make the mental break from your old job and prepare to take charge in the new one. The biggest pitfall you face is to assume that what has made you successful to this point in your career will continue to do so.

2. Accelerate Your Learning: Accelerate the learning curve as fast as you can in your new organization. Understand its markets, products, technologies, systems, structures, and culture, and politics.

3. Match Strategy to Situation: Diagnose the business situation accurately and clarify its challenges and opportunities.

4. Secure Early Wins: Early wins build your credibility and create momentum.

5. Negotiate Success: Figure out how to build a productive working relationship with your new boss and manage his/her expectations. Plan for a series of critical conversations. Develop and gain consensus on your 90-day plan.

6. Achieve Alignment: Figure out whether the organization’s strategy is sound. Bring its structure into alignment with its strategy.

7. Build Your Team: If you are inheriting a team, evaluate its members and restructure it to better meet the demands of the situation. Make tough early personnel calls.

8. Create Coalitions: Influence people outside your direct line of control. Rely on supportive alliances, internal and external, to achieve your goals.

9. Keep Your Balance: Work hard to maintain your equilibrium and preserve your ability to make good judgments, professionally and personally. It’s great when you see how the thinking of fellow intellectuals and life coaches align, consider that the very same message is shared by Stephen Covey in the ‘7 Habits of Highly Effective People’ when he talks about ‘sharpening the saw’.

11. Expedite Everyone: Help everyone in your organization—direct reports, bosses, and peers—accelerate their own transitions. The faster this is done, the faster you can perform.

– The biggest danger you face is belief in a one-size-fits-all rule for success.


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