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Michael B. Horn’s From Reopen to Reinvent: A Must Read for School Leaders

By September 27, 2022No Comments

By Christian Talbot, President of MSA-CESS

Ten years ago, when I was a first-time Head of School, I hired a consultant to help establish a Human Resources infrastructure for my school. Because Human Resources tends to touch on every dimension of an operation, the consultant gradually learned of my vision for the school—and my impatience for activating that vision.

At one point, I expressed some frustration.

“Well,” she replied, “that’s why a whole field of study is devoted to change management.”

“Change management? What is that?” I had never heard the phrase before.

She pointed me in the direction of several books (most helpful was Marshall Goldsmith’s What Got You Here Won’t Get You There), and thus began my obsession with the question of how to facilitate change in schools.

When I read Michael Horn’s From Reopen to Reinvent recently, my first reaction was, “Yes! Finally!” Better than any other education book I’ve read, From Reopen to Reinvent maps the terrain of the change journey.

To extend the metaphor, it is like an atlas for de-risking school transformation. Horn lays out an “order of operations” school leaders ought to consider, starting with the imperative to view the COVID-19 pandemic not only as a threat, but even more so as an opportunity—hence the book’s title, which names the choice before us: merely reopen or bravely reinvent. And while each chapter of the book uses different language, it seems to me that Horn’s argument follows a similar pattern:

From threat rigidity → to opportunity;
From zero sum → to positive sum;
From everything-to-everyone → to Jobs To Be Done;
From hygienic factors → to motivational factors;
From cognitive biases → to new narratives;
From waterfall planning → to discovery driven planning; and
From uneven levels of agreement → to tools of cooperation.

What is most helpful about the book is the array of mental models and frameworks Horn connects to the work of school change. As I read, I found myself wincing as I recalled running into the brick walls Horn describes, and nodding at his abundant wisdom for avoiding those mistakes.

In subsequent blog posts, I will dive deeper into each of Horn’s mental models and frameworks.

In the meantime, I consider From Reopen to Reinvent a must-read for leaders of all schools—public, private, charter, for-profit, religious, secular, et al.

I am pleased to have the opportunity to sit down with Michael B. Horn for a live interview and Q&A on Oct. 24 at 12 pm ET. I hope you can join me for what is certain to be an interesting discussion. To register, click here.

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