Political & organizational savvy–it’s not just about the kids

If you want to make systems change, it’s critical to be organizationally savvy

[Editor’s note: This is the 12th installment in Jennifer Abrams’ ‘Personal Development’ column for eSchool News. In her columns, Abrams focuses on leadership skills for anyone working in a school or district. Read more about the column here.]  

Some educators tell me they “aren’t political.” They don’t want to get involved in the “drama” of the organization. They went into teaching to avoid all that organizational “stuff.”

Yet as Steve Maraboli, behavioral science academic, once tweeted, “Your fear of the truth does not hide or dilute it.” We all have come to terms with the reality that we are working within a system and we need to know how to communicate well within that system.

Dr. Robert Marshak. author of Covert Processes at Work: Managing the Five Hidden Dimensions of Organizational Change, opened my eyes to seeing through the organizational lens. He has a set of questions to think about in terms of organizational change and being more organizationally savvy. I mentioned these questions in my book, Hard Conversations Unpacked, and will reiterate them here.

Ask yourself the following questions as you look toward the success of your organizational conversations and your implementation of new initiatives at your site.

Who are the stakeholders with interests related to this change and, based on their needs, how might they perceive this change? There is always someone affected by the conversation even though they aren’t directly involved. Team members, secretaries, colleagues, family members—everyone will be impacted to some degree. Be prepared to consider shifts in these people’s lives as well. For example, will a secretary be given additional work if there is a re-org and her boss is promoted and how will she react to that news? How will that impact the relationship she currently has with her supervisor?

What sources of power or influence do these stakeholders have to impact the change? Do they have greater pull than you? For example, if you change something within the realm of educational services, how does that change impact human resources? Might you need to go rally support if you are new to the work and the person in this other department is of the old guard and might want things to stay status quo?

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