Training through Change Leadership: Understanding the Change Models

Introduction

The experiences of teachers and students (particularly their loss of morale/motivation) in this school district demonstrate just how disruptive change can be. Most importantly, it also demonstrates the challenges in initiating and managing change. In fact, many efforts at change fail as a result of the lack of clear objectives and strategies, among others (Brisson-Banks, 2009; Recepolou, 2013). Still, many organizations and institutions have successfully implemented change. The Principals in the school district just need good training on managing change. In this particular case, below is a look at some of the popular models of change that the training process can focus on.

Models of Change

There are many models for change, which have proved valuable for managing change. Below are only five of the most popular models. It is important for school principals to be conversant with these models and how each drives change, and how they can themselves leverage each model for effective change management.

  1. Kotter’s 8-Step Change

In this model, as the name suggests, Kotter (2012) discusses 8 steps that he believes would lead to successful change management. Generally, these eight steps are:

Creating urgency: This is a call to acknowledge that there is a problem that needs to be addressed, and accordingly recognize the need for urgent change. by way of resolving the problem. Simply put, this is an awakening from complacency.

Forming Powerful Coalition: No one leader can implement change alone. As such, Kotter (2012) argues for creating a change team. In this regard, the leader needs to identify the source of support for change and leverage this to create a powerful coalition.

Creating a Vision for Change: Part of the challenge of change that many leaders try to do everything all at the same time. Kotter’s (2012) advice is for leaders to have a single ultimate destination (vision) for the organization and leverage all other tasks toward that single goal.

Communicating the Vision: Having set sights on the vision, the leader needs to ensure that every member of the organization and stakeholders know what that vision is, understand its value and join in to see its realization. This requires strategic communication (Bridges, 2009; Kotter, 2012; Cummings & Bridgan, 2016).

Removing Obstacles: This has to do with resistance to change. Indeed leaders will experience a significant amount of resistance (Karreman & Alvesson, 2009; Agboola & Savalu, 2011; Pietersen et al., 2012). Kotter (2012) emphasizes the need to effectively deal with these for successful change.

Creating short-term wins: It is important to have the feeling of winning throughout the process of change. This is why leaders are urged not to wait until the whole change process is complete. Rather, setting short-term goals can produce short-term wins that everyone sees create the sense that their efforts are paying off (Kotter, 2012). This is ultimately importantly as the momentum continues to build up.

Building on Change: The short-term wins are, however, not the ultimate win and leaders must understand this. The objective is not to relax, but build on the small wins towards a bigger win (Kotter, 2012).

Anchoring Changes in Corporate Culture: Indeed, a significant amount of research has demonstrated the relationship between corporate culture and organizational change (Amos & Weathington, 2008; Sayers & Smollan, 2009). In this respect, change should be embedded within the prevailing corporate culture (Kotter, 2012).

  1. Bridge’s Transition Model

With this model, Bridges (2009) recognizes resistance as a major challenge to change. Particularly, he focuses on people’s discomfort with change as it proceeds. Bridges (2009) observes that some people develop resistance as change proceeds (rather than in its earlier stages). Indeed, many employees do get uncomfortable with change and they resist, not often conspicuously but in subtle ways, such loss of morale (Sayers & Smollan, 2009). Therefore, he believes that the problem here has to do with transition, which he conceptualizes as a mental process rather than the visible aspects of change. Leaders, therefore, should learn to enable this psychological acceptance of change in readiness for the new setup.

Bridges (2009) goes on to outline the strategies for enabling transition at different psychological stages in the course of change. At the first stage (Ending, Losing, and Letting Go), people feel a mixture of feelings: fear, anger, denial, sadness, disorientation and a sense of loss, and uncertainty, among others. Leaders should help people to accept the end of one setup. This involves actively listening to the people affected and enabling open communication, and showing them how they will still fit in with the new setup. The second stage is the ‘Neutral Zone’, and here people are still attached to the olds system but are trying to accept the new. Leadership at this stage includes boosting morale and giving feedback. Finally, at the third stage (New Beginning) people have accepted the change but are still adopting it. Leadership at this stage includes socialization efforts and rewarding the team.

  1. Force Field Analysis

Another model is the Force Filed Analysis. In this model, both the factors for and against change are recognized. The idea is to find a healthy equilibrium/balance between these conflicting forces. Managing change, therefore, involves identifying the factors on either side of the spectrum (Ramalingham, 2006). The primary factor for change in this particular case is the need to boost the morale/motivation among teachers and students. Forces against change may include costs involved in training principals and also the loss of morale among teachers (who should help lead the change process). Once these factors have been identified, they are assigned scores (1-5) on the basis of their perceived impacts on the change process. These scores should help to decide the way forward. Abandoning change is not an option. Rather, it can help to find a new course.

