The Six Secrets of Change: What the Best Leaders Do to Help Their Organizations Survive and Thrive

By Pratto, Melissa Moneypenny; Behar-Horenstein, Linda S. | Florida Journal of Educational Administration and Policy, Winter 2010 | Go to article overview

The Six Secrets of Change: What the Best Leaders Do to Help Their Organizations Survive and Thrive


Pratto, Melissa Moneypenny, Behar-Horenstein, Linda S., Florida Journal of Educational Administration and Policy


The Six Secrets of Change: What the Best Leaders Do to Help Their Organizations Survive and Thrive

Fullan, M. (2008). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass

The Six Secrets of Change describes lessons that seem simple. However, often leaders find them difficult to grasp. Michael Fullan strives to provide real-life examples of these secrets through organizational practices. He exemplifies organizational behaviors in which implementation has been successful and where attempts have failed. Using examples, Fullan offers a blueprint that organizational leaders can use to guide their action towards effective and long lasting changes that ultimately will improve organizational culture and efficiency.

Michael Fullan is a well-known, prolific author of literature about change. He has served as the Dean of the Faculty of Education at the University of Toronto and, currently, he serves as a consultant in many major education initiatives around the world. This book, like much of his work, is based on research drawn from public and private businesses and educational organizations. Fullan dedicates significant space in the book's introduction to the idea of having a theory to guide the creation of organizational change rather than relying on a hard and fast plan. In fact, Fullan takes the opportunity to remind us that a theory should make sense of the real world and should be tested. Moreover, a good theory should be applicable across sectors of public and private organizations. By focusing on this concept, Fullan lets the reader know that the ideas presented in his book are not pieces of advice to be implemented immediately. Instead, they should be studied diligently and then considered as a foundation for successful change before creating an action plan.

Fullan refers to his six secrets of change as a "theory of action" (p. 8). The theory of the six secrets can be used to create action plans to stimulate appropriate and effective organizational change. The six secrets are heavily nuanced. Perhaps this is why Fullan calls them secrets, because their meaning can be missed if leaders fail to look deeply into the underlying theory. Each of Fullan's six secrets of change relates to the others in important ways. They rely on each other in order to create effective and efficient organizations. Because the secrets are interrelated, each is discussed in its own chapter. In this review the secrets are discussed separately although common themes connect them. As the secrets are discussed, the first author shares examples from her own work in the public school system in order to illustrate situations where the secrets have been applied. The limitations to these secrets and some cautions against their misapplication will also be presented.

Secret One: Love Your Employees

Secret One is advice that appears simple and reasonable and almost seems unnecessary. Ostensibly, it would already be at the forefront of every organizational leader's mind. However, this secret is not often implemented as intended by Fullan. There may be a consensus that the customer or the student should be the focus of all activities in the organization. Unfortunately, this may occur at the expense of employees' fulfillment and happiness. Fullan indicates that there should be a symbiotic relationship between the two groups and that the relationship with the employee should not be sacrificed for the happiness of the customer. He contends that all of the stakeholders in an organization should be recognized as vital and be considered as equally important. Secret One helps leaders identify strategies that will motivate employees to find meaning while also pursuing the goals of the organization.

The education initiatives that many state governments have implemented to improve student achievement is a relevant example of Secret One. The underlying premise of these initiatives is that all children will be successful; it is assumed that teachers will do everything necessary to help students achieve success. …

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