Understanding Change

Lisa R. Arcemont

“Things do not change; we change.”  -Henry David Thoreau              

Change is NOT an event…it is a continuous process. It is NOT one thing that happens to us…..it is a process, a series of actions or steps we go through to achieve new and different results than what already exists. As extension professionals, we have responsibilities to ourselves and our organizations: (1) to understand the change process, (2) locate one’s own place in the process, (3) act on factors that can be changed, and (4) minimize the power of factors that can’t. We also have responsibilities to work effectively with our publics even through the change process in order to successfully and professional accommodate, facilitate, manage, and evaluate change.

As members of organizations, we also have assumptions about change. Assumptions can be powerful thoughts and ideas hidden within our subconscious that promote action toward change that can either help or hinder during the change process. It is extremely important to understand how people react to and experience change as they go through the process. Equally important, assumptions of change leaders most often determine whether changes will actually be implemented.

According to Michael Fullan’s book The New Meaning of Educational Change (4th Ed.), there are basic assumptions about change for you to consider:

  1. Do not assume that your version of the change process is the only way to implement change. Implementing change successfully is a continual, development process used to produce new ideas or redevelop existing ones.
  2. Assume that successful change can only occur through innovation and advancements of what already exists within the organization. Individual members will be responsible for making sense of what the change means for them and will experience uncertainty, indecision, and insecurity as a result change.
  3. Do not assume that conflict and disagreement hinder or stop the change process but are vital to successful change. If implementation goes too smoothly, there may not be any change occurring at all.
  4. Do not assume that people need to feel pressured for change to occur. Change will only be effective if they are allowed to react, to determine their own function, to interact with other members, and to seek and attain the skills to successfully change.
  5. Don’t assume that successful change will occur overnight. Effective change takes time to occur, and persistence is a critical component of successful change.
  6. Don’t assume the lack of implementation is the result of rejection or resistance to all change. Lack of resources, insufficient time, and lack of skills to support proper implementation.
  7. Do assume some people will change quickly, but do not expect all or even most people or groups to jump to change. Movement occurs as more and more people become involved in the change process, and view even incremental steps as accomplishments.
  8. Assume that knowledge of the change process is essential in developing a plan to address factors (organizational history, assumptions, etc.) known to affect implementation.
  9. Assume that regardless of the amount of knowledge individuals or an organization possesses, there will not always be a clear cut solution to every problem that arises.
  10.  Assume that for successful organizational change to occur, changing of the organizational culture is the key to the organization’s development.

For more information on understanding and managing change, visit:

The New Meaning of Educational Change (4th Ed.) .

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