Let's Act!

Working ‘on’ rather than ‘in’

The world was simple, then complicated and is now complex.

A world being complex means that “it is made up of many diverse and autonomous but interrelated and interdependent components or parts linked through many interconnections”.


Complex systems cannot be described by a single set of rules and they exhibit properties that emerge from the interaction of their parts. These properties cannot be predicted from the properties of the parts themselves. Just like how schools are evolving, really.

‘Change management’ is a tool of a complicated world and plays no major role in a complex world.

Change in complex environments needs to be ‘agile’. This is a term that has emerged from the IT world and reflects the need for things to change incrementally and quickly in response to perceived blockages or inefficiencies.

In practice, this means that leaders need to initiate activities and projects – individually and collectively - that improve their part of the organisation, that work ‘on’ rather than ‘in’ the day-to-day and that ‘nudge’ the organisation forward.

And that this becomes part of the day-to-day.

This seems to be the role that is emerging for middle leaders in schools, to nudge the organisation forward within the context set by senior leaders.

John Corrigan