Assumptions About Change

April 2, 2011 — Gayl Bowser

Michael Fullan offers a list of assumptions about change and implementation that I have found very useful. Here's a summary of his ten assumptions.

  1.  Do not assume that your version of what the change should be is the one that should be or could be implemented.
  2.  Assume that any significant innovation, if it is to result in change, requires individual implementers to work out their own meaning.
  3. Assume that conflict and disagreement are not only inevitable, but fundamental to successful change.
  4. Assume that people need pressure to change (even in directions which they desire) but it will be effective only under conditions which allow them to react and to form their own positions, to interact with other implementers, to obtain technical assistance, etc. 
  5. Assume that effective change takes time.
  6. Do not assume that the reason for lack of implementation is outright rejection of the values embodied in the change or hard-core resistance to all change.
  7. Do not expect all or even most people or groups to change.
  8. Assume that you will need a plan that is based on the above assumptions and that addresses the factors known to affect implementation.
  9. Assume that no amount of knowledge will ever make it totally clear what action should be taken.
  10. Assume that changing the culture of institutions is the real agenda, not implementing single innovations.

When I  look at the 10 assumptions, many of them really make me think. This week I’ve been thinking about this one

Do not assume that your version of what the change should be is the one that should be or could be implemented.

I’m thinking about it because I’ve been working on a project where I really have a lot of background and I have a pretty strong opinion about how this AT project should go.  But not everyone agrees with me. Some people think that AT isn’t even a good idea for a solution.  Some people want really high tech solutions that I don’t think will be that helpful.  We are trying to change an entire agency’s approach to the independence of people with significant disabilities. And they hired me as the expert!

Thank goodness for Michael Fullan.  He reminds me to take off my expert consultant’s hat and be a better coach.  I’m not going to be working consistently with these folks for the long term. If this group is really going to integrate AT into their program, they have to figure out how it will work for them.  I need to listen more, ask more questions, and slow down so that other people can figure out how this will all work for them.  My version of what this AT change should be is not the change that can or should be implemented!

Your Turn!  Which of Fullan’s assumptions about change make you think about an AT integration effort that you are involved in? What are the implications of this assumption for a real situation in which you would like to see an improvement in the way a student uses assistive technology