Home CTO/CIO Managing Change – It’s Not for the Faint of Heart

Managing Change – It’s Not for the Faint of Heart

by Jennifer Bergland
managing change

Imagine walking into a teacher’s classroom and telling her that you are going to completely turn her classroom upside down. The tried and true laminated lesson plans that she has been using for years are no longer going to be applicable. Her students will all have devices that connect to the Internet, so she is going to have to figure out how to help them manage their time on task. Introducing a one-to-one ratio of devices to students in a teacher’s classroom also shifts the control of the learning. The teacher is still in control, but now she has the ability to let her students pursue things that are relevant to them. This means that, potentially, her students may all be learning the same standards but using different resources. You are asking a teacher to fundamentally change the way she has approached teaching. When the teacher realizes how different this model of teaching and learning is, it is likely that she will look at you and say, “You want me to do what?”

Managing a new initiative is stressful. It requires someone who understands how to help navigate Changepeople through a dramatic shift in their professional practice. The types of change require different kinds of leadership skills. Changing a teacher’s planning period takes different skills than telling them every student is going to have a device and most of their lessons and materials will be delivered over that device. First order change usually deals with cosmetic changes, while second order change deals with the paradigms and philosophies. Research indicates that the leadership team should approach the management of these two types of change differently.

One of the reasons a first order change is easier to manage is because they generally are met with less resistance because they do not challenge an educator’s fundamental belief. Second order changes require teachers to become learners, to think deeply about their practice, and to adopt new and often challenging ideas about their role in the classroom.

It is highly recommended that you review research on first and second order change. I highly recommend the book Implementing Change: Patterns, Principles, and Potholes by Hall and Hord. It’s expensive, but when you are investing this much time and money on a project that involves such change, it’s a wise investment.

When implementing a transition from print to digital instructional materials, you might also want to consider the following:


Need collaborative leadership, not just individual leadership. You need buy-in from leadership at every level of the district. This is critical. If the leadership is not actively involved and supporting the staff implementing the change,  the change will fail.


Address infrastructure, maintenance, learning strategies, training requirements, technical support, and policies. Make sure flexibility is a part of the planning process. Interventions will be necessary. Don’t be surprised when your plans go awry. Making appropriate interventions are key to the success. When you make necessary adjustments, it communicates you are listening to the staff who are implementing the change and reduces their resistance.


Involve teachers in the planning and roll-out of digital learning. Identify the tools, content, Changetraining, and support they will need. Organizations adopt change, but individuals are the ones that implement change. District leadership might have decided to enact the change, but it is the people at the school level that actually make it happen. The change process can’t be dictated from central office.

Creativity and Flexibility

You can’t mandate a second order change. Let your stakeholders find the flaws, but also identify solutions. Your goal is to find a mutually satisfactory outcome. This is not a sprint, but a marathon.

Persistence and Prioritization

ChangeSuccess takes time and commitment to strategic action plans, review, and adjustment. It may take several cycles after implementation to determine if the new initiative is working. Expect an implementation dip.

Supplant, Not Supplement

Modify the curriculum to replace ineffective practices with those that best leverage the technology. Don’t let bad practices bring down the initiative.

Sustainable Funding

Moving to digital materials requires annual budgeting for the cost of devices, broadband, training, and content. An analysis of the budget should be done to determine where savings may be found so the budget can be realigned to sustain the initiative.

I helped implement a project of this nature. I have the battle scars to prove it. It was one of the hardest things I ever did as an administrator, but one of the most gratifying. I knew the human aspect of the project was going to be the most difficult, but I was surprised at how much time we needed to spend on thinking through the psychology and dynamics of the change process. My best advice is not to underestimate the need to put a strategic team together just to review and analyze the project and refer to the research on managing a second order change.

Managing Change Resources

Photo credits: Header Photo by Ross Findon on Unsplash,  2. Charlz Gutiérrez De Piñeres on Unsplash (edited), 3. Photo by Climate KIC on Unsplash,4,  Photo by Jonathan Simcoe on Unsplash, 


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