How did your last district initiative implementation go?
If we’re being honest, probably not as well as you had hoped, right? It’s okay…it’s not you.
The truth is, most new initiatives don’t go all that well. We see it all the time, working with districts across the country. A new idea comes along, it seems to be the perfect tool for achieving one of your goals, you educate yourself on it, prepare to roll it out, and then…it bombs. Your teachers fight it, the students don’t buy in, and it ends up being a waste of time, money, and resources.
But why does this happen so often? Why, when it makes sense, do district initiatives still fail so often?
Honestly, it’s usually because mistakes are made. We don’t always realize we made a mistake, but chances are, we made them.
Here are a few of the most common mistakes we see districts making while rolling out new initiatives.
1. Assume Everyone Understands the Initiative
This is a big one. Teachers have a lot on their plate, and a lot on their minds…all the time. They may shake their heads in approval when you roll out a new plan, but that doesn’t guarantee they understand WHY that new plan is important. Maybe they were so focused on that pile of work sitting on their desk, that they just wanted to get out of there and get back to their classroom.
Take the time to make sure everyone on your staff not only understands why the new initiative is important to their district, but WHY it is important to them and their students. Clear some time on your schedule to meet up with teachers individually and give them a chance to ask additional questions. And then ask them key questions to ensure they are on the same page as you. Most importantly, if they don’t understand, take their concerns seriously and take the time to talk through it with them.
2. Don’t Clearly Explain How it Fits in With What You’re Already Doing
“Oh, great, one more thing we have to do.” You’ve heard this before, I’m sure of it. We hear it all the time when we start working with a district, and we know that it is a huge red flag that needs addressed. If your team feels like a new initiative is “one more thing” you might as well throw it in the trash, it won’t work.
Make sure your teachers can clearly see how the new initiative fits in with all the other initiatives you have in place. Show examples of how they complement each other, walk through how to manage the new plan with the systems and technology you have in place. Spend time with your staff to make sure it all makes sense. Yes, it’s a little more of your very limited time, but when you’re trying to roll something out district-wide, it is time well spent.
3. Set Unrealistic Expectations
Don’t expect every single teacher to have every single piece of a new initiative in place in a week, or a month, or even a year. Depending on what the initiative is, it can take some time. Remember that your staff already has a lot on their plates. They have a lot of work to get done every day, and something new, even when implemented properly, adds to the list.
Take some time with your admin team, and bring in a few teachers, to assess what a realistic expectation is. Share it with your staff and make sure they agree that it is realistic.
4. Set Unclear Expectations
Going one step further from the above, make sure that once you set those realistic expectations, they are very clearly communicated with everyone on your team. I cannot tell you how many times we’re in a workshop and get asked “so are we expected to have Grids done for the whole year, or just a few of them?”
Unfortunately, we don’t always know. If we’ve been working with your district for a bit, we’ll have worked with you to understand expectations, but if we’re just coming in, we won’t have an answer for them. Make sure you provide them with this information BEFORE you even start to roll something out.
5. Don’t Provide Training For Administrators
A commonly overlooked necessity for any initiative to work is training for your admin team. They may not need the same training as your teachers, but they should absolutely get training on how to support their teachers. Building-level administrators can be the difference between success and failure of an initiative. Understanding how to handle objections and overcome challenges, and knowing what to look for in classrooms and where to access support resources, will allow your admin team to support your staff and find solutions to problems before they become too big to fix.
The bottom line is this;
Rolling out a new district initiative is hard work. There’s no doubt about that. But it can be done successfully. You can take that new idea and make it work for your schools, but only if you take the time to plan the rollout properly, set realistic and clear expectations, ensure your teachers and admin staff are properly trained, and put in place proper support and follow-up to make sure minor challenges don’t become massive roadblocks. Avoid these 9 mistakes and you’ll do just fine!