Overcoming Obstacles to
There are several recurring reasons for resistance to change:
- The purpose is not made clear.
- The participants are not involved in the planning.
- The appeal is based on personal reasons.
- The habit patterns of the work group are ignored.
- There is poor communication regarding a change.
- There is fear of failure.
- Excessive work pressure is involved.
- The cost is too high, or the reward for making the change
is seen as inadequate.
- The present situation seems satisfactory.
- There is a lack of respect and trust in the change
Fullan, M. and Stiegelbauer, S. (1991). The New Meaning of
Educational Change. New York: Teachers College Press.
Excerpted from Leadership and Technology, published by the
National School Boards Association's Institute for the Transfer
of Technology to Education.
||What can school board
members and other educational leaders do if educators and
community members in their districts are resistant to
- Hold public forums on change.
- Provide a context for the tremendous demands on schools
and the kind of continuous change that is needed.
- Look at what we want students to become as adults, work
back from there.
this into your systemic change activities.
The following are some tips on facing barriers and challenges
in the change process as offered by Washington State School
- Expect resistance.
- Explain the rationale for change.
- Choose your opening moves carefully.
- Provide a clear vision.
- Seek opportunities to involve people.
- Promise "problems".
- Beware of bureaucracy.
Wear your commitment on your sleeve.
Alter the reward system to support improvement.
Get resistance out in the open.
Make sure people have the know-how.
Track behavior and measure results.
Outrun the resisters.
Taking the Fear out of Change (from Leadership
Ask yourself the following questions to understand and address
fear of change:
- How can the school board help facilitate others in the
- How does the school board facilitate those people
involved in moving to technology-based teaching and
The number-one skill to have today, bar none, is the ability
to change. People who are receptive to change see in it
opportunities for greater happiness at work and in their personal
People have varying levels of difficulty with change. Some
with only mild difficulty can read a book or take a class and
they are off and running. Others have moderate difficulty and
need more emotional support. For others, change is extremely
difficult, and may be seemingly impossible.
According to psychologist Dennis OGrady, the ability to
change is related to a combination of five fears that
OGrady says can choke the ability to change:
- Fear of the UnknownThe unspoken message from
society says that when change occurs, you will lose
- Fear of FailureIf I commit myself to goals
for change, there is a chance for failure.
- Fear of CommitmentCommitment forces an
answer to tough questions. "What do I really
want?" Commitment to one option is not always fun
because it eliminates other options.
- Fear of DisapprovalIf I change, I risk
having people say they like me better the way I was. Your
own change also forces others to change in relationship
- Fear of SuccessIf I change, what other
demands will be make of me? Can I sustain this success?
Tip: Brainstorm ideas of how the board can help people with
When working with larger systems, such as school districts,
force field analysis provides a useful approach to preparing for
and working with resistance to change. It goes as follows:
- Pinpoints driving and restraining forces your team will
want to consider before solutions are implemented.
- Identifies solutions that allow driving forces to
predominate over restraining forces.
- Identify a solution.
- Brainstorm restraining forces, as well as driving forces
in its implementation.
- Evaluate both forces in terms of impact/changeability.
- Develop strategies to remove or decrease restraining
forces, starting with the easily changed, high-impact
- Develop strategies to strengthen driving forces, striving
for win/win solutions.
- Translate these strategies to action plans: Who? What?
When? Where? How?
- Develop plan to evaluate the effectiveness of your action
plan, once implemented.
- Clarifying understanding of the environment in which your
solution will be implemented.
- Identifying key elements that can realistically be
- Developing a systematic strategy and an action plan for
- Creating criteria for evaluating solution effectiveness.
Types of resistance to change (from Teachers and Technology,
published by the National School Boards Association's Institute
for the Transfer of Technology to Education)
- Positive Resister: agrees with new ideas and programs,
but never moves to implement any changes
- Unique resister: believes each change is find for other
areas but not for his or her "unique" situation
- Let-me-be-last resister: hopes new ideas and programs
will die before his or her department must act on them
- We-need-more-time-to study resister: discovers that
others find it hard to object to this form of resistance
- State-rights resister: wants not part of programs
initiated elsewhere (which may even mean rejection of
whatever comes from outside his or her department or
outside the school system; also known as the
- Cost-justifier: want everything cost-justified before any
- Incremental change resister: wants the new program,
system, or machine as long as it just adds on to
everything the old one had.
Last updated 3/6/03