As the school year nears the halfway mark, many of you are looking at your school improvement plans to see if you are meeting your goals.  For my blog today, I am going to explore what Michael Fullan calls the five components of complex change.  After reading his books and articles,  I was very impressed with his clear thinking and research that backed up his views.

What Are The Five Components of Complex Change?

A number of years ago, I was working as a consultant with a school district in Ohio.  This rural district had some of the lowest test scores in the state, despite a stable community with reasonable resources. It wasn’t that they were not trying, but the plans they made only seemed to cause confusion, frustration, anxiety and false starts.  After reviewing their plans, I noticed that they were missing some of the key components that Dr. Fullan’s work indicates you must have in order to manage complex change.  This discovery resulted in me developing a graphic organizer of the five components to help guide their improvement planning. The results were remarkable! The school district went from very low scores to very high scores within three years.  The five components required to manage complex change are: vision, skills, incentives, resources, and an action plan.

Why You Need All Five

When you employ all five components at the same time, along with clearly stated directions, and skilled, enthusiastic educators, your school will make strong improvements.  If you do not have one or more of the components, you will not see the desired change. For example, if the vision is not clear, it can lead to confusion and misunderstanding.  Also, without the necessary skills (i.e. communication, public speaking, advocacy) identified and applied, anxiety can appear. Next, incentives for change are a great way to motivate people to make gradual changes towards your goals. Additionally, if you do not have the resources needed, you will experience frustration.  And finally, if you do not have an action plan, you will have a false start.  The conclusion from Dr. Fullan’s research indicates that if any of the five components are not clearly stated and provided, the changes you desire will not happen.  The chart below illustrates this point for each component:  



Recommended Resources

Many factors contribute to success, however, omitting  any of these foundational components limit your progress.  I strongly recommend that you read articles and books by  Dr. Fullan to gain more insight about his approach.  Here are several that I think you would find helpful:

For more information about Dr. Fullan and his work, visit his website at

Please feel free to contact Leaders Building Leaders and we will be glad to assist you in effective  planning for change that will be successful for your school.  

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