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Ron Heifetz

Page history last edited by PBworks 16 years, 10 months ago

Perspectives on Change: Ronald A. Heifetz



Heifetz identifies two types of challenges in change:  adaptive and technical. The technical is defined as those that can be solved by the knowledge of experts, whereas adaptive requires new learning. When the problem definition, solution, and implementation is clear, Heifetz calls this technical change. For the adaptive, change must come from the collective intelligence of the employees at all levels. So, together they learn their way toward solutions.


Challenges Educational Leaders Face: Technical or Adaptive?
Level I: Technical Level II: Technical & Adaptive  Level III: Adaptive

✭ Problem definition is


✭ Problem definition is clear

✭ Problem definition, solution, and

implementation require new learning

✭ Leader or expert

provides solution

✭ Solution requires new learning

✭ Responsibility for the solution resides

within the followers

✭ Easiest to resolve

✭ Both leader and followers are

responsible for the solution

✭ Most difficult to resolve
    ✭ Second order change



---“The mark of leadership in the competitive world is leading others in adaptive work.”



Six Principles for Leading Adaptive Change

1. Get on the balcony

    a. Leaders need to have distance to see the “big picture”

2. Identify the adaptive change

    a. Leader needs the ability to identify adaptive change when it is called for 

    b. Must address it in order to turn it around

    c. Confront the brutal facts (Jim Collins, 2001)

3. Regulate distress

    a. Do not overwhelm but provide enough tension to maintain urgency

    b. Challenge unproductive norms

    c. Ask questions rather than give answers

4. Maintain disciplined attention

    a. Must be able to identify distractions and refocus the work

    b. Attention on tough issues

    c. People ten to slide back into old behaviors unless focus is maintained

    d. Reframing isues get at the heart

5. Give work back to people

    a. Getting others to assume responsibility

    b. Instill confidence in others through encouragement and support

    c. Be part of the change

6. Protect voices of leadership from below

    a. Protect rather than squelch those who risk speaking up

    b. Need to hear all voices including dissenters


Political Thinking

(Level 5 Leadership, Jim Collins, 2001)


Lastly, Heifetz stresses that educational leaders need to be able to think politically. Leading adaptive challenges require that we develop a strategy for learning. Our strategy needs to be who needs to learn what and how.  The following are highlights of politcal strategies as described by Heifetz.


✭ Personal relationships are key to successful leadership

✭ Adaptive leadership is based on political thinking

✭ Develop alliances

✭ Keep the opposition close

✭ Acknowledge the loss and difficulty

✭ Accept casualties in order to make progress

✭ Take responsibility for your piece of the mess


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