Deep and committed change never arrives in a binder, it must be stamped on the hearts and minds of those who are tasked with carrying it forward…
Change is a force unto itself, it is difficult, complex, and dynamic, an arduous, grueling and often formidable foe for us to reckon with. A very real opponent that we must wrestle with on a daily basis.
We only have to take a glance at our sagging shelves to internalize just how challenging a force it really is. Our organizational walls are literally littered with our binders of change. The remnants left behind from a plethora of change initiatives and movements.
And while these yellowing blueprints and frameworks serve as our own historical set of organizational encyclopedias, they have done little to create change. For all of the great thoughts, ideas and strategies found within, they have done little to move our organizations forward with new directions and actions.
As Chip and Dan Heath confer, “Plans are useful in the sense that they’re proof that planning has taken place. The planning process forces people to think through the right issues. But as for the plans themselves, they just don’t work on the battle field.“
Because they all have a missing factor…
These binders of change do little to move us emotionally. Dropping down plans from above do little to engage and commit us to these efforts. We continue to fool ourselves with the belief, that if we create the right plan, implementation will follow. Unfortunately, what we miss, what we often fail to acknowledge, is that change is not just a mental process, it is a deeply emotional one.
Dropping a binder on someone’s desk does little to motivate anyone towards new actions, new ways of thinking, new ways of doing towards committed change efforts.
A living mission and vision isn’t found in a binder, it lives in the minds, thoughts, words, and actions of those in the organizational community. It has, too. For change doesn’t ever come wrapped neatly in a package, its messy, chaotic, and requires a strong dose of perseverance to carry you through the struggle and effort required from all involved.
For deep and committed change to take hold, it has to live in the hearts and actions of the people it affects.
What a binder of blueprints and frameworks will never do, is engage us and motivate our emotional side. According to Chip and Dan Heath Brothers, to get change to move forward successfully, you have to be able to “present people with something that moves them emotionally.”
The Heath Brothers refer to the emotion of change as the Elephant. Which is a great metaphor, for we can all acknowledge and entertain the idea of how difficult and challenging it could be to try and move an elephant forward. However, once we get it moving and momentum is gained, it can be quite a force. “It’s emotion that motivates the Elephant. In fighting for change, we’ve got to find the feeling. But which feeling? Anger, hope, dismay, enthusiasm, fear, happiness, surprise?”
Unfortunately, since we still try to provide change through a binder, we will continue to fail to engage those necessary emotional dynamics of those we lead. We will continue to push out our binders of change believing that just one more framework or blueprint will be the right one to create new actions, new ways of thinking, new ways of doing.
But our walls tell us a different story, from the plethora of binders lining our walls to the ones serving as the door stops in our offices.
“Knowledge is rarely enough to spark change; it takes emotion to bring knowledge to a boil.” -Heath Brothers
David, I agree wholeheartedly with what you are saying regarding change. We must have some level of emotional engagement for change to be possible. In my 15 years of teaching, I have also seen way too many of those yellowing blueprints and endless binders that sit collecting dust on the shelves of offices within schools. Getting that elephant moving is a difficult task indeed but requires riders to know that what they think and feel truly matters. The riders must be given ample opportunities to take the reigns and truly have ownership over the direction of change within our schools.
Administrators need to be in and amongst their teachers having important discussions, listening with their hearts, their minds, and their ears. I enjoy reading your blogs David. This was a great post.