Change management

Embracing change…or trying to!

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Alice Lewes, Early Years Leadership Consultant

3 April 2017

I’m on the move. Yes, finally! I’ve lived at 35 Beryl Road since January 1989, so it’s probably about time I was a little bit more adventurous.

I have discovered that a great deal has changed in the ensuing years when it comes to moving. There is much more red tape, lots of new legislation and that what I seem to remember from before as being a fairly straight forward matter no longer is.

It made me think of the latest additions/alteration to the EYFS from April and all the preparations for the 30 hours from September, and all that my friends and colleagues in early years go through having to understand new changes on a regular basis.


Photograph by Bernard Delobelle

I think that if you understand the need for changes and new ways of doing things you can be much more receptive.

“Have you got a copy of your EPC certificate?”, Pukar, the very friendly estate agent asked me. “My what?” I replied – I had never heard of such a thing and gather it’s got something to do with how environmentally friendly my flat is. This was definitely NOT something that was of a concern in 1989, but I can see in 2017 that being environmentally friendly is a very good thing – so let me just shell out £75 and get one!

Change sometimes costs money

Photograph by Fabian Black via Unsplash

That didn’t hurt too much, but change costs money!

Additional training costs, the time to coach and mentor your team so that they are motivated and up to scratch, the rewriting of policies, procedures etc. It can all be a very time-consuming and expensive business.

“I’m sure we will be able to find a buyer for your flat, but after Brexit the market has had to readjust, so perhaps you could smarten it up a bit”, Pukar bravely suggested. OK, he had a point, you are sometimes so used to how something is that you become almost blind to how others might see it.

We’ve always done it like this – why should we change?

Hmm…This was going to be an expensive change, but according to the oracle (otherwise known as Pukar!), the money I was going to spend was an investment. He assured me that any money spent would be reflected in the sale price, and therefore I would effectively be saving! Interesting. But he’s the professional so I’d better take his advice.

I have done a great deal of research on the 30 hours and have delivered some training around how to manage the challenge, whilst still providing quality care for the children – this felt quite similar. Settings are being asked to undertake a big challenge, which will impact on staffing, funding, (I won’t go into that here), marketing, ratios etc. That is not all; there is also a subliminal message that it’s not a question of “can you afford to do it?”, it’s more a question of “can you afford not to?”. I have heard comments like, “well if your setting won’t be offering the 30 hours, there might well be one down the road who will, and your sustainability might well be in question”.

I have now invested quite a lot more into my flat, so fingers crossed that money will turn out to have been well spent. In the same way, I hope the investment that settings are already putting into their businesses (planning, letters to parents, getting staff on board etc.) will also turn out to have been money well spent – and it will.

The next stage. The flat is decorated, I spent about 100 hours with a toothbrush scrubbing in between all the bathroom tiles – it looks fabulous! But don’t you dare sit down, no, you can’t have a tea or coffee, you might make a mark…do you REALLY need to go to the bathroom?

I have a clean bathroom and I intend to keep it that way!

Photograph by Dan Watson via Unsplash

I have been to state of the art early years childcare settings – they looked amazing, but there was just ‘something’ missing. Equally, I have been to church halls, where everything has to be set up each morning from scratch but the ‘feel’ is just right. Yes my flat looks lovely, but it’s not really me any more. It should be a home where everyone feels welcome and comfortable, not a showroom. And that’s really my point.

We can be so concerned with making sure that we are conforming to any new legislation, running to catch up with the latest changes, that we can lose sight of what REALLY matters, the babies and children.

It’s imperative that we are adhering to any new legislation, but in the same way as my flat is geared to ‘sell’, I sometimes feel that we are so geared ‘to meet Ofsted requirements’ that we can loose our settings ‘unique magic’ – I guess the challenge is how to manage both.

Research will tell us all that nearly all of us are resistant to change. This is where leaders and managers must step up to the challenge – I’m afraid a great deal of it is about attitude. If you are frustrated (understandably) by changes, feel negative and disillusioned, this will communicate itself to your team. They too will resist and lose heart and motivation – this can’t help but have an impact on the quality care of the babies and children in your setting.

Here is some practical advice to help us all through the challenge of change!

  • Don’t resist. While your gut reaction to change is often refusal, such a response is not productive. Change is inevitable, and you must learn to accept it. The quicker you do, the smoother your transition.
  • Find the positive. Even the most difficult changes can produce positive results. Don’t waste time dwelling on what you don’t like. Focus instead on the potential benefits and new opportunities the changes may bring, and your spirits will remain lighter throughout the transition.
  • Consider others. Change rarely affects one person; in most cases it affects many people at once. Change experienced as a group can become either a supportive, unifying experience or a negative, frustrating one.
  • Focus on one change at a time. While we can learn to accept and manage change, piling numerous changes up all at once can become too overwhelming, even for the most flexible of us.
  • Exercise patience with yourself. When things change significantly, accept that you will not be able to master them all right away. Give yourself a break, and don’t add to your stress by trying to become a whiz at everything overnight.
  • Ask productive questions. Ask yourself questions that will make a positive difference, such as, “How can I help facilitate the transition?” or “How will I need to adjust my workload to accommodate these new challenges”.
  • Take control. Change is stressful because it threatens a person’s sense of control. Don’t allow a powerless feeling to overwhelm you; face new challenges head-on. Focus on how you can make it work for you. You will feel empowered by your renewed sense of control.

At last, the day has come. I have jumped through hundreds of hoops, sent endless copies of utility bills, my passport (apparently I might be a money launderer!), filled in and signed lots and lots of different forms – the flat is now for SALE.

I’m wondering, are you, or anyone you know interested in buying a flat in Hammersmith? I will introduce you to the VERY charming Pukar, and you can go from there!

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