  1. Lewin Change Management Model

This change model is essentially very similar to Bridge’s Transition Model as it refers to three main stages of change. However, unlike Bridge’s model, which focuses on the people (with the aim of helping them cope), the focus of Lewin’s model is the entire change process. In this respect, it is similar to Kotter’s (2016) model, albeit not described in eight steps Particularly, this model refers to what each stage of change entails. Likening the state of the organization to a block of ice, this model is based on the analogy of changing a block of ice from a cube shape to cone shape. In this regard, the first stage is ‘Unfreeze’, and here the objective is breaking down the existing system (that is, melting the block of ice). The second stage is ‘Change’, and here one remodels the material to the desire shape by putting it in the right (cone) container. Finally, the third stage, ‘Refreeze’, entails solidifying the desired shape, and this is important because otherwise there is the risk of employees getting caught in what Lewin refers to as a ‘transition trap’, whereby they are unsure about how things should be done in the new system (Cummings et al., 2016). The actual tasks that constitute these stages are no different from the ones cited in some of the models discussed above: determining the need for change; finding proper support; effective communication; and anchoring changes into the culture, among others.

  1. The Change Curve

This model also recognizes the people as central to change. This notion is seconded by many other studies, showing that change is likely to fail if there is no support from other members of the organization (Amos & Weathington, 2008; Bridges, 2009; Agboola & Savalu, 2011). Besides, they are the ones who implement the change. The premise is that change is not merely about changing systems, but also importantly making it possible for people to accept and adapt to that change. In this respect, like Bridge’s model, this model cites the stages that people go through in the course of change. Stage one is shock and denial. The model recommends communication as important at this stage. Stage two is confusion, fear and resistance. Planning and preparing carefully as well as communication are important at this stage. At stage three people stop dwelling on what is gone and start to acknowledge the new. Leadership here involves laying foundation for training as well as giving employees opportunities to experience the impact of the new setup. Finally at stage four people not only accept the changes but also embrace them. Providing positive feedback can help to solidify the value of change.

Conclusion

In conclusion, change is inevitable. Leaders will always find that they have to change how things are done, and what values they places emphasis on. This is the situation for the school Principals in the school district in question. The models described above (among others) can help to drive the process of change. Each model is generally different from others. Some (like Kotter’s 8-Step Change Model, Lewin’s Change Model, and Force Filed Analysis) drive the entire process of change, albeit some with more limitations than others. These models may, therefore, stand alone. Some, however, cannot stand alone. Bridge’s Transition Model and the Change Curve, for instance, focus on managing the transition process, which means that they complement the models mentioned above. In the end, however, each model provides a valuable lesson for the change process. Together, they agree on certain important aspects of change management: recognizing the need for change; forming powerful coalition; acknowledging resistance; focusing on the people to achieve effective transition; and anchoring change on organizational change.

Recommendations

These are the general tips on change management that the principals can get from these lessons:

  • Formulate the objectives clearly. This involves explaining the change clearly and understandably, making clear who the change will serve and how, and pronouncing what the change will achieve.
  • Understand the scope of change, and therefore the extent to which all the key stakeholders will be involved.
  • Communicate clearly about change, explaining the vision, their stake in it, and ultimately their role in achieving it.
  • Attain the right pace for change, which means ensuring enough timespan for the process. Employees may fail to deal with too fast changes, but at the same time too slow change processes are boring and detrimental to morale
  • Establish long-term support for the process, including long-term participation among employees to eliminate anxieties, despairs and fears.

 

References

Agboola, A. A., & Savalu, R. (2011). Managing Deviant Behavior and Resistance to Change. International Journal of Business & Management, 6(1), pp.235-242

Amos, E. A., & Weathington, B. L. (2008). An Analysis of the Relation between Employee-Organization Value Congruence and Employee Attitudes. The Journal of Psychology, 142(6), pp.615-631

Bridges, W. (2009). Managing Transitions, 3rd Edition. London: Nicholas Brealey Publishing.

Kotter, J. P. (2012). Leading Change, Harvard Business Review

Brisson-Banks, C. V. (2009). Managing Change and Transitions: A Comparison of Different Models and their Commonalities. Library Management, 31(4/5), pp.241-252

Cummings, S., Bridgam, T., & Brown, K. G. (2016). Unfreezing Change as Three Steps: Rethinking Kurt Lewin’s Legacy for Change Management. Human Relations

Karreman, D., & Alvesson, M. (2009). Resistance to Change: Counter-Resistance, Consent and Compliance in a Consultancy Firm. Human Relations, 62(8), pp.1115-1144

Pietersen, J. H., Caniels, M. C. J., & Homan, T. (2012). Professional Discourses and Resistance to Change. Journal of Organizational Change Management, 25(6), pp.798-818

Ramalingham, B. (2006). Tools for Knowledge and Learning a Guide for Development and Humanitarian Organizations. Overseas Development Institute

Recepoglu, E. (2013). The Reasons of Failure in Organizational Change process and the Role of School Leaders within the Context of School Culture. The International Journal of Social Sciences, 9(1), pp.15-23

Sayers, J. G., & Smollan, R. K. (2009). Organizational Culture, Change and Emotions: A Qualitative Study. Journal of Change Management, 9(4), pp. 435-457