The Knoster Model and Change in Schools

Enjoying Lake Champlain in Vermont

While on a much needed vacation yesterday in Vermont, the discussion at lunch with one of my nephews centered on the dual role any leader has in keeping the “trains running on time” and finding the time and energy to move the vision forward simultaneously.

Excellent leaders can do both but too many of us lean heavily on the managerial side of our jobs. Why is that? The train schedule is relatively fixed and solutions to trains being late are not usually complex. We can check off many managerial tasks quickly and we know the satisfying feeling one has by checking off to-dos.

On the other hand, non-managerial tasks are usually significantly more elaborate in scope and more indeterminent to complete. Often a leader has to rally colleagues while dipping into vision related undertakings and as such, there is greater risk.

Early on in my administrative career I was introduced to the Knoster Change Model which was first introduced at a TASH conference in 1991. It’s been resurrected as an important leadership document in our district recently:

Knoster’s premise is that the six categories of Vision, Consensus, Skills, Incentives, Resources, and Action Plan all need to be present in order for complex change to occur successfully. Perhaps most interesting is his speculation (column far right) of the change result if one of the categories is not present during the process.

CONFUSION RESULTING FROM A LACK OF VISION

This is so typical in schools. Hard working leaders want to implement programs and change the world. But the staff does not understand why they are pushing forward without vision.

SABOTAGE RESULTING FROM A LACK OF CONSENSUS

A leader cannot assume they have the power to push through change without gaining a consensus of their faculty. This does not mean 100% approval of course…it does mean setting the vision strongly enough and having enough hallway and informal conversations to win hearts and change minds.

ANXIETY RESULTING FROM A LACK OF SKILL DEVELOPMENT

Imagine being thrown into an athletic competition without having the skills to compete. You may have a vision for what brought you to the game and the resources to place you squarely in the contest. But without having developed the necessary skills you will be wrapped in anxiety and your performance will suffer. An abundance of anxiety is a certain method of crashing an initiative.

RESISTANCE RESULTING FROM A LACK OF INCENTIVE

A lack of incentive is a tricky concept. Surely the groundbreaking work of Daniel Pink and his book Drive highlights the inadequacy of monetary incentives. While we can’t be sure exactly what Knoster was thinking, I would surmise that without the promise of a healthy level of self-determination as an incentive for change, teachers will resist.

FRUSTRATION RESULTING FROM A LACK OF RESOURCES

A lack of resources is not just change on a shoe-string budget. Not creating time to work on complex change can be equally challenging.

RUNNING THE TREADMILL AS A RESULT OF NO ACTION PLAN

Great leadership energy, gobs of money, and a supurb vision is not enough without a cogent action plan that is shared with all and easily understood.

Have any of you implemented the Knoster model to any degree of fidelity? Love to hear your comments.

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