There is no easy way to say it: change can be tough. And as an administrator, you’re tasked with balancing changes you’ve initiated and are excited to implement along with changes mandated by your school board or perhaps even legislation. This being the case, you are no stranger to the process of change. No one really is. So why, then, is it so hard to change the way we manage change?
Simply put, change management introduces a process or framework for helping manage the people side of change in order to achieve the desired business results. Without a process, change happens to you instead of you engaging in the change.
This blog is the first in a series aimed at helping administrators establish a framework for managing change. We’ll start by helping administrators understand their own process of going through change and then discuss how that knowledge can be used to engage their leadership teams and core teachers.
Administrators as Individuals
To understand how to help your teachers and students navigate change, you must first understand how you respond to change. Your role as an administrator is just one extension of who you are as an individual. Much like the education profession acknowledges that each student learns differently and would respond best to individualized instruction, adults engage in new concepts and change in different ways as well.
Do you ask a bunch of questions until your curiosity is sated, then advocate for the change? Or, do you listen intently, trying the new way while continuing with the old way just in case the new way fails (which you are pretty sure it will)? Or, do you resist the change altogether, knowing that those pushing the change don’t have a clue what they are doing? In the verbiage of a popular change management book, Who Moved My Cheese? by Spencer Johnson, MD, are you more like Sniff and Scurry (who adapt to change quickly), or Hem and Haw (who resist change)?
There are many different approaches to change management that can be effective in your school or district. Simply having a plan from the outset is nearly as important as what specific plan or process you use. Prosci, Inc.® is a research-based change management philosophy used in thousands of businesses and organizations across the country. Their approach to individual change, ADKAR®, is a goal-oriented change management model to guide both individual and organizational change. As we continue this series, we will use the ADKAR® framework for growing change readiness.
What is ADKAR®?
ADKAR® is an acronym that represents the five milestones an individual must achieve for change to be successful: awareness, desire, knowledge, ability, and reinforcement®. The general premise behind ADKAR® is that every individual goes through each and every one of these stages in a particular order as they navigate through change.
The first step in adopting any change is awareness. You have to be made aware of what the change is, why the change is needed, and what the ultimate goals are in order to gain full understanding of the scope of the change. Clear communication, articulation of goals, and alignment of the values are the focus of this stage.
The next step in the change adoption process is to develop the desire to engage and participate in the change. This is where change gets sticky. As an individual, change is a choice and that choice is at the center of this step. If you really don’t want to do it, there is rarely a way that someone can make you do it! As a fellow administrator once told me, “for some of my teachers, even asking them to consider teaching differently brings up a fight.”
There are ways to help manage and redirect focus and resistance in others in order to build desire; those strategies will be addressed throughout the rest of this blog series. However, for you as an individual, you hold all the power in this step. You can choose to see the values of the change you recognized in the first step and start envisioning your place after the change, or you can live with the consequences of not changing. Just because you have the power to choose, does not mean the change isn’t going to happen. It may just mean it will move around you and at some point, make it more difficult for you to be successful. It’s your choice.
Once you have the awareness of why the change is important and have developed the desire to want to be part of the new vision, it is time to build knowledge of how to make the change a reality. This could include professional development training, job aids, new toolkits, online curriculum, Khan Academy videos, coaching, and more. Since all professional change involves someone doing their job differently, it is expected that some level of new knowledge is needed in order for the change to come to fruition.
This step is about learning the logistical aspects of what will be different in your role once the change is complete. For example, your school district has moved to a 1:1 environment and the teachers just received the new equipment at the office. The teachers need to learn how to operate the equipment, how to access desired programs and where to login. Then, they also need the knowledge of how to use the programs that are loaded onto the devices. Assuming your teachers were engaged in the change through the awareness and desire stages, they will be ready to capture this knowledge.
Simply because you know how to hit a baseball does not mean that you have the ability to hit a home run. Similarly, your ability to realize or implement the change at the required performance level may take time and practice. Not only do you have to know what you are supposed to do, but more so, you must ensure you have the coaching and abilities to perform as requested. It is at this level that you may become tired of not being as ‘good’ or as ‘fast’ as you were when you were doing it the old way. Having regular reminders of the value and the successes you have had can be helpful as you give yourself time for this growth.
Using our previous example of a 1:1 implementation change, imagine your teachers now have the mobile technology. Some of your teachers were able to take the information on how the programs work (knowledge stage) and make connections on how to leverage the tools in their classrooms (ability stage). One of your teachers uses several of the programs across multiple class periods and has incorporated formative assessment using the devices daily. However, another teacher is struggling much more in figuring out how the new technology can make her job easier and more efficient (a key selling point for her in the earlier awareness phase). She misses the days when she was able to hand out a quiz and watch how the kids looked while completing the questions to assess comprehension. Now she thinks it just looks like the students are playing a game. She is starting to miss how things were before when she had more control of the situation. She knows how to work the programs, but is missing the ability to perform the way the original change or business need was designed.
One of the reasons change is so difficult is because we have seen change happen in the past and been let down when it fails or when we revert back to old habits anyway. This is where reinforcements come into play. Find ways to celebrate successes, grow and adapt as your proficiency improves, and demonstrate commitment to continue to embrace the values that were first outlined in the awareness step.
ADKAR® Barrier Points
Now that you have a basic understanding of the ADKAR® elements, you can start to determine which step tends to be a sticking point for you or others you work with. This is referred to as a Barrier Point.
To help you recognize the Barrier Point in your own change process, try completing the short exercise below.
Think about a friend, family member, work associate or employee, who despite your best efforts to support them through a change, is not having success, and answer these questions:
- Briefly describe the change being implemented
- Awareness Step:
- List the reasons you believe the change is necessary.
- On a scale of 1-5 (1 being low, 5 being high), indicate the degree to which the person struggling with the change is aware of these reasons.
- Desire Step:
- List all the factors or consequences (good and bad) for this person that create a desire to change.
- On a scale of 1-5, considering these factors and the person’s convictions in these areas, assess their desire to change.
- Knowledge Step:
- List the skills and knowledge needed for the change, both during and after the transition.
- On a scale of 1-5, rate this person’s knowledge or training in these areas.
- Ability Step:
- Considering the skills and knowledge from above, evaluate the person’s ability to perform or act in a new way. Are there obstacles inhibiting the person’s ability?
- On a scale of 1-5, rate the extent to which this person has the ability to implement the new skills, knowledge, and behaviors necessary for the change.
- Reinforcement Step:
- List reinforcements that will help to retain the change. Are incentives in place to make the change stick? Are there incentives to not change?
- On a scale of 1-5, rate to what degree reinforcements are in place to support and maintain the change.
The first step in the ADKAR® framework in which your rank score was a “3” or below is considered the Barrier Point. This is the point that most needs to be addressed before anything else is done. For example, if your barrier point was in the Awareness step, you should focus your time and effort on clearly communicating the reasons and goals behind the change and what the new vision looks like. Until the Awareness rank is moved to above a “3” at least, all efforts to influence the rest of the model will not be as effective. Take a similar approach no matter which step is identified as your barrier point. The future blog posts will outline additional activities that can be helpful at each step in the ADKAR model.
You now have a framework for understanding a bit about how you respond to change and a tool to use as you observe yourself and others go through the change process. You know how to determine barrier points and have an awareness of how that may influence movement through change. Be sure to check back next week for part two of this series, where we will take this individual information and expand your understanding of how to help manage others through change.
Interested in finding out more about how your school or district can partner with Edmentum to meet your professional development needs? Learn about our professional services, including school improvement consulting, product training, and ongoing technical support!