The Human Side of School Change, by Robert Evans

Evans explains that people experience change, no matter how sensible it is, in four ways:

  • as loss, since the patterns of our lives form our sense of identity.  When the patterns change, we actually mourn;
  • as a feeling of  incompetence, since we know how to do it the old way and not the new;
  • as confusion, since when anything in a system changes, there are always unexpected consequences; we tweak Tuesday and suddenly something is different on Thursday; and 
  • as conflict, since change in a workplace can serve as an excuse to bring out long-held grievances; it seems as if we are arguing about some aspect of our new approach, but what is really happening is that years ago one person got the parking place, or the office, that another one wanted – and the nagging frustration has an outlet.

It is helpful not only for those leading change but also for everyone experiencing it to understand these otherwise hidden psychological forces.  Such understanding helps us answer that most basic of assessment questions: What’s going on?