Strategy guide:
Enabling work structures

A few notes before getting started

Your team’s structure
This document is intended to be used by teams working to design and implement collective leadership. It is imperative that the team model collective leadership during the design and implementation process. We suggest forming a leadership team of educators to work through the big questions and important tasks below. The team should be comprised of educators in various roles with diverse perspectives. The group must be transparent and regularly consider ways to scale collective leadership beyond the leadership team and include an increasing number of people in the process. 

The framework’s structure
The framework is divided into three parts: Understanding why, Designing how, and Implementing the plan. Each part has two areas of focus: “Big questions” and “Important tasks.” Answering the “Big questions” will involve intense study and open discussion. We recommend that you or your team come to decision points on each big question before moving to “Important tasks.” You can download these resources by clicking on the button below each part of the strategy framework. Scroll further to access additional background resources and research to support your work.

Resources and guides
The “Big questions” and “Important tasks” include valuable resources or guides. We have annotated these resources and guides to save you time selecting the best information for your context. Remember, these resources are intended as a starting point. Part of the process will be adaptation to meet your local needs, context, and goals.

Strategy Guide

1. Understanding your team’s why


New efforts and reforms sometimes fail because a timeline has expired, and questions about how to make the effort sustainable have not been addressed. Collective leadership is a process, not a program, and it requires that work structures be redesigned or improved in order to make a sustainable shift in how schools operate. Each school has different assets and challenges related to the work structures that support collective leadership. Let’s explore how your team can determine where you are with enabling work structures, where you want to go, and why you want to go there.


Goal: Establish a theory of action

What do you want to learn from the staff at your school about the enabling work structures needed to implement collective leadership? What is already in place, and what shifts might need to occur? What questions do you have about how enabling work structures for collective leadership looks, and how will answers to those questions help you create a plan for creating enabling work structures?


Big Questions
  • Think of a time when you had the work structures necessary to work and learn with colleagues.
    • What formal and informal structures/processes were in place?
    • What autonomies and flexibilities were you afforded?
    • What skills did you use to collaborate effectively with your colleagues?
    • What was done to create a safe space to try new things and learn from each other?
    • To what degree do the current structures at your school align with what was described above?
  • For your context, what work structures need to be added or strengthened for collective leadership to be implemented? 
  • How might creating enabling work structures support your team’s efforts to address issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion?
  • What is our theory of action for how your team can create or strengthen visible and formal administrative support for collective leadership?

Important Tasks

Discuss why it is important to your team and for your context to create enabling working structures for collective leadership. What benefits would you expect to see? What happens when those conditions are not in place?

Discuss and capture information about the questions above with your team. your team should also design a process to collect information about the questions above from staff members beyond those that are part of this team.

After engaging in discussion about the questions above and gathering input from people beyond this team, create a vision for how enabling work structures might look. Once the vision is set, assess aligned your school is to the vision. Where is your school closely aligned? Where are there opportunities for growth?

Determine what the biggest challenge or barrier is to developing or strengthening administration support. Be sure to focus on challenges and barriers that are within your realm of control.

Discuss why that barrier exists. Brainstorm ideas for how your team might address that barrier. Select one approach to addressing the barrier. Your team will use this to create a theory of action about how addressing that barrier will impact the school.

Develop your team’s theory of action about how to move forward from where you are to where you would like to be relative to supportive administration.



Connect and collaborate
Teams frequently struggle with developing a theory of action. Remember to articulate your goal and identify the problem of practice before developing the theory of action.

Need help crafting a theory of action?


2. Designing your team’s how


Now that your team has determined where you are, where you want to go, and why you want to go there, let’s create a plan for how your team will create and/or strengthen the enabling work structures at your school. Remember that creating enabling work structures will help your team create a sustainable collective leadership system.


Goal: Prepare to lead action

How will you learn about what others have done related to creating enabling work structures? What will you take on first? Who should be involved? What is the timeline? How will you measure success?


Big Questions
  • What does the information collected and your theory of action tell your team about the best next step for creating enabling work structures for collective leadership?
  • What else might your team need to learn about how others have created enabling work structures?
  • How might your team be explicit and transparent about the shifts necessary to create stronger enabling work structures, and why they must be made? What is the plan for communicating what these shifts involve? (Hint: Revisit the change matrix for clues to all the components impacting change which should be considered, such as vision and strategy, supportive administration, capacity and resources, etc.)
  • What is our timeline for this first effort?
  • How will we know when we have made progress?

Important Tasks

Review the information and use the discussion questions from this guide to inform if and how your team will move forward with testing peer observation. If it helps, consider substituting the word observation for the word evaluation in this document. Also, be sure to align efforts with the collective bargaining agreement in those places that have one. For additional information on the ways unions have used and supported peer observation and evaluation, click here and here.

Review pp. 80 to 95 of these Discussion Starters to learn more about how some schools are using peer observation and feedback to improve instructional practice. While this discussion starter focuses on evaluation, there are a number of processes that can be used to improve practice without entering into an evaluation process.

Complete the Purpose Map to set the vision, identify the people who should be involved, and create the initial action plan for testing your team’s idea. For ideas about how to design and implement a pilot, check out the structure and resources in this micro-credential or contact CTQ.

Complete and use an action timeline tool like the one below to clearly articulate what will get done by whom and how the team will know that you have been successful.

Is your team interested in support for using these tools? Do you need hard copies?




3. Implementing your team’s plan


Now that the team has articulated the why and how for enabling work structures, it is time to implement your team’s plan. 

What does your team need to do to implement and learn from the plan?

The implementation phase of the work is about much more than carrying out the components of your team’s plan. In order to ascertain the effectiveness of the plan, data must be collected for evaluation. It’s helpful to remind yourself of your original goals as you prepare to gather the feedback needed.


Goal: Launch your team’s test, gather data, and study the results

Once the test is underway, gather the data needed to answer your burning questions. Analyze the data and results of your initiative. Decide whether your team wants to revisit supportive administration or move on to another condition.


Big Questions
  • How will your team create and maintain a safe environment for those involved to provide honest feedback to each other and the team?
  • What feedback is needed from those involved in this effort? How will your team know when you’re making progress?
  • How will that feedback be used to make adjustments along the way?



Important Tasks

Implement the plan for how your school will create enabling work structures for collective leadership. 

Collect data from participants about progress made relative to creating enabling work structures for collective leadership.

Create a process for how your team will respond to the data/feedback provided.



Want assistance measuring the impact of your efforts?



CTQ’s tools

Understanding your team’s why
1. Establishing a Theory of Action

Designing your team’s how
2. Purpose map
3. Action timeline

Implementing your team’s plan
5. Impact assessment