Change is all around us…..people changes, curricular changes, instructional changes, leadership changes, personal changes. How do we learn to manage these changes in our lives in order to continue growing and moving forward? There are two kinds of basic changes: first and second order change. First order change improves the efficiency and effectiveness of existing structures. Second order change is systemic and modifies basic assumptions, goals, structures, roles, and norms. The numbering seems a bit backwards to me, since improving efficiency and effectiveness of something must be preceded by a change in basic assumptions regarding something. Therefore, we need to examine change from this viewpoint and make sure that we devote enough time to the prerequisite second order change responsibilities before jumping in to a first order change.
Change requires that we make the case for innovation, emphasize the seriousness of the problem/situation, and emphasize the rightness of the solution. According to Robert Evans in The Human Side of School Change, the four problematic aspects/dilemmas of change are the feelings of 1) loss, 2) competence, 3) confusion, and 4) conflict. So what do we do? We need to move from loss to commitment, old competence to new competence, confusion to coherence, and conflict to consensus. We need to decrease the fear of trying and increase the fear of not trying. That is called “unfreezing.”
How do we move from loss to commitment? We must experience continuity, have the necessary time, and maintain personal contact. There must be a balance between pressure and support…change and continuity.
Moving from old competence to new competence requires training. This training must be coherent with a specific design and sequence of content; personal by tailoring the experience to the current knowledge, practice, and needs of the stakeholders; and continuous before, during, and after the training experience.
The transition from confusion to coherence requires the resolution of uncertainty to a new clarity of structure, function, roles, and responsibility. We must understand the big picture and presenting it visually is of the utmost importance.
Finally, sometimes conflict results from the anticipation of change. To move from conflict to consensus, we must build a critical mass of supporters, exert pressure if necessary, and make the appropriate use of power as a last resort. Pressure without support results in resistance and alienation. Support without pressure results in a drifting and wasting of resources.
According to Edie Holcomb in “Asking the Right Questions: Tools for Collaboration and School Change,” initiating any kind of change requires us to address five seminal questions:
1. Where are we now?
2. Where do you want to go?
3. How are we going to get there?
4. How do we know that we’ve gotten there?
5. How do sustain the focus and momentum?
Until we realize the human side of change and address the aforementioned characteristics, we can kiss the success of that change goodbye. It is a belief and a commitment that we must make, whether we are boards, administrators, teachers, students, parents, community members or Bulls’ fans. Admittedly, change takes time, but as Todd Whitaker says: “ We are dealing with the minds of children. We can’t take that much time, or we lose the chance to make that difference.”