Change Management: Do you ‘Dump n’ Run’ or ‘Guide n Slide’?

Continual improvement is something I personally aspire to. Fine-tuning, tweaking, re-working, deleting or adding...for me it’s about getting better at my craft.

When taking onboard something new, I am a person that needs to be shown what to do then have someone alongside me for awhile to both support and coach me until I feel confident to do it fully by myself. The crux for me in this process is that the support isn’t taken away too early; nor does last too long, leading to dependency. It is support that gradually slides-away.

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I aliken it to learning to surf. As a beginner you are shown how to carry, lie-on and stand-up on a surfboard...all onshore. You are then briefed before you go in the water. During the time of ‘trial and (many) errors’, you have instructors in the water with you; standing back enough to give you space to give-it-a-go, or there right beside you when you need help getting onto a wave.

This in my opinion is an approach that is needed within professional learning and development for new initiatives. Too often I see people either being told about the change they need to make, given a few examples, then left to-it to implement...also known as the 'Dump n Run'. They are not supported with implementing the change within their day-to-day practice. If lucky, they may have a coach or mentor who might ask a few questions, or offer a few ideas and resources, but ultimately they are on their own. 

As a developing educational leader (25+ years ago!) one approach I experienced that made a difference to my practice was ‘shadow-coaching’. This occurred where another more experienced leader shadowed me for between half to a full day once a month. They would be quietly in the background watching what I did and how I interacted with people. Sometimes they would offer an alternative idea or way of doing things if I was stuck. During break times we would have reflective dialogue around what we both noticed and start to formulate ideas for how to fine-tune my ways-of-working. This was a mix of mentoring and coaching approaches that ensured I didn’t just leave the theory and discussions in my head...they became grounded in my practice. The shadow-coach was there for the betterment of my practice; they weren’t my best-friend. Their support dropped-away over time as I became more confident... also know as the 'Guide n Slide' approach.

I see the Shadow-Coaching approach missing within a lot of workplaces. People are expected to inquire into their practice without the valuable support of someone who is able to get alongside them in the context of their work environment; be it their classroom, office, or out in the field and offer deep coaching and mentoring. I know that for me and many others, shadow-coaching was an approach that enabled huge shifts in my practice, and one I now use with clients.

So I’m wondering... is your change management approach one of ‘Dump n Run’... or is it a ‘Guide n Slide’ approach...or maybe it is somewhere in between? Consider also how much of a change you wish to make and in what timespan. What support are you prepared to give or arrange to ensure this occurs?