Challenges to implementation call for this one thing teams need

This week a group of coordinators and team leaders responded to a call for advice on Twitter and Facebook, responding to the question, “What are our biggest challenge and frustrations when leading program implementation?” 

The quick responses show that there are some common challenges to implementation in a variety of contexts. 

What struck me about the results is that out of the top eight challenges, only one is technical, and the rest are adaptive challenges.

A technical challenge is Keep current with IB knowledge. Technical challenges are those things on our to-do list, which are addressed with a procedural action. In the case of “Keep current with IB knowledge,” our simplest solution might be to read our Principles into practice, Guides and other current documents, which hold the information we need for practice in our IB programme. We can easily schedule regular reading time of documents in MyIB. 

The other top seven challenges are adaptive ones, challenges which require a change in thinking and behaviour, in order to enact practices as a response to a change in the environment. For example, at the very top is “To increase the value of collaboration.”

Collaboration skills are some like these:

  • Delegate and share responsibility for decision-making
  • Help others succeed
  • Manage and resolve conflict, and work collaboratively in teams
  • Build consensus
  • Listen actively to other perspectives and ideas
  • Encourage others to contribute
  • Give and receive meaningful feedback 

(From principles into practice, 2014)

These ATL skills for collaboration are essential for a programme’s full implementation, not only because they are skills in the ATL framework that teachers model for students, but also because these skills allow for the core practices that set the MYP apart from other programmes. 

Take interdisciplinary learning, for example. Interdisciplinary learning is a response to the environment. In our programme, we aim to provide opportunities for the type of learner who thrives in a VUCA world, a self-directed inquirer who solves open-ended problems through an iterative approach which involves different modes of finding out, and in the process evaluates approaches and skills, keeping what’s effective for the process at hand and discarding those which aren’t at the time…and reflecting on both results and process, on and on in cyclical ways. A learner who does not assume that learning is linear with a definite end. Someone who thrives in a world where change is exponential and constant, a world that by nature of its volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity demands constant learning.

Implementation of interdisciplinary learning has some technical actions, procedural actions that have definite start and end times:

  • Scheduling time in the timetable for planning
  • Moving curriculum around in the overview to create shared time between participating subject groups
  • Reading the documentation so we know what is required for IDU

Most of what we do to plan, teach and assess IDU are adaptive actions, responses requiring a change in thinking and behaviour.

For example, we need to break through the thinking that disciplines and subjects are taught in isolation. And, instead of doing our own thing in our own classroom, we need to blend our disciplinary aims with (an)other discipline’s aims, in a problem that reaches global contextual significance, designing tasks which allow for transfer between and across disciplines.

Without valuing collaboration, interdisciplinary learning becomes a technical action. 

It should not surprise us when we get frustrated at times in the course of programme implementation. What is frustrating in implementation is when a technical solution is applied to an adaptive problem.

A technical action does not present a solution that sustains and supports strong realisation of action plans. Instead, it becomes a procedural concern, without meaningful and significant understanding of why we’re doing it, and consequently no real traction. Applying a technical solution to an adaptive issue results in a cycle of becoming busy doing without any real impact on outcomes. It also creates discontent when people begin asking, Why are we doing this? When people do not understand the value of a thing to begin with, how might investing time and energy needed to bridge from goal to action seem justifiable?

In addition, the danger of technical fixes to adaptive issues breeds a sort of sabotage to implementation. A dismissive “We tried that, it didn’t work” might become a learned response. And the action plans toward programme vitality gets pushed down the list of priorities.

Openness to a change in thinking and behaviour seems a prerequisite for teams to approach healthy programme implementation. How we cultivate this openness in our teams is an inquiry worth pursuing.

How do you create team ownership of collaboration?

Author: alavina

Cognitive Coach and author. I simplify personal power so you can use mental resources and find pathways to your goals, be more productive and feel in control every day.

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