Archives For Change

In the Influencer: New Science of Leading change, Joseph Grenny (2013) and his colleagues point to the example of how the eradication of the Guinea worm was accomplished through three vital behaviors and the supporting six sources of influence. The Guinea worm is a parasite that infected 3 million people in 23,000 remote villages in 20 countries. The Guinea worm was spread through the water supply for all these villagers. Once the Guinea larva was ingested a Guinea worm would hatch out of the larva and start to work its way out of the host’s body in whatever way it chose. This caused immense pain that was temporarily lessened when the infected person immersed themselves in water. The worm would then inject thousands of eggs into the water perpetuating a cycle that had lasted for thousands of years.

The goal of Dr. Hopkins from the Carter center was to stop the spread of the Guinea worm and ultimately eradicate the this blight on humanity. For the sake of using this example in EDLD 5304 this goal would be referred to as the result.

Three vital behaviors were identified that would prove to lead to the near eradication of the disease:

  1. People were required to filter their water.
  2. An infected person must not make contact with the public water supply.
  3. If a villager is not filtering water or becomes infected the villagers much confront them.

The Introductory section of Part 2 of the the book (pages 67-75 in the paperback version) offers a wonderful summary of the whole Guinea worm scenario and also provides a detailed explanation on how the six sources of influence came into play in helping to change behavior that ultimately lead the eradication of the Guinea worm.

This is a very helpful example to use in assessing your Guinea worm (your situation) and identifying:

  • Results you want to achieve and how you will measure them.
  • Vital behavior(s) you are trying to change.
  • Who are you organizational influencers.

Using this section of the book and the six sources of influence matrix from the 10x Your Influence Research Report should put you on the right path to building your own influencer strategy. So what’s your Guinea worm and what are you going to do about it?


Grenny, J., Patterson, K., Maxfield, D., McMillan, R., & Switzler, A. (2013). Influencer: The new science of leading change (2nd ed.). New York, NY: McGraw Hill Professional.

Self Driving Cars
Source: Self Driving Cars are Not “Five Years Away”

I have been a exploring change or why it can be so difficult to bring effective change to educational institutions for the past several decades so I when read this post about self driving cars being further off not because of the technology but because of people and policy I was immediately reminded about this reality:

Technology is is the easy part – changing people is hard

What can we do about it? I am still trying to find the definitive answer to this but over the years I have explored the following ideas in pursuit of this answer:

I could go on and on but you will note the the common thread in all these posts is that change starts with us and before we can change anything around out we need to be the ones who are willing to make the biggest change.

Most people would like to believe that we make informed decision based on the data or evidence and that if you want to convinces someone that your new idea, proposal, or plan is really in the best interest for everyone then all you need to do is present the facts in a clear and concise way. But what does the science or data behind this thinking really say. Robert Cialdini has been researching how and why people comply to requests and his popular book Influence: Science & Practice is the culmination of decades of research that outlines the six universal Principles of Persuasion that explains how to structure your requests. The following video summaries those six principles:

Cialdini’s most recent book Pre-Suasion: A Revolutionary Way to Influence and Persuade builds on his research into persuasion and reveals methods of priming your audience to receive your message more openly.

If we really want to have people adopt our ideas and move forward with our plans then we must look past this notion that all we need to present the data or evidence and believe that people make informed decisions solely on the information. Not only will the head not go where the heart hasn’t been the head is open to influence from many other sources so we really need to recognize that just presenting the information or more information is not enough.

Change before you have to
One of the key ideas we deal with in the Masters of Digital Learning and Leading program at Lamar University is change and how to use technology as a catalyst to bring about change in the learning environment. Reluctance to change is one of the most difficult challenges that most of us who promote the use of educational technology have to wrestle with. Ideally we would all like to work with only highly motivated colleagues and students but this is not the world we live in.

In response to a student request to share links to useful articles dealing with reluctance to change I did a quick search on my blog to find a couple really good articles or posts to share and I was surprised to notice that I have over 226 posts that are tagged with the word ”change” and dozens more posts that simply include the word change. I have several hundred notes in Evernote about change, dozens of links to articles on change in my Zotero reference database and I and hundreds more links related to change, reform, and innovation related to technology in education in my Diigo bookmarking tool. Can’t forget to mention the dozens of books about change I have in my hardcopy and digital libraries. This includes at least 6 books by John Kotter the Konosuke Matsushita Professor of Leadership, Emeritus, at Harvard Business School, who is widely regarded as the world’s foremost authority on leadership and change.

Out of all this how to do I find the just a couple of articles, posts or links that will be most useful. I started to review some my favourite academic articles and posts and after a few hours I was reminded by my wife’s caution

when people ask you for a recommendation they aren’t asking for a literature review and they more than likely don’t want to read all the books and articles that you have read…they are just looking for an answer to a problem.

So what is the problem that my student wants to address?

How do you deal with people who are reluctant to change?

The posts listed below are what I like to refer to as intellectual mash-ups because I take an assortment of ideas and combine them together to address the problem. Each post has many embedded links to the original sources so I am confident that the perspectives presented are supported by sound original insights.

The Head Won’t Go Where the Heart Hasn’t Been
This post points to the fact that while we like to believe that we make decisions based on rational thought the reality is that we are much more emotionally driven and as the title suggest that head won’t go where the heart hasn’t been.

People who like this stuff…like this stuff
In this post I point out the key factors for why people often reluctant to change and outline my 4 step process for organizational change which has become the foundation for the graduate course Leading Organizational Change I teach at Lamar University

The following three posts are also compilations of ideas that deal with the mindset one requires to embrace change. In addition, I address the fact that we often need to model or embrace change by living it.

Sense of Urgency: Create It Now or React to It Later

Pick Two – Innovation, Change or Stability

Practice Change by Living It

It is most important to remember that while change often is a constant part of 21st century living we don’t have to fear it or just react to it and let it adversely impact our lives. If we are proactive we can embrace change and use it as an opportunity for growth and development.

The data is in and confirms that:

UK academics and professional and support staff inhabit “two parallel universes that have little point of contact”.

The Times Higher Education’s (THE) poll shows there is a deep gulf between academics and professional and support staff. Teaching and research are the primary source of job satisfaction for academics but most are not proud to represent their current university and more than half feel that their job has a negative impact on their health.

Source: THE University Workplace Survey 2016: results and analysis

In contrast, most professional (administrators) and support staff are not only proud of their current university they belief it benefits them and would recommend their institution as a great place to work.

Having worked as a faculty member and administrator in a variety of Universities across North America I am not surprised to learn that the survey reveals:

  • Most university staff find their jobs rewarding, but most academics feel overworked, exploited and ignored by management
  • A majority of staff feel satisfied with pay, conditions and professional development opportunities
  • Half of academics are worried about redundancies related to metrics-based performance measures
  • Half of academics think that their institutions have compromised undergraduate entry standards as competition for students has increased, and half feel under pressure to award higher marks.

I am also not surprised by the UK data and believe that it could be generalized and applied to institutions across the North America as well. I also see the two parallel universes in higher education here in North America because I have lived it.

Why is there such a split?

While the following attempt to explain and reconcile this split is not formally supported by any hard research I will however use the data from the survey, rely on almost three decades of experience in academia and will build on Simon Sinek’s argument in his TED Talk  “First why and then trust” to apply his ideas to this challenge.

Sinek argues that one of the most difficult challenges any organization will face is when the organization grows and becomes succesful the organizational “Why” or purpose separates from the organizational “What”. This “split” Sinek explains happens when an organization moves away from its original purpose and starts focusing on What they do without being grounded in Why they do it.

The data from the survey confirms that most faculty go into academic work because they truly enjoy the teaching, learning and research, so anything that interferes with this focus detracts from their experiences. Most educators firmly believe it is our responsibility to teach our learners to learn how to learn in order to prepare them for a world that is constantly changing. A very clear learner and learning centered Why or purpose.

Unfortunately, not all administrators have this same goal or purpose and this lack of a consistent Why or purpose is one of the primary causes for faulty distrust and the split. Too many administrators are not educators who are passionate about why we do what we do in education and are not learner and learning focused. Instead of the primary goal of serving our learners, too many administrators are focused first on the “What” on things like competition, measurement, costs, logistics and all too often change itself.

Sinek points out that when stress goes up and passion goes down, when the organization focuses more on what the competition is doing and less on what they are doing, when they start asking outsiders: “Who should we be?” and “How should we talk to you?” then you know that you have a split in your organizational Why and What and have strayed from your core values. The survey confirms that all these symptoms are present in the UK system and I from my experience would argue in our North American systems as well.

What can we do about it?

There is no denying, like so many other parts of our world, the educational landscape is being radically disrupted so there are significant changes happening with the way we learn, teach, and do research. These changes are inevitable but we do have the choice to be proactive or reactive. I have argued in the posts Sense of Urgency, Create it Now or React to it Later, Paradox of Being Proactive, and Pick Two–Innovation, Change or Stability that we need to be proactive and use disruptive innovation as a catalyst to enhance our learning environments. We have to start with the learner and the learning.

The key is to ensure that academics and administrators hold to the same Why or purpose. Not the vague or obtuse vision statement that most academic institutions have adopted as part of their business plans but the simple fact that it is our responsibility to teach our learners to learn how to learn in order to prepare them for a world that is constantly changing.

I believe we don’t have a choice but to bring together the two parallel universes we, unfortunately, see in our educational organizations. Fortunately, the steps for this unification are straight forward:

  1. Start with Why
  2. Identify and engage key influencers
  3. Install an effective execution strategy
  4. Enlist and empower self-differentiated leaders

In the post “People who like this stuff…like this stuff” I offer an explanation on how to expand on this four step process for organizational change.