Monday, July 19, 2010

Why people are resistant to change?

People can find change difficult. I believe that often the main reason that they find it difficult is that they see no compelling reason to change or don’t clearly see the consequences of not changing (awareness). This is clearly backed up in change management literature such as the ADKAR model and many others. I found four great quotes by Karl Weik in the book “Transforming School Culture”, (Muhammad). I thought they were very pertinent to change leaders.

1. “People persist when they are given no clear reason to change.”

2. “People persist when they don’t trust the person who tells them to change.”

3. “People may keep their tools in a frightening situation because an unfamiliar situation is more frightening.”

4. “People may refuse to change because change may mean admitting failure.”

Mohammad gives a chilling example of forest fire fighters who were going to be trapped in a fire that was advancing on them rapidly. A colleague who was not their leader ran to them and told them to "drop their tools and run” to save their lives. They did not and several of them perished in the fire.

What does this mean for schools trying to change from a method of learning established in the 18th century (Jacobs, Curriculum 21) to a more transformative approach to learning available in the 21st century? Briefly, I think it means this:

1. give people the reasons to change, show them the consequences of inaction, show them what the benefits of change will be, back it with research and data

2. change leaders need to be knowledgeable, empowering, supportive, patient, single-minded, trusted and respected by employees and in it for the long haul

3. teachers need to be given the proper tools and training, including methods of assessment to improve instruction

4. all stakeholders need to be aware of the change and aware of the difficultly and growing pains inherent in any change

5. if possible, empower educational stakeholders to own the change

In my opinion, we are not admitting failure if we change, we may not even fail if we do not reach our goal, we will only fail if we fail to try to be 21st century schools.

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