Any change will have its proponents and its opponents. Preparation for change includes not only generating enthusiasm for the change process and working with the early adopters and converts, but being prepared to challenge and win-over the sceptics.
Undertaking a Force Field analysis is one way of analysing the driving and restraining forces for change.
Change can be seen by some people as devaluing their previous experience which may explain why younger people, who have invested less time and effort in learning the old ways find it easier to adapt to the new.
Thinking about the personal perspectives on change and preparing responses to the issues that might arise will help you to address concerns. In the initial stages of the development of proposals it can be useful to test your ideas with staff who are prepared to be more sceptical and act as a devil’s advocate. This can help prepare for battles to come. To do so staff will need a safe forum in which to voice their concerns and work on the change.
Change is generally met with enthusiasm when:
- We propose the change
- We are involved in the design of the change
- We feel that our opinion/views are heard, and contribute to the new reality
- We benefit from the change
- The organisation benefits from the change
- The students benefit from the change
- The wider community benefits from the change
- We dislike the present status quo
- We are confident about our competence in the new context
- We trust/respect/like the person/group, proposing the change
- We can see the big picture and how the change contributes to it
- We are given support and time to adjust to the changes
- We are not expected to change too many things at the same time
- Change is spaced
- We understand the reasons for the change
- We believe the change is important
- We believe the change is necessary
Change in education is met with confrontation when:
- We are not involved in the change design
- We feel that our opinion/views are not considered
- We do not see benefits for ourselves, arising from the change
- We do not feel the University would benefit from the change
- We do not feel the students would benefit from the change
- We do not feel the wider community would benefit from the change
- We like the present status quo
- We lack confidence about our competence in the new context
- We do not trust/do not respect/do not like the person/group, proposing the change
- We can not see the big picture and how the change would contribute to it
- We are not given support and time to adjust to the changes
- We are expected to change too many things at the same time
- Change is not carried through properly
- We do not understand the reasons for the change
- There is no clarity about change aims and objectives
- We believe other things need changing more urgently
- We believe the time is not right for this particular change
- The degree of change is too great to be readily assimilated
Most major change processes elicit some or all of the following reactions:
- Initial disbelief – it won’t happen!
- Anger – it won’t happen if I can help it!
- Acceptance – if it’s going to happen then I might as well do it!
- Accommodating new reality in – that works quite well and I wouldn’t want to change it.
Dealing with resistance often requires challenging and changing colleagues’ perceptions and beliefs – such changes are not easy to effect and the effort put in working through the barriers must be commensurate to the outcomes. However, large-scale change, especially cultural change, is likely to be more difficult to manage if the barriers are not addressed.
When estimated resistance is going to take a long time to deal with there are a number of strategies that can be adopted:
- Work with the early adopters and then move onto the main group of staff. Recognise that there will always be some staff who find difficulty in making the change and marginalise them by ensuring the majority are on board.
- Confront the sceptics head on.
- Return to the drawing board, are there other ways in which the outcomes can be achieved?
"A number of younger staff were actually quite keen to change, so we directly dealt with these individuals by appointing a number of people, whom we called change agents, in every department, across the university."
From changing teaching and Learning styles case study