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Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Managing change

Managing change is an essential part of human development (Newton and Tarrant, 1992; Whitmore, 2002) and in a changing environment organizations must change to succeed (Carnall, 2007; Whitmore, 2002; Hay McBer, 2000; Burnes, 2009).  Although organizational dynamics and changes are related to organizational behaviour of the people concerned (McKenna, 2000; Hersey and Blanchard, 1982; Moorhead and Griffin, 1998), earlier organizational theories of the 20th century, Classical Approach, (Taylor, 1911; Gilbreth, 1921; Weber, 1947) emphasised management processes and promoted a universal principle ‘one best way’ for managing change.  This principle was subsequently challenged by the Contingency Theory (Child, 1975; Donaldson, 2001; Mullins, 2007; Scott, 1995) which favoured a situated approach to each organization dependent on individual circumstances for managing change.  This thinking, with the emergence of the Human Relations school (Hackman and Oldham, 1980; Likert, 1961; Miner, 2006), gave way to organizational development fitted to human needs.  As organizational changes require individuals to change and learn new ways of thinking and doing things (Argyris and Shön, 1978; Hedberg, 1981; Burnes, 2009), this can often result in resistance to change.
Coping with organizational change involves many complex processes, which make demands on all individuals involved and affect self-esteem and performance (Carnall, 2003; Argyris, 1982; Kanter, 1983). Thus managing change effectively requires sensitivity to these effects so optimal conditions can be created where learning and improved performance can be achieved (Carnall, 2003; Kilpatrick, 1985; Cooper, 1981). 

As organizational changes impact on the way people work, initial response to any change may result in a denial of the need for change: “We have always done things this way” as identified by Carnall (2003, p.243).

Regarding coping with change, Figure 2.2 presents the coping cycle (Carnall, 2003; de Vries and Miller, 1984; Adams et al. 1976) and illustrates why embedding new practices takes considerable time.

1.    Stage 1: Denial

2.    Stage 2: Defense

3.    Stage 3: Discarding

4.    Stage 4: Adaptation

5.    Stage 5: Internalization


Figure 2.2 The coping cycle

In researching educational change, various writers (Fullan, 2001; Miles, 1964;
Sarason, 1971; Goodland, 1975; Lieberman, 2005), Sarason (1971) have claimed that schools are cultures and therefore difficult to change.  Fullan (2001) identified “the persistence of people related problems” (p.70) as one of the factors in affecting successful implementation of various initiatives.  He observed that: “Significant educational change consists of changes in beliefs, teaching style, and materials, which can come only through a process of personal development in a social context.  (ibid.p.124)

As these changes involve complex cognitive, emotional and social processes, teachers can be reluctant to embark on further development, in particular in a relatively isolated school environment.  This isolation can result in a less collaborative culture, making the process of change harder to accomplish.  Such schools can be often very traditional environments rooted in ‘historical values’, as McCulloch (1997) asserts describing schools as “places of great historical continuity” (p.5), where justification for following a particular practice can be only explained on historical grounds: ‘we’ve-always-done-it this-way’ philosophy, often accepted without any questioning. 

Therefore what are perceived as ‘tried’ and ‘trusted’ practices, can be accepted simply on the grounds of their historical justification.  This idea is also emphasised by Stobart (2008) who claims that “the selection and standards functions of assessment have historical pedigrees” (p.16) and this is the reason why examinations are readily accepted by the society as something that is “natural, and therefore not-to-be-questioned” (ibid.).  In support of the view that assessment systems help to shape individuals’ and institutions’ identities, Stobart (2008) asserts that: “…assessment shapes who and what we are and cannot be treated as a neutral measure of abilities or skills that are independent of society” (p.6).  Assessments, it would appear, are seemingly a social activity and as such would have an influence on a particular institutional culture in helping to define it.

Although institutional change is a complex process (Fullan, 1993; Burnes, 2009; Sarason, 1971; Carnall, 2003), it is crucial to the continuous development of any organization and Fullan (ibid.) maintains that innovation is even more important in the 21st century: “Teachers’ capacities to deal with change, learn from it, and help students learn from it will be crucial for the development of society” (p.29).  Fullan acknowledges that changing teachers’ practice is not an easy task, but a necessary one if teachers are to be able to share their pupils emerging collaborative characteristics: “The hardest core to crack is the learning core – changes in instructional practices and in the culture of teaching toward greater collaborative relationships among students, teachers and other potential partners” (p.49).  As the teacher effectiveness is one of the key determinants of educational outcomes for students (Cochran-Smith et al. 2008; Rowe, 2003), the importance of changing individuals through professional development attending to processes and content (Wilson and Berne, 1999; Reeves et al. 2001) is crucial to the successful organizational development, especially when introducing innovation.

On implementing changes in successful leadership (Hargreaves, 1998; MacBeath, 2002), Fullan and Hargreaves (1992) advised teachers and principals to “develop a risk-taking mentality” (p.86), which they felt was especially important under uncertain conditions resulting from endless social changes (ibid.).    Indeed, managing change requires effective leadership and skilful management, and a commitment to organizational learning (Collinson and Cook, 2007; Argyris, 1999; Rait, 1995) as inadequate leadership can result in inadequate change management (Kotter, 1988; Carnall, 2003), resulting in resistance and undermining the development.

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