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Thursday, April 21, 2016

An Rx for Change

This is one piece of a continuing series of posts on school improvement reflecting my professional experience. I had prepared this manuscript for publication but time eluded me. The blog posts advance in time and concept in book-form beginning with the Blog post on March 21.

An Rx for Change

     George Bernard Shaw was quoted as saying, “Reformers have the idea that change can be achieved by brute sanity.” (Fullan, p. 83) Exercise sensitivity and responsiveness with the same diligence you have previously practiced rational strategies. Change is inclined to be more psychological than logical. Never overlook the intangible human factors. Successful change is made by individuals first, then by institutions. Attend to the people before you devote energies to the end product of the change. Adopt the perspective of those who will be affected by the proposed change, their feelings, their attitudes, and their history. Change is a personal experience.

     Medical research reveals that patients who are cautioned in detail about the agony and after effects of surgery prior to their operation recover in one third of the time of those patients entering surgery less informed. (Peters and Austin, p. 232) And, make no mistake about it, there can be pain in change. Recognizing that will explain why few volunteer for most change programs. Although most people have at one time or another complained about “the way things are,” in their organization, they are more likely to want these things to be different than they are to change themselves.   

     Clearly articulate the reasons for, and purpose of, the change. Understand differences among satisfiers and motivators. Appeal to values. Invite participation. Monitor progress. Model behavior. Keep in tune with the culture of the organization. Provide feedback and encouragement. Manage meaning and symbols.

     Peter Senge, author of The Fifth Discipline, asserts that people are more accepting of change than they are of being changed. (p. 153) Unfortunately, as Michael Ray and Alan Rinzler point out in The New Paradigm in Business, the typical process has the cart before the horse: “changes in structure are often made before changes in mind.” (p. 124)

     Perhaps the best advice to those responsible for change is the Golden Rule of treating people the way you want to be treated. Finally, as you embark on initiating change, accepting the challenge offered agents in Mission Impossible, “Your mission, if you chose to accept it,…” remember the words of Alan Weiss in Making it Work, “Who ever heard of moving in any direction when the first question we all ask is ‘How can I cover my rear end?’.”(p. 19)

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