Eight forces for leaders of change

by Michael Fullan, Claudia Cuttress, and Ann Kilcher


This is an extremely useful reading, and links in very well to developments within New Zealand regarding leading change in schools. It would be helpful to use at the beginning of a change phase within a school, and to share with staff so that they come to understand the various stages in the process of implementing change in a school.

The eight forces, or points for consideration, are clearly stated guidelines that, while reminding us of the complexity of change processes, do not overwhelm the reader. In fact, they provide ways to think about the process, and suggest topics for discussion and evaluation of the process along the way.

As always, Fullan and his colleagues are realistic about working for change. They pose critical and reflective questions. They stress that change is ongoing, that it needs to be worked on and adapted to the specific situation in which a school finds itself. There is no miracle strategy that can be applied anywhere, any time.

They point out that even though change is usually driven by a sense of urgency around the need to solve a problem, this should be balanced with the need to understand the processes that will be involved and the implications of any change on the whole school environment.

School change involves more than learning about a good idea. It requires working through the idea in context and taking account of the specifics of our own situations, strengths, and weaknesses. It needs to be evaluated along the way and adapted as we learn more from the doing of the task about what is required.

Reflective questions

These reflective questions might guide you in your reading of this article:

  • How would you assess current change projects in your school against the eight forces or pointers that the authors suggest?
  • What processes do you have in place to involve your school community in discussion about the changes your school needs to make? How are these processes building capacity at all levels of the school to develop new skills and increased commitment to improve learning outcomes?
  • What systems do you have in place for evaluating the success of changes that you are implementing? How does your evaluation lead to improvements in teaching and learning?

Further reading

Harris, A. (2005). Leading or misleading: Distributed leadership and school improvement. Journal of Curriculum Studies, 37(3).

Fullan, M. (2002). The Three Stories of Education Reform. Phi Delta Kappan. April.


Fullan, M., Cuttress, C., & Kilcher, A. (2005). Eight forces for leaders of change. JSD, 26(4).

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