Change, Energy and the First Day of School


First day of school for kids has to be the best example of instant energy.

The roads are busier (really busy that day with all the parents rearranging their schedules to get in late), the schools themselves are buzzing and, at least here, where there are countless places to walk to and hang out, the first half day makes our main street a landing-place for amped up activity.

You hear lots of voices laughing, talking, sharing experiences and switching gears from relaxed to excited to (tomorrow) intensity.

The Change Segue

Translate all that into the scenario that leaders, practitioners, consultants that think change is a marketing exercise and the adult cheerleaders in organizations try (emphasis on try here) to create. They look to big town hall announcements, splashy videos and talking heads “shorts” of executives working on their happy faces to get the same kind of thing we see on the first day of school every year.

And let’s face it every school year is a transformation for a child.

Why are these two environments so different?

Look at what the first day of school has to offer and see if you can think of ways to have, get or create that for corporate change.

Or maybe look at why corporate change does not have these things…

  • A new beginning
  • A promise of the next step
  • An acknowledgment of success
  • A traditional social event
  • A little mystery and a little of the unknown

New Beginnings

While sometimes scary and always a huge challenge, each grade in school is a new beginning.

But that is not really true.

Each grade is part of a ladder and a process to get to an end state. Every grade builds on the next.

Why does it seem like a new beginning?

Kids get new friends. Yes but they also have some of last years friends in their classes.

Kids get to do some things their older siblings got to do.

Kids get to be older, better, more mature at each new level.

Next Steps

Kids get to move up to the next step.

Kids get to leverage the things they learned from previous teachers with tougher, more challenging work.

Kids, after the school year moves on a little, get peeks and glimpses of what the next, next step is.

Kids know they will get to try new things with the yearly change.

Kids also know they will get new kinds of reinforcement, accolades and kudos (more like the kind adults get- with each passing grade).


Kids know they will be good at new things.

They also quickly see how much they DO know already. Previous success (from hard work) get revisited at the start of every year). My fourth grader blazed through flash cards at the speed of light last night, with a smile and a snicker on her face the whole time.

Success and acknowledgment of achievement (even if it is only internal to the individual) carries a TON of energy with it.

The first day of school puts millions of versions of that in the collocated environments.

Social Events

That first day, every year, certainly is a social event.

It is for the kids. It is for the parents (judging by the number of combinations of supporting adults I saw today- parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, partners and neighbors). It is for the teachers too (we have one in our house- this day is always happy).

It is important to realize that the first day is a repeated event around the world that has happened since the first time learning was organized into a group. Imagine the millions of different versions of tradition that happen on this day.

Just stand in the halls of a school and listen to those supporting parents tell of….” I remember when I…”, “My dad used to… on the first day of school”, “My family on the first day always…”.

Each year, I bet, thousands more traditions are started. My seventh grader got up early (with a schedule in 15 minute increments) to be ready so that she could cook the family breakfast.

Bring on some more new traditions!

The Unknown

OK. So if the first day of school is so scary- you know CHANGE, new faces, new challenges, concern about teachers, lots of rules to have to follow, new processes and procedures, a distinct system of measurement for success- then how come it is so exciting and fun?

It almost feels like the kids are looking FORWARD to the unknown…

The first day of school is nothing like environments of corporate change. Not the new beginning, the chance to move to next steps, the acknowledgment of success, the social event component or the excitement of the unknown. Nope not the same at all…Right?

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