Recently I had the opportunity to work on a family farm. In addition to bringing in the hay, milking cows and other normal farm tasks, I helped prepare to move a barn. While doing so, I found myself reflecting on the similarities between leading change in a school setting and preparing this building for its maiden voyage.
The barn was the first building the farmer built thirty years ago. At the age of seventeen, he poured the concrete, set the posts, and installed the electric, roof and insulation by himself. Since then, he has built a small village on the farm, including two houses in which he and his family live. With all of this building experience, he learned from his mistakes and built each building a little differently. This building was not flimsy though, it was solid.
Made of home-grown lumber and what is now a faded red aluminum siding and roof, this is an impressive barn. Yet, as solid as this building was, without a well-designed support system, it would not survive a short trip off its foundation. Our task was to support this empty barn so that it would not collapse like a house of cards.
Before the tractor was hooked up to the sleds, we painstakingly braced the building. At the bottom, where he set the ‘skis’, we secured each beam to a brace that was welded and bolted to the beams. In the middle we braced the ceiling to the sides and the corners to each other. In the front, we placed X’s in the bay doors and secured all of the windows. Then it was time for a slow-pull. It must have taken about 8 hours to move that building 50 feet. It was quite a sight to behold.
Similarly, I’ve noticed that change needs to be planned for, especially when taking a school in a direction that is different than what they are used to. Much discussion, planning and support needs to be in place before that maiden voyage. I’ve seen this in action this year as we have implemented a ‘Flex’ block. My principal has set the stage for this change and has spent much time preparing for it. From concept, through research, design and implementation, he has painstakingly focused on the details so the change in schedule can be made smoothly. Of course, there are unforeseen issues… but planning helps minimize those.