Getting the best start with Perspective

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“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”
“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to.”
“I don’t much care where –”
“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go.” 
Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

Perspective isn’t just a piece of software — it’s a tool that should and (used to its full potential) will change your current way of doing things.

At Angel, we’ve been making, selling and implementing Perspective for over 12 years. In that time we’ve been able to identify the factors which help a school to successfully adopt Perspective in the most effective manner and start to get value from the system as soon as possible.

We’ve decided to share them here so you can learn from the best practice we’ve seen …and avoid some of the pitfalls that we’ve encountered over time. Here are the top 5 things that you need to think about before you roll out Perspective

1. Clarity of intent
2. Ownership
3. Timing
4. Messaging to your team
5. Hold fast

1. Clarity of intent

People tend to buy Perspective for a purpose, sometimes even several purposes. The key to success here is to be able to articulate this to your team and you can guarantee that if you’re not sure what your purpose for buying Perspective was, then your team will be less sure.

Schools that use Perspective well can usually explain in one sentence why they bought Perspective, whether it’s to “Improve the visibility of quality assurance processes by automating collation and secure sharing of observations” or “Making sure that leaders can see a real-time picture of teaching and learning and teachers are able to improve based on their feedback”. If you’ve got more than one reason for buying Perspective, then it’s possible to write similar statements for each reason.

Pro-Tip 1: Define clearly what you want to achieve by using Perspective. We recommend that you refine it in conversation with your SLT.

2. Ownership

You’ve heard this one before

“This is a story about four people named Everybody, Somebody, Anybody and Nobody. There was an important job to be done and Everybody was sure that Somebody would do it. Anybody could have done it, but Nobody did it. Somebody got angry about that, because it was Everybody’s job. Everybody thought Anybody could do it, but Nobody realized that Everybody wouldn’t do it. It ended up that Everybody blamed Somebody when Nobody did what Anybody could have.”

Schools who get the most out of Perspective make someone responsible for implementing it AND they empower them to make decisions around this implementation. This person doesn’t necessarily need to “do” everything but they should co-ordinate it.

From your point of view, it means that everyone in the school knows who they can talk to about Perspective and get advice. From our point of view, having a designated “Perspective lead” means that our client managers and support team can easily train you and quickly resolve any questions that you might have.

Choosing the RIGHT person is key — teaching and leadership credibility are far more important than ICT skills (although they help). We’ve seen a few implementations where the network manager has rolled-out Perspective and it has stalled because teachers see it as an “IT project” rather than an “School Improvement Project”.

Pro-Tip 2: Choose a person who has the credibility, time and influence to make Perspective work in your school.

3. Timing

Change takes time to happen. By taking on Perspective, you’re looking to change the way that your school does some of its key processes and as such the more thought that you can put into this process, the smoother the process tends to go.

Our contracts are structured to give you three years to implement Perspective so that you don’t try to do everything at once. By planning (with your client manager) a managed timetable for the roll-out then you give yourself the best chance of making effective changes and not frustrating people.

For example, giving people advanced warning that things are going to change is a good idea but giving them a timeline of how it is going to change is an even better idea. For example, if you’re looking at implementing Perspective’s Performance Management in September then including this in your pre-summer messaging helps people to adjust their thinking — it also prevents people wasting their time in doing things “the old way” that Perspective can do more effectively.

Pro-Tip 3: Think about you timescale for rolling out Perspective — make sure that the changes that you make about to make are able to show an impact as soon as possible.

4. Messaging to your team

We’ve all heard the “no-one tells us anything” complaint. It’s corrosive to morale and tends to create resentment on both sides.

When implementing Perspective, there are 4 bits of messaging that can help you to get people on board — the 4 P’s. Purpose, Picture, Plan & Part.

Purpose — This links to our clarity of intent point earlier — the “purpose” is the “why you are implementing Perspective” — try to think about the benefits for the staff and the school. For example one purpose for implementing Perspective is “transparency” — you might want your team to be in control of their own Performance Management — using Perspective they can see and update their targets whenever they need to. This will mean that there shouldn’t be any surprises when they go for their PM meetings.

Picture — It’s one thing knowing the benefits of Perspective but you can make this more vivid and understandable (therefore relatable for people) by describing what the successful implementation of Perspective “looks like”. Creating a picture of success will help People to understand why you’re doing this and what the desired result should be.

For example, “It’s a Sunday evening and you know that Ofsted are coming in this week. You can relax though because the school has Perspective — the SLT have a solid triangulated evidence base of just how good you are.” Or “Imagine walking into your Performance Management meeting knowing that you’d nailed everything that had been asked of you. Perspective will have allowed you to see what you had to do, keep your progress up to date and even see feedback from SLT”.

Plan — This is the bit where you sketch-out the timeline of when-and-how the roll-out will happen. It doesn’t need to have specific dates and details in it at this point — just outline what’s going to happen and approximately when — this gives people a level of awareness of when things will happen and allows them to mentally prepare for it.

Part — Once your team know the plan, the key to making it work is letting them know how they can play their part in making the picture a reality — because we’ve given them the bigger picture, they can see how their bit in the jigsaw fits and how it can contribute to the overall success. This only needs to be notional to start with i.e. “You need to check your review report and give your feedback in a timely fashion” — it can then be more specific at points throughout the year when explicit instructions need to be given.

Pro-Tip 4: A whole staff meeting to introduce the concept of Perspective can really ease the introduction — it doesn’t need to be a “how to” presentation, you don’t even need to show what Perspective looks like. If people understand the 4P’s then you’re a long way to making sure Perspective rolls out effectively.

5. Hold Fast

Change can be difficult for some people to absorb — that’s why some people are paid lots of money to make it happen. The only thing you can’t pay them to do is probably the hardest bit.

If you’ve followed the steps above, you’ve given yourself the best fighting chance of making sure that lasting change happens within your school, however, it would be naïve to expect this to be plain sailing. At times of pressure, it’s easy for people to slip back to their old processes “because it was easier and I just needed to get it done”. Compassion is important in circumstances like this but it’s important to understand that this short term trade-off between ease and effectiveness can easily undermine the work that you have put in.

If incidents like this do happen, it’s important to give clarity that the short term “fix” is just that and that things need to be done properly as soon as time/pressure allows (reverting back to the “Purpose” and “Picture” from step 4 can be helpful).

Pro Tip 5: At the end of the day, “it’s not what you preach that matters, it’s what you tolerate.”

If people do revert back to old processes, you MUST ensure that they redo the process in the way that they were supposed to. 
 One Headteacher ensured the complete adoption of the system by using the mantra “If it isn’t in Perspective then it hasn’t happened.” It only took a few repetitions of this to make sure that his team did what they needed to, in the way that he needed them to do it.

So, there you go — 5 golden rules that may take some time to implement but will give you the best chance of securing the benefits that Perspective provides